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William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet (The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet), a tragedy penned by the writer early in his career about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families. It was one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays during his lifetime and alongside Hamlet, is one of his most commonly performed plays.
Today, Romeo and Juliet are regarded as archetypal young lovers.
Romeo and Juliet is one of the most notorious tragic romances. The plot, based on an Italian tale translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke (1562), retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter (1567). Shakespeare ‘borrowed’ heavily from both but lengthened the story by creating additional characters, particularly Mercutio and Paris. Believed first published in a quarto version in 1597. The text of the first quarto version was considered of poor quality, however, and later editions corrected the text to conform more closely to Shakespeare’s original.
Yale Center for British Art [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Shakespeare’s use of poetic dramatic structure (like switching between comedy and tragedy to heighten tension, increase of minor characters, and embellishment in sub-plots) has been recognised as early signs of his dramatic skill. The play credits dissimilar poetic forms to different characters, sometimes changing the form as the character develops. Do you notice how Romeo, grows more adept at the sonnet during the play.
William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet has been revised numerous times for stage, television, motion picture, and musical, at venues around the world.
During the English Restoration, it was revived and greatly revised by William Davenant. David Garrick’s 18th-century account also adapted several scenes, removing material then considered offensive, and Georg Benda’s Romeo und Julie lost action and added a pleasant ending.
William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet – 19th century performances including Charlotte Cushman’s, restored the original text and concentrated on more realism. A version in 1935 by John Gielgud kept near as to Shakespeare’s text with Elizabethan costumes and staging, enhancing the drama. In the 20th and 21st century, the play has been adapted as diverse as the 1936 film Romeo and Juliet by George Cukor, Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version Romeo and Juliet, and Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 MTV-inspired Romeo + Juliet.
William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet – The Characters
Ruling House of Verona
Prince Escalus is the ruling Prince of Verona.
Count Paris is a kinsman of Escalus who wishes to marry Juliet.
Mercutio is another kinsman of Escalus, a friend of Romeo.
House of Capulet
Capulet is the patriarch of the house of Capulet.
Lady Capulet is the matriarch of the house of Capulet.
Juliet Capulet is the 13-year-old daughter of Capulet, the play’s female protagonist.
Tybalt is a cousin of Juliet, the nephew of Lady Capulet.
The Nurse is Juliet’s personal attendant and confidante.
Rosaline is Lord Capulet’s niece, Romeo’s love in the beginning of the story.
Peter, Sampson, and Gregory are servants of the Capulet household.
House of Montague
Montague is the patriarch of the house of Montague.
Lady Montague is the matriarch of the house of Montague.
Romeo Montague is the son of Montague, the play’s male protagonist.
Benvolio is Romeo’s cousin and best friend.
Abram and Balthasar are servants of the Montague household.
Friar Laurence is a Franciscan friar and Romeo’s confidant.
Friar John is sent to deliver Friar Laurence’s letter to Romeo.
An Apothecary who reluctantly sells Romeo poison.
A Chorus reads a prologue to each of the first two acts.
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