What is the setting of Romeo and Juliet?

What is the setting of Romeo and Juliet?

 

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kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is set during the Renaissance period in Verona, Italy. The original "Romeo and Juliet" stories date to several decades prior to Shakespeare's writing and reference the couple as having lived during the twelfth century. In Italy, the Renaissance began perhaps as early as the late 13th century, lasted through Shakespeare's time, and came to a close in the 17th century. Shakespeare was writing his version of Romeo and Juliet in the 1590s, and it is safe to assume that the play is set contemporaneously or somewhat earlier than its writing. There have been attempts to narrow down the year the play is set during based on the mention of an earthquake, said to have happened eleven years prior. Some believe this earthquake was the Dover Straits Earthquake of 1580, marking the year as 1591— about when Shakespeare was writing the play.

Though the year is up for debate, we do know the play takes place during the month of July. Nurse describes Juliet's birthday, on the eve of Lammas-tide, being a little over two weeks away. From the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, the harvest festival called Lammas has been fixed on the first day of August. That means the three-day course of the play is taking place around the middle of July.

As for the physical setting, we know from the Prologue that Romeo and Juliet takes place in Verona, Italy. Much of the play takes place in the Capulet house, but scenes also occur outdoors in public spaces such as the market, Friar Lawrence's cell, and the Capulet family crypt.