William Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet and Arthur Laurents West Side Story are very similar in comparison. The characters in both these tragic stories are almost symmetric in what kind of role they play and how they interact. Even the plot is generally the same except for the changes made due to the setting. Because of my fascination of middle age Europe, I enjoyed Romeo and Juliet more.
Romeo and Juliet is a story of star-crossed lovers whose tragic end show their families the extent of damage that hate can do. They setting of this play is 14th century Verona, Italy. Two wealthy families, Montague and Capulet, have a growing hate for each other. Romeo and Juliet, two young teenagers, one from each family, fall in love and have to face the oppression of their feuding families. They eventually kill themselves at the end of the story, and their families realize what horrible happenings their ill will can lead to. These plot events and conclusion show how love can overcome hate at the expense of another. Friar Lawrence put it best by saying, These violent delights have violent ends.
West Side Story is also a story of two lovers and how hatred and racism can hurt others. It takes place in the 1950s on the West Side of New York. An American gang, the Jets, and a Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks, are fighting because of racism and territory. Tony and Maria, who are from opposite sides of this conflict, fall in love and attempt to make the gangs realize that they should not fight over racism or territory that they claim. Tony is shot by a Shark in a bias rage at this stories tragic finish. Maria, noticing why this happened, calls out, We all killed him…I can kill now because I hate now. This shows how the dislike, racism, and hatred of the two gangs lead to event of Tonys death, and others.
Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story both emphasize what conflicts and fighting can lead to. Romeo and Juliet is the better book because of its interesting setting and ability to relate with a common teenagers life. For these reasons, everyone should, at one point in their early teenage years, read the story of Juliet and her Romeo.