William Shakespeare is known as the literary genius behind the classic play Romeo and Juliet. However, his play is not as original as many people may think it is. Thirty years prior to Romeo and Juliet, the play Romeus and Juliet was written; Pyramus and Thisbe was written even earlier. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare reveals to his audience that love is a powerful force that cannot be denied, which is also shown in the films West Side Story, Gnomeo and Juliet, Romeo + Juliet, and Shakespeare in Love. West Side Story tells the tale of the forbidden romance between Tony and Maria. They are prohibited from seeing one another because their families belong to the enemy gangs known as the Sharks and the Jets. The setting of act two scene two is a dark alleyway under Maria’s apartment that she shares with her family. Tony arrives to see Maria since they are only able to interact in secret. In the song “Tonight”, Tony and Maria sing about how they only may have tonight to spend with each other. They enhance the meaning of the song by using a longing tone which is shown throughout the scene. So essentially, the underlying meaning of the song is to prove how spending one night together is better than never seeing each other again. In one shot the the entire scene is blurred out with the exception of Maria and Tony, a symbol that they only have eyes for eachother. In another shot the couple is seen with a ladder that seperates them, symbolizing how they are separated literally and metaphorically
. They are shown embracing on multiple occasions, which proves that they are not afraid to show physical affection towards each other, even if it means that they may get caught. Another instance in which the original play Romeo and Juliet was used as a source of influence was in the movie Shakespeare In Love. The plot of this film focuses on the romance between Romeo and Juliet, but they cannot be together because their parents are sworn enemies. In act two scene two, Romeo climbs up Juliets terrace to see her, but instead of seeing the love of his life he sees her nurse. When the nurse sees Romeo, they are both startled and scream at the top of their lungs. This is a sign that Romeo is not welcome in the Capulet household. Romeo falls and grabs hold of a tree just before hitting the ground. This metaphor that he is not going to let go of the love that he and Juliet share. They are both dressed in attire from the era of the renisance because Juliet is in a flowing white dress and Romeo is dressed in tight pants and a loose fitting shirt. The setting is the city of Verona on Juliet’s terrace at night time.
Gnomeo and Juliet is about two garden Gnomes who fall in love. Their families hate each other (like in the original play), but that does not stop them from being together. In act two scene two, Romeo sees Juliet talking to a rose in her garden. This is a more comical take on the rose scene in the original play. He then walks up to be with her, but he sets off many lights and noises in the process, since they are in an elaboratly decorated garden. The tower becomes almost like a flashy circus, which caters to the young audience. In the original play, Juliet says , “ What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Shakespeare, Act 2 Scene 2 line 48-49) She is referring to the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. Juliet in the animated version is referring to the same issue, but since it is animated it is taken far more lightly.
While all of these movies may seem very different from each other, they all share something in common. They are related to the original Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare in some way. In all three of these movies, the two main characters families despise each other. While all of these movies have fight scenes, some of the fights may seem more closely related to the original play and others put their own spin on Shakespeare’s classic. In Gnomeo and Juliet, Benny (Mercutio) does not die, however he does die in all of the other adaptations. 3.1
In act 3 scene one of West Side Story, there is rumble between the Sharks and the Jets. This is a more urban take on the two families, the Sharks are supposed to be the Capulets while the Jets are the Montagues. The fight is over which gang has more dominance, much like the feud between the two families in the original play. The fight takes place in what looks to be an abandoned warehouse which, again, symbolizes the urban aspect of the film. The sharks wear red, while the Jets wear blue. This is much like the color association in the play. Tony initially does not want to fight, but Bernardo pulls out a knife. A bright light is flashed on the knife, which symbolizes that it will have significance in the future. Bernardo then fatally stabs Riff, which angers Tony greatly.
The film Romeo + Juliet is a more modern take on the original classic. Act three scene one takes place in the fictional setting of Verona Beach. This is a lot like the city of Verona in the play. While Mercutio is relaxing on the beach with friends, Tybalt arrives dressed in what a typical biker would wear, while Mercutio is adorn in laidback beach attire. Tybalt provokes Mercutio into fighting him. After a tough fight, Tybalt stabs Mercutio with a large shard of glass. Mercutio insists to Romeo that it is just a scratch, but it is far more serious than that. Mercutio dies on the beach while Romeo watches. During this a storm is forming on the beach, much like the storm brewing inside of Romeo. Romeo is so angered by the death of his friend, he runs to his car in hopes of chasing after Tybalt. When he finds Tybalt speeding down a busy street, he rams his car into Tybalt’s. Therefore, Tybalts car flips over. Romeo gets out of his own vehicle, slowly walks up to Tybalts, opens the door, and shoots Tybalts numerous times. Once Rome realizes what he has done, he runs away in horror.
In act 3 scene one of Gnomeo and Juliet instead of killing Benny, Tybalt chops off his hat. This is supposed to symbolize the death of Mercutio. This angers Romeo, which causes him to get on his lawnmower and pursue Tybalt. Gnomeo then sees a wall and tells Tybalt to stop. Tybalt does not see the wall in time and crashes into it. All of the red hats mourn over Tybalt briefly, before realizing that Gnomeo is to blame. This causes the red hats to chase Gnomeo into the street. This film interprets this scene differently than the other movies do. In the other films the Capulets are angered at Romeo, but do not go after him. All of these films have some type of fight scene. Some of the fights may seem more closely related to the original play, while others put their own spin on Shakespeare’s classic. In Gnomeo and Juliet, Benny, who is meant to be Mercutio, does not die. Instead, his hat is cut off. The director chose to not have Benny die because they wanted the film to be targeted towards kids. In the film Romeo + Juliet, the fight is much more modern. Tybalt is killed with a gun instead of a sword like he is in the original play. This proves that the director tried to make the film more relatable to this generation. West Side Story shows the fight between two rival gangs, much like the rivalry between the Montagues and the Capulets. 5.1
In the film West Side Story, Tony and Maria see each other from across a parking lot. Maria wears a red dress to symbolize that she belongs to the Sharks. This relates to the original play, as the Capulets wore red as well. Just as they a they are about to embrace, Chino shoots Tony in the back causing Tony to then die in Maria’s arms. Just as the two gangs are about to have another fight, Maria stops them. Taking the gun from Chino, Maria points it at him and everyone else. She blames both gangs for the death of her beloved Tony. Her tone of voice is a mix between devastation and pure anger. She threatens to kill as many of them as she can while leaving one bullet for herself; however, she cannot carry out the horrific deed. The scene ends with Maria saying one final goodbye to Tony, while three Jets and two Sharks carry away his corpse.
In the film Romeo + Juliet, Romeo walks in a large tomb filled with the dim lighting of candles. In the center of the tomb, Juliet lies dead surrounded by a shrine made for her by the Capulets. Romeo plans to commit suicide so he can be with his true love forever. While he is pouring his heart out to Juliet, her hand starts to twitch. Romeo does not realize that she is beginning to wake; He still believes that she is dead. Just as he takes the potion that will take his life, Juliet comes to. He sees her, but it is too late because the poison is already in his system and Romeo dies in Juliet’s arms. A devastated Juliet tries to use the poison on herself, but Romeo had used it all. She then notices the gun that Romeo had left on her coffin. She takes the gun in her hand, raises it to her head, and pulls the trigger. She dies next to Romeo, which symbolizes that they will be together in the afterlife.
In the animated film Gnomeo and Juliet the gardens that both Gnome families reside are being attacked by a bulldozer. The bulldozer then explodes, which causes chunks of debris to come flying at Juliet’s tower. Gnomeo and Juliet both stand there, hand in hand, awaiting their deaths. The tower is crushed and both of the Gnomes families believe that their children are dead. Romeo’s mother tells Juliet’s father that she is sorry for his loss, and he does the same. All of a sudden a hand pops up from the rubble; It turns out to be Gnomeo. He then pulls Juliet up while the crowd cheers. He ends the scene with a kiss while stating, “ I don’t know about you, but I think this ending is much better.” (Gnomeo and Juliet)
Like in the original play, most of these films share a tragic ending. All except Gnomeo and Juliet, because in this animated film the two main characters do not die. Instead, they live happily ever after, like many love stories. This is a sign that the director did not want to follow Shakespeare’s original idea, they wanted to make it their own.
All of these films are related to the original play in one way or another. All of the directors interpreted the play differently, which caused all of these films to come out slightly unique. However, all of these films share a common theme; Love is a powerful force that cannot be denied.