Romeo and Juliet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In what time period is "Romeo and Juliet" set? When was it written?

Expert Answers info

Valentine England eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write812 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Romeo and Juliet is thought to have been written by William Shakespeare some time between the years of 1594 and 1596. An unauthorized quarto was first published in 1597, with the authorized quarto not appearing until two years later in 1599. Shakespeare relied primarily on the plot of "The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet," a narrative poem written by Arthur Brooke in 1562, who had, in turn, taken his inspiration from a French translation of an Italian story by Matteo Bandello. Furthermore, it can safely be assumed that the play was first performed by 1597; however, there are no surviving records of performances pre-dating 1660 that exist. 

The answer to what time period Romeo and Juliet is set in is a bit more complicated. Scholars do not know for certain when the story is supposed to take place, but the standard assumption seems to be that it is set at some point in the fourteenth century (the 1300s).

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Keri Sadler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write867 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Science, and History

Well, we don't really know for certain when "Romeo and Juliet" is set, or when it was written either. Scholars currently think that the play might plausibly be dated to 1595. We know too that it can't be any later than 1596, or any earlier than 1591. 

There's nothing in the play that would plausibly date it as a medieval play, any more than a play set in the 1300s and 1400s. The feasts, the weapons, the street brawls, the tomb - all are perfectly plausible as a "modern dress" play for Shakespeare: though, of course, one set in Verona, a hugely fashionable city which, although most Elizabethans would never have visited, was the subject of some fascination.

Shakespeare based his play on a poem by Arthur Brooke, and another (Italian) version of the same story by Luigi da Porto. da Porto sets the plot in modern day Verona - 1530, when he wrote the poem. I think the only real assumption that we can make about the play's setting is that Shakespeare's actors (as the evidence suggests they did) would have played it in the modern dress of the day.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

dneshan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write371 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Science

Although “Romeo and Juliet” was written in the late 1500’s it does not take place during that time period.  The play takes place in the 1300s which explains a few of the situations that would not make sense in our time, nor would they have even made much sense in Shakespeare’s time.  For example, the character of Paris who wishes to marry Juliet would have been in his 30s while Juliet is only 13 years old.  This would have been accepted in the 1300s and not looked down upon like it would be in this day and age.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial