Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and James Cameron’s Titanic are two of the most well known stories in our history. Romeo and Juliet is a very famous play that has been reproduced for hundreds of years and has been made into many movies and adaptations. Titanic the movie is an adaptation of real-life events and many different stories have been told about the sinking of the ship and the lives it affected. There are many similarities between the two stories, which will be discussed in this essay.
The most obvious similarity between the two stories is that the main characters in each story fall in love when they are not supposed to. Romeo and Juliet belong to two families who hate each other and who are not supposed to be together at all. If anyone found out about their secret love and marriage, it would cause great problems for the characters and could even result in a duel between the two families, even causing death.
Juliet, though she has not yet agreed to the marriage, is intended to marry another man. Rose and Jack in Titanic are also not supposed to fall in love. Rose is engaged to another man, and is in the upper class. Jack is from the lower class and the two classes were not supposed to mix during that time period. The difference in class is even further shown by the separation of where people slept on the boat. Rose was in first class and Jack was in steerage, and the difference between accommodations was very obvious to the viewer.
Because of the forbidden love in each of these sets of characters, they were forced to keep their love a secret and even lie to those they loved in order to carry on their love affairs. Romeo and Juliet must sneak around and meet, asking others to carry messages between the two. Romeo even has to sneak into Juliet’s chambers. Rose and Jack also have to sneak around, and Rose often has to lie to her family and friends in order to spend time with Jack. The only difference is that Jack does not have to lie to anybody, because he has no family and his friends have no ill will toward Rose or her people.
Rose and Juliet are both trapped in a world that they are unhappy in. Both are engaged or otherwise promised to marry men that they do not truly love. They feel as though they have no control over their lives and have no choice in who they are supposed to marry. Both of the girls are being pressured by their families, especially their mothers. These women both urge their daughters to marry into wealthy families that will provide for them and give them security, but the girls want to marry for love.
Marrying for love does not seem to be a concern in either of these stories, and the emphasis on wealth and money seems to be much more important. The lovers in each of these stories stand out because they are more concerned with love than with money or anything else. They seem to be the only characters in their worlds that value love above all else.
Both sets of couples fall in love very quickly. Romeo and Juliet fall in love the instant they meet each other, and are married within days. Though Rose and Jack do not seem to fall in love quite that quickly, it is only a matter of days before they admit their love for one another. They may not have fallen in love at first sight, but there is a definite spark between the two of them almost immediately.
The scene in which Jack sees Rose for the first time on the boat leads the audience to believe that Jack falls in love instantly. Jack simply cannot take his eyes off of her. Rose may have felt that way too when she first meets Jack, but her feelings of loyalty to her family, fiancé, and her class status make it more difficult for her to admit. It is clear that she becomes attracted to him within their first few encounters, however.
Romeo and Jack both try to blend into worlds that they do not belong in or are not welcome in. Romeo sneaks into the Capulet’s ball when he is uninvited and not welcome. The fact that the Capulets hate Romeo’s family makes it dangerous for him to be there, and if he were to get caught there would be a price to pay.
Jack is invited into Rose’s world, but it is clear that he is not really welcome there. He goes to dinner with the upper class, and remains true to himself and who he is. The other dinner guests are polite but go out of their way to point out the difference. Rose’s fiancé Cal is obviously uncomfortable and irritated by Jack’s imposition, even though Cal was the one who had invited him.
Romeo sneaking into the Capulet ball caused a duel between himself and Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt. Romeo, who does not want to resort to violence, refuses to fight. His friend Mercutio steps in and wants to duel in Romeo’s place. Mercutio dies at Tybalt’s hand, causing Romeo to kill Tybalt in turn. All of this is caused because of the anger Tybalt felt at Romeo sneaking into his world when he wasn’t supposed to.
Though Cal does not challenge Jack to a duel, he goes out of his way to cause Jack to become incarcerated on the boat. He sets Jack up by placing the “Heart of the Ocean” necklace into his pocket, framing him for stealing it. The officers on the boat take Jack to a room and lock him up. This was caused because of Cal’s discomfort with having Jack in his world, and the possibility that his fiancé might actually have stronger feelings for the man from the lower class than she did for him.
The Tybalt and Cal characters are very similar in some ways. Though Tybalt was Juliet’s cousin, and Cal was Rose’s fiancé, each of them belonged to a group of people who wanted to keep Romeo and Jack out. They also both wanted to protect Juliet and Rose, and went to great lengths to do so. Tybalt initiated a duel, while Cal made a great effort to frame Jack for stealing a necklace.
It seems, though, that Tybalt and Cal each had a great deal of pride and wanted to defend that pride just as much as they wanted to protect the women. This pride may have been even more important to them than protecting the honor of the women. They both exemplify the phrase “pride before the fall,” because both of them let their pride be their ultimate demise. Tybalt was killed because of his pride, and Cal lost his love and ended up looking like a fool because of his behavior, which was fueled by his pride.
Though there are similarities between Tybalt and Cal, there is one main difference that can be noticed. Tybalt was very brave, and was not afraid to fight for what he believed in. This was ultimately what caused his untimely death. Cal, on the other hand, was quite cowardly. It seems unlikely that he would challenge Jack to a duel, though he had no problem resorting to violence with Rose when she made him angry. Cal’s effort to frame Jack for stealing the “Heart of the Ocean” necklace was a cowardly act. He was unable to get rid of Jack so he framed him and let the ship’s officers take care of the problem.
In both of these stories, the “sinking ship” metaphor applies. Obviously Titanic was a sinking ship in the literal sense, but both of the love stories were also sinking ships. The stories are both tragedies, and one can see the tragedy coming almost from the beginning of the story. A star-crossed lover story rarely has a happy ending, and though the audience roots for each couple, they know that it can only end in tragedy.
Jack and Rose go through a great deal throughout the film, first dealing with the lying and sneaking around that is caused by the differences that are supposed to keep them apart. Once the ship becomes damaged, everything changes. They are no longer concerned with sneaking around, they are instead fighting for their own lives and understand that surviving is more important than upsetting anybody. At that point they move freely about the boat, holding hands and clearly together.
Romeo and Juliet also go through a change. They do a lot of lying and sneaking around, and once they realize that they will never be allowed to be together things get very serious and they take drastic measures. Juliet fakes her death in order to be with Romeo, but Romeo does not get the message and ultimately ends his own life because of his grief. When Juliet awakens and realizes what Romeo had done, she also ends her own life to end her grief and to join her true love.
When Jack dies at the end of the movie, Rose has a choice. She can choose to join Jack in death, or fight for her life and to go on living without him. She chooses to live, and does fight for her survival until she is rescued. She goes on to live a happy life, but keeps Jack’s memory alive by taking his last name and to do all of the things they had wanted to do together, like riding horses and piloting a plane.
Jack lost his life because of his love for Rose, just as Romeo lost his life due to his love for Juliet. Jack loved Rose so much that he risked everything to keep her alive, even his own life. When he realized that only one of them could fit on the piece of floating wood in the freezing ocean, he put Rose up on it without giving it a second thought. He froze to death because of it. Similarly, Romeo gave little thought to ending his own life when he believed Juliet to be dead. Had he waited just a few moments longer, Juliet would have awoken and it could have been a happy ending.
A happy ending may have been possible for Rose and Jack had the circumstances been different. Rose’s refusal to accept class lines would have allowed them to go on and have a happy life together had Jack survived the ship sinking. Had Jack been from the upper class, it is very likely that he would have been rescued and he and Rose could have been together. Yet these “star-crossed lovers,” like Romeo and Juliet, were not meant to go on together.
There are, of course, many differences between these two stories. The most obvious differences are the setting of the two stories. Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona in the 16th century, and is set on land. Titanic is set on the Atlantic Ocean on a giant cruise ship, at the beginning of the 20th century. The stories are set four centuries apart, one on land and one at sea on a ship.
The times are different in these stories, as are the settings. However, there are also some similarities in the setting. The elaborate costumes and parties that were held by the rich were extraordinary in each story. Though the styles were different, the extravagance of the costumes is comparable. Additionally, the Capulet ball is a large party that can be compared to expensive dinners that the upper class enjoys on the cruise ship.
The deaths at the end of the stories are different as well, although each death is ultimately caused by love. The manners in which they die are different. Romeo and Juliet each take their own lives. Jack dies due to circumstances beyond his control, as he had been on a ship that sank in the middle of the freezing ocean.
There are also multiple deaths of other characters in each story. Mercutio and Tybalt both die from acts of violence against one another. In Titanic, many people die just from the circumstances of the boat sinking. There are a few instances in the film where guns are used to threaten others, and even one scene where a man is shot for trying to gain access to a life boat. Though many characters in each story die for different reasons, they are both tragedies multiple times over because the main characters are not the only ones to die.
The lovers in each story are not supposed to be together and know it, but the rules for each couple are different. Romeo and Juliet are not supposed to be together because of an old feud between the two families, and Rose and Jack are merely separated by class. Before setting foot on the ship, neither had known each other or anyone in their families. But for each couple there is an understanding that by being together, they are breaking the rules.
There are differences between Juliet and Rose in their situations. Juliet, although involved in a romance that is clearly not accepted, has a few people who love her and are rooting for her. They want her to be happy no matter what. Juliet’s nurse does try to talk her into the marriage that Juliet’s mother and father want for her, but ultimately just wants Juliet to be happy. The friar, though Romeo’s confidant, is also rooting for Juliet and hopes that the differences between the two families can be rectified. Even with this support, Juliet decides to take her own life at the end of the play.
Rose, on the other hand, does not have any friends or family that supports her in her love for Jack. Her mother is clearly disgusted by the mere thought of Jack, and can’t even stand to be around him. She goes out of her way to tell Rose that she does not want her to spend any time with Jack at all, and forbids her to see him again. Other than her mother and Cal, Rose does not seem to have any friends on the ship. Before she meets Jack, she is shown walking around the ship by herself. Clearly Cal does not support Rose in her love for Jack as well, so the only support she has is from Jack himself.
Both Rose and Juliet contemplate suicide during their stories. At the beginning of the movie, Rose feels so overwhelmed by her circumstances that she climbs over the rail and considers ending her life. She is so unhappy with the prospect of marrying Cal and what the rest of her life would be like that she wants to end it all. Juliet also considers ending her life when she realizes that she would have to live her life without her love. She ultimately chooses to end her life, in contrast to Rose who chose to live not once, but twice.
Rose and Juliet also differ in their strength of character. When Rose was standing on the rail of the boat, she decided not to jump. As she attempted to climb back over, she slipped and Jack came to her rescue. Throughout the story, the audience can see Rose gaining strength. Where she once felt trapped by her life and circumstances, almost to the point of suicide, she starts to break away from that feeling. As her love for Jack grows, so does her defiance of her old life. She stands up to her mother and to Cal and makes it clear that she is nothing like them. She is strong enough to move on in the end, even though she has lost her old life and her new love Jack. Her love for Jack had given her the strength and courage to move on.
Juliet’s love for Romeo was different. She did not gain strength from that love, and was not strong enough to move on without Romeo. She ends her life because she was dependent on that love, and could not bear to live without it. Where Rose gained strength from her love with Jack, Juliet was weakened by her love with Romeo.
It is difficult to tell if the remaining characters in Titanic learned anything from the tragic deaths of the main characters. Though Rose did not die, she was presumed to be dead by her mother and fiancé. The audience does not see Rose’s mother after she is seen in her lifeboat, and Cal is shown to be looking for Rose after the survivors have been rescued.
Rose, as an elderly woman, tells her story and explains that she never saw her mother or Cal again. The audience is left to wonder if either of them learned anything from Rose and Jack’s relationship, or the tragedy they endured. It seems that Cal may have felt a bit of forgiveness for Rose, as he was looking for her at the end of the film, but it was not clear what his reason really was for searching for her.
The Capulets and Montagues reconcile their feud following the loss of Romeo and Juliet. The tragedy of their deaths helped the families to see how truly petty their differences were. Even though their deaths were tragic, the remaining characters were able to learn from the tragedy and right the wrongs that they had caused by moving past their differences. If only they had been able to do so earlier, Romeo and Juliet may have lived happily ever after.
Similarly, had Rose’s people been able to look past class and wealth, Rose and Jack may have stood a chance. Rose was able to see Jack for the person he was, not his class or status. It didn’t matter to her who his family was or how much money he had, but it certainly mattered to her mother. Had her mother been able to look past her differences with Jack, Rose and Jack may have had a better chance. Having someone on her side, especially her mother, would have made things much easier for Rose. Had her mother accepted her love for Jack and supported the couple, she may have been able to get them rescued and Jack may not have died.
One similarity that is interesting to note is that Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed both Jack in Titanic and Romeo in the 1990’s film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Kate Winslet played Rose, and was one of the actresses being considered for the 1990’s film (“Romeo + Juliet Trivia”). Claire Danes won the role, but Winslet has played the lead in several other film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays (“Filmography”).
There are many similarities between Romeo and Juliet and Titanic. There are similar characters, similar story lines, and similar tragedies. The Romeo and Juliet story has been remade countless times and has been adapted into many different stories in literature, drama, and film. It can be said that Titanic is a modern day tale of Romeo and Juliet. The main theme of both stories is that two people who weren’t supposed to even like each other fell in love, and the love led to tragedy. However, both stories did have a happy twist to the ending. The deaths of Romeo and Juliet caused their families to move on from their grudges and to reconcile their relationship. Rose and Jack’s love gave Rose the strength that she needed to live her life the way she wanted, on her own terms. It is very sad that these characters had to die for these lessons to be learned, but had they not happened then the stories may have been much more tragic. The Montagues and Capulets may have let their feud escalate and may have ended violently. Without Jack, Rose probably would have gone on to marry Cal and live her life unhappily married to an abusive husband. It is very likely that Rose may have committed suicide if she had to live her life that way. Jack’s death gave Rose a new life and a happy ending to her story.
“Filmography.” Kate Winslet Fan. n.d Web. 19 November 2013.
“Romeo + Juliet Trivia.” IMDB. Amazon.com. n.d. Web. 19 November 2013.