Shakespeare- Module 8- Shakespeare in the Modern World- 4 of 6

Hello Year 7 and 8! This session, we will continue to think about how Shakespeare has influenced modern forms of entertainment.

WHAT: exploring how Shakespeare has been adapted for musical theatre.

By the end of this session you will be able to:

✓ evaluate why Shakespeare’s stories are still relevant today
✔ consider ideas for a modern adaptation of a Shakespeare play

Today you will need:

✎ A pen
☰ A word document, notepad or paper to record your ideas

STARTER- YOU DO: Watch the clip below. It is taken from the film version of a musical called ‘West Side Story’. Can you work out which Shakespeare play this musical is based on?

The 1957 musical West Side Story is based on Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, featuring ‘star-crossed’, or ill-fated, lovers from two different families who do not get along. The Broadway production had nearly a thousand performances from 1957-1960, and was turned into a 10-time Academy Award-winning musical film in 1961.

West Side Story- The plot. Can you see the similarities to the story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’?

As you read, write a list of similarities.

The film is set in a working-class neighbourhood of New York City. The Jets, a local white street gang headed by Riff , are out enjoying the day. When they encounter members of the Puerto Rican street gang the Sharks, led by Bernardo, a fight breaks out and is quickly broken up by police. The Jets decide to challenge the Sharks to a fight, the winner of which will gain undisputed control of the neighbourhood. The challenge is to be issued at a dance being held that evening in a gym. Riff asks Tony, who cofounded the Jets with him, to act as his partner in issuing the challenge, and Tony agrees.

In the meantime, Bernardo’s sister, Maria, and his girlfriend, Anita, are at the bridal shop where they are employed, getting ready for the dance. At the dance, Tony and Maria see each other across the room, and can’t take their eyes off each other. Bernardo sees them dancing together, and he orders Maria to go home. Riff and Bernardo agree to hold a war council later at Doc’s store. At their home, Anita argues to Bernardo that Maria has the right to dance with anyone she wants to, but Bernardo disagrees. After he leaves for the war council, Tony arrives to see Maria. Tony then goes to the war council, and he persuades both sides to agree to a simple fist fight between two people, one from each gang. Later, he tells Doc about his love for Maria.

The following day, Tony arrives at the bridal shop at the end of the work day to see Maria. Anita agrees to keep their private meeting a secret. Maria insists that Tony should stop the planned fight from taking place. He arrives just as the fight—which is to be between Bernardo for the Sharks and Ice for the Jets—is about to begin and argues for peace. The Sharks begin taunting Tony, and Riff attacks Bernardo in Tony’s defense. Bernardo stabs Riff to death, and Tony then grabs Riff’s knife and kills Bernardo. When sirens are heard in the distance, all the gang members scatter.

Maria is awaiting Tony’s arrival at her home when the Shark Chino arrives and tells her that Tony has killed her brother. Chino leaves, and Tony arrives. He explains what happened, and Maria forgives him. Another character named Anybody’s informs the Jets that Chino is looking for Tony and has a gun. The Jets begin looking for Tony to warn him. Tony and Maria spend the night together and agree to meet at the bus station the following day to escape. Anita arrives after Tony’s departure. After Maria convinces her of her genuine love for Tony, Lieutenant Schrank arrives to question Maria. Anita agrees to let Tony (who is hiding in Doc’s store) know that Maria will be late meeting him. When Anita arrives at the store, however, she is assaulted by the Jets, who have gathered there to protect Tony, and in a rage she tells Doc that Chino has killed Maria. When Doc passes that information on to Tony, he leaves the store and rushes outside, calling on Chino to kill him as well. Tony sees Maria at a playground, and he realizes that she has not been killed. As he rushes to her, Chino arrives and shoots him. Tony dies in Maria’s arms, surrounded by members of both street gangs. Maria grabs Chino’s gun and tells the gang members that they are all responsible for the deaths of Riff, Bernardo, and Tony. The police arrive and arrest Chino while members of the Jets and the Sharks carry Tony’s body away.

YOU DO: Fill in the gaps to show your understanding of the similarities between ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Click on the boxes to reveal the answers.

1. Both stories involve g_ _ _ _ who do not get along.


2. Both pairs of lovers meet at a d_ _ _ _.


3. Both stories are about f_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ love.


4. At the end of both stories, a m_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ leads to death.


5. Both stories end in t_ _ _ _ _ _.


So, yet again, the story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, first published in 1597, has been made relevant to modern life in the musical ‘West Side Story’.

Here is the famous balcony scene from ‘West Side Story’, performed at the proms. The scene is based on the balcony scene from ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

Challenge Task- you may have already started this:

Choose one of the following plays: The Tempest/ A Midsummer Night’s Dream/ Hamlet. Plan ideas for a modern adaptation of the play.

How would you adapt the play to appeal to a modern audience?

Where would the story take place? How would you change the characters?

What time period would you set the play in?

You could present your work as a powerpoint, a poster or a mind map. Send your work to your English teacher!

Well done! Next session we will look at other adaptations of Shakespearean plays…