Although The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was meant to be a tragedy of two young preteens that become victims to the feuds of their families. It also gives the allusion of forbidden love . The story is based upon something ugly, but something beautiful can come out of it. There is a war between the Montagues and the Capulets, they just hate each other. Love the opposite of hate was the thing to stop the hostility between the families but also killed their children. People have interpreted the story to be a romance rather than the tragedy.
The unique thing about the play itself that many don’t know about (because they have only seen reproductions of the story) is that Shakespeare intended it to be a tragedy yet incorporated comedy to lighten the mood. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was the first of its kind, no one had heard of some of the main themes the plot consists of. The tragedy caused controversy on the concept of love at first sight and the impulse of suicide out of love which cause it to appeal to the masses and transcend though history.
The story has been left to interpretations and modifications to interpret by the views of the times. When Romeo + Juliet appeared on screen in 1996, staring Leonardo DiCaprio, it was modified to appeal to the masses, the plot was modernized to a present time of Verona, yet it kept the original dialogue. The new story had their own interpretations of how love was for two teenagers at the time and what seemed to be appropriate at the time too. Therefore focusing on the love story between the teens and adding more action scenes it was able to attract a lot of juvenal audiences. The production distorted the meaning of the original meaning by, focusing on the audience of young people but muting it so that the older generation didn’t just think of it as a teenage movie. The original play seems to mostly focus on the older audience yet in this movie they were able to appeal to a younger audience as well as the older ones too.
Another modification of the star crossed lover was seen in the children’s film Gnomeo and Juliet that appeared in theaters 2011. The producers changed the plot completely in order to appeal to the young viewers, they had simplified it completely to educate the younger audiences. They had taken the story line and butchered it completely to make it modernized in humor and for children to understand and become interested in the original story. They have taken away the tragedy and changed it, maybe it will be worth it, for the audience to get interested in the work by Shakespeare.
It seem that the tragedy has been moving throughout time and being modified for different audiences, which also seem to be getting younger. The fact that they are making the story for younger crowds, removing adult themes that seem to be too inappropriate for the younger audiences, such as suicide, sex, and violence. That being said, the authenticity is diminishing because it is being butchered away and only the small scraps are being used. The rest that have been left out can eventually be forgotten all together rather than seen as an important part to the original plot. It is really hard to go from seeing one of the reproductions to the original because it is not the same, you feel that the reproduction has more authenticity than the original. Which makes it really hard to take any of the original’s themes seriously, because you already created an idea of what it is really about.
West Side Story
Inspired by Shakespeare’s play it had a more modern twist. Instead of the feud between families it is based upon a teenage gangs of New York the Jets and the Sharks. The young protagonist, Tony, of the Jets, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. West Side Story has many similarities to the play by Shakespeare yet it has been redone to address some social issues. Dance and music have also been incorporated to indulge a new audience.
West Side Story is somewhat a better version of the reproductions that have been done of Romeo and Juliet because it has a better understanding of the tragedy juxtaposed to the romanticized version in Romeo + Juliet. The movie addressed the real issues that was going on at the time. In the 60’s there was a larger wave of Hispanic immigrants coming to America. These people would migrate to areas that were low social economical communities that they shared with the same social status American, social tensions and gang violence rose. It might not be a direct result from the movie but there is some connection someone can deduct from watching the movie and history. The movie raised awareness of racial superiority between immigrants and the “true” Americans. The Americans in the film felt that they were being robbed of their territory and had to do something about it even if it meant to take a life. In the other hand it showed how the immigrants desperate need to assimilate to the American culture in order to not get prosecuted. Although they were willing to fight back the privileged in order to feel like there was some justice done. In the original plot of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare did not address what was the specific feud the families had in which it left for audiences the conflict up to interpretations.
West Side Story also has some connection to the Zoot Suit Riots of the 1940’s because it show how the authorities didn’t care that they were youth they saw them as juvenile delinquents up to no good. The movie did imply that they authority figures were racist and would side with the Jets rather than the Sharks. The director might have used these connection of history and of the play to tell his tale. He picked what he felt was essential to tell his story that was different and special in its own way.
In conclusion West Side Story was a better representation to the reproductions of The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Over the year the story has been altered to attract the masses and show a lighter version of the tragedy. They have deluded the story by just focusing of the romance rather than anything else. Stories has been manipulated and only choose to show their audience what was important, which undergoes Berger’s statement that artiest will take something and use it to their advantage. Although there have been many reproductions that don’t do justice to the original story, there are a few like West Side Story that change it with a purpose in mind.
Selina Salazar is a freshman at California State University North ridge. She is perusing a degree in visual arts and hopes to be a part of crating motion pictures.