Romeo and Juliet vs West Side Story

I never did a post like this before. As some may know, the musical, West Side Story, is based off of Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. I decided to talk about the two of these in this post. This comparison shows how I looked at tragedy in high school versus how I view the same genre now: very opposite views.

Major and Minor Spoilers:

Romeo and Juliet was the play where I first discovered the genre of tragedy. It was in 9th grade. It started high school in 2008, and when we got to the Shakespeare unit, we had to read Romeo and Juliet. We had to learn what the genre of tragedy us. I never knew tragedy was a part of theatre. The word, TRAGEDY, confused me. I was thinking tragedy can’t be a part of theatre. Only comedy can exist in theatre and not any tragedies. The word, tragedy, to me sounded pure sad. I thought that was what it meant. I didn’t want to delve deeper into the genre. I didn’t want the genre to enter my life. I told myself I will never love a tragedy. With Romeo and Juliet, I kind of ignored it: yes, I studied it because I am a hard working student, but did not like all because I pushed it back and told myself I will not love it. I also ignored it because it was a Shakespeare play. In the show, I was like I don’t get it: two families not getting along: where did that come from? The ending I was disagreed with- the double suicide I hated. So much of my opinion came from not giving tragedy a good enough chance.

In between Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, I learned to love tragedies all because of Les Mis.

I first discovered West Side Story in 11th grade. I was told it was based off of Romeo and Juliet, but for some bizarre reason, I did not realize it was a tragedy at the time. I did not watch the film until 2014. A snowstorm hit Charlotte, and a good church friend leant us five films, and West Side Story was one of them. So I had to watch it no matter what. At this point, I knew it was drawn through the dance, and at that point I defiantly knew it was a tragic plot. I connected the dots between Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. This sounds insane- the musical may be based off Romeo and Juliet, but I like West Side Story’s plot more. You might be thinking is it only because its a musical not a play? Instead of Romeo and Juliet, the main characters are Tony and Maria. Instead of two families, it is two gangs (The Jets and Sharks). It is not because of that. A lot of it has to do with the ending- in this version, one of them lives- I prefer that ending to the double suicide. I don’t exactly know why I prefer that ending, but I just do. I liked West Side Story enough to like the songs- I feel like the love songs get more and more heartbreaking as the show continues. So, as a high school kid, I HATED the idea of tragedies. Now, TRAGEDIES are enjoyable. I don’t love West Side Story nor do I like it- it is sitting right in the middle of liking it and loving- so mixed emotions.

So this gives you an idea of how I used to view tragedies- so I once told myself I will NEVER love a tragedy. It also shows that I no longer have that negative view, but I still am particular about the tragedies I like.

Did you used to have a negative view on tragedies? Are you particular about the tragedies you love?