It is believed that Romeo and Juliet was written around 1594, although there remains considerable variance of opinion as to its specific date. Historians generally believe it was written some time before 1597 because a crude first quarto of the text is available from this date. However, as Shakespeare has taken an existing story, popularly catalogued by Arthur Brooke in 1562 and by William Painter in 1582, precise dating of the play is difficult.
There are many earlier inceptions of a similar plot involving warring families and tragic lovers, with references dating back as early as the fifteenth century. In 1476 a story was written by Masuccio Salernitano about the lovers Mariotto and Gianozza. Salernitano's work is believed to have many parallels to Shakespeare’s later play.