Why did Shakespeare write Romeo and Juliet?

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Many people do not know this, but the story of Romeo and Juliet is not one that Shakespeare is completely responsible for, though he is given full credit for its creation.  An earlier version was written in Italy and then translated into poetic verse by a man named Arthur Brooke around 1562; he titled it The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet.  Shakespeare did not write his play until the 1590's.  Why we wrote it is unknown, though many critics have said it was originally meant to be a comedy by his intentions and then he decided instead to turn it into a tragedy.  Though, when you think about it, it does have many of the makings of a tragedy:  humor in the opening lines, a conflict, marriage, irony, etc.

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"Romeo and Juliet" was written early in Shakespeare's career. Since Shakespeare was a relatively young playwright, he wanted to experiment with several ideas not seen in plays of his time. These ideas include the differences and similarities of love and hate, the use of light and dark imagery to portray good and evil, the role Fate plays in our lives. Shakespeare also handles time and it's effects on Fate and questions whether omens and dreams should be used to warn use of tragic consequences. Although the play is not considered as great as some of Shakespeare's later work, it is an exceptional work of a young playwright destined for much bigger things.

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Shakespeare based Romeo and Juliet on earlier stories. The poet Arthur Brooke wrote a poem called "The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet" that introduced the story of the young lovers into the English language in 1562, as earlier editions had been in French and Italian. This poem was based on real people, Juliet and Romeo, who died in Verona around 1303. From Brooke, Shakespeare took many elements of his plot, including the introduction of Romeo to Juliet at the ball, their marriage, and their eventual suicides. Brooke's poem begins in part, "Love hath inflaméd twain by sudden sight,/ And both do grant the thing that both desire /They wed in shrift by counsel of a friar." In Brooke's poem, the lovers also fell in love at first sight and wed secretly with the help of a friar, though their marriage lasts three months in this poem. While adapting the story from Brooke, Shakespeare made the action take only days instead of months, thereby making the story more exciting.

Shakespeare often borrowed from existing stories to write his plays.  By borrowing a story that had been in circulation from a while, Shakespeare was more certain of producing a work that people liked, as the story was already popular and known. 

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