West Side Story (1961 film)

Futile Fights: A Comparison of the Power Struggles in 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'West Side Story' College

As entertaining and lasting as William Shakespeare’s iconic Romeo and Juliet is, the adaptations that the original has inspired contain a more potent representation of modern issues, as is to be expected considering the near four-century-long gap that separates their respective creations. This is especially true in the 1961 adaptation of the play, West Side Story, which was directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise. Whereas the feud in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is simply representational of long-lasting ideologies of hatred and a power struggle shared between families, West Side Story is representational of minorities and their struggle to rise and ultimately belong in America upon immigrating.

The two families of Romeo and Juliet’s struggle for power over one another represents little more than meets the eye. Though the deaths of their own loved ones serves up a tragic lesson, the hatred that the two feel for each other is rooted in family history and is absent of racial tension or much social commentary. We see the ideologies that work to forbid the young couple’s love appear early in the play, just after the two share their first kiss in Act 1 Scene 5.

Romeo looks to Juliet’s nurse to find out who the girl is that he...

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