Introduction to Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is a play by William Shakespeare. Though the exact dates of its publication and premiere are unknown, the play is believed to have been written in the early stages of Shakespeare’s career, between 1591 and 1595. Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s most popular and frequently performed works, beginning with contemporary audiences and extending into the modern day. The timeless tale of star-crossed lovers, seemingly doomed by fate, has resonated with audiences for centuries, and the play, alongside those of Christopher Marlowe, helped repopularize the tragic romance genre. 

Since its publication, Romeo and Juliet has been adapted numerous times for film, opera, ballet, and other mediums. The play’s title has arguably become synonymous with the concept of ill-fated love, and “Romeo” is a popular colloquial term for a passionate male lover. Critics have also continued to debate the overarching themes and meanings of the play, especially with regards to fate, free will, and the nature of love. Additionally, the play is characteristic of many of Shakespeare’s genre-bending later works, as it blends both comedy and tragedy into the same narrative, with the most noticeable tonal shift occurring in the aftermath of Mercutio’s death. Though it is sometimes written off as a antiquated romance, Romeo and Juliet remains one of the most influential works in all of Western literature, and it contains untold complexities for those willing to read between the lines of Shakespeare’s verse.

A Brief Biography of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was an English poet and playwright. Despite his widely accepted status as the greatest and most influential figure in the history of English-language literature, relatively little of his life is known. He grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon in a family of comfortable means. At eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children. As a young man, Shakespeare moved to London and became involved in the theater community as an actor, playwright, and company owner. Over the next two decades, his plays became increasingly popular, and his theater company thrived. In 1613, Shakespeare retired to Stratford-upon-Avon, where he died several years later of unknown causes. Given the immense erudition of Shakespeare’s work and the paucity of information about his life, some critics and readers have suspected that Shakespeare was in fact an aristocrat writing under a pseudonym. However, these suspicions remain unsubstantiated.

Shakespeare’s literary output includes a cycle of 154 sonnets, two narrative poems, and 39 plays that range across comedy, tragedy, and history. His formal virtuosity—especially his mastery of prosody, metaphor, and wordplay—are evident throughout all of his work, and his plays are celebrated for their rich dramatic structures and psychological depth.

Frequently Asked Questions about Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet's story is not based on real events, but on a 1562 poem by Arthur Brooke titled The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, which itself was based on earlier works. The plot of...

Latest answer posted September 25, 2020, 11:22 am (UTC)

4 educator answers

Romeo and Juliet

In the opening scene of the play, Romeo is a melancholy young man who is heartbroken from Rosaline's unrequited love. Romeo spends the majority of his days and nights alone, and his parents are...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2020, 11:59 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

Lady Capulet is proud, vengeful, cold, and perhaps rather bitter, with a strong sense of her own social status and the importance of the Capulet family. In act 1, scene 3, she tells the Nurse to...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2020, 11:26 am (UTC)

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Romeo and Juliet

When Friar Laurence tells Romeo that the Prince has decided to have him banished from Verona rather than executed for killing Tybalt, Romeo compares his sentence to death. While Friar Laurence...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2020, 11:15 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

The bitter conflict between Romeo and Tybalt is impossible to conceive without their being part of warring families involved in a long-standing, bloody feud. Romeo is a Montague, and Tybalt is a...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2020, 11:17 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

It is Friar Laurence who first suggests that Romeo go to Mantua, after Romeo is banished from Verona by Prince Escalus for killing Tybalt in act 3, scene 1 of William Shakespeare's Romeo and...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2020, 11:55 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

Juliet's suicide follows Romeo's. She awakes to find him dead, and then uses his dagger to end her own life. Obviously, Romeo and Juliet both have decided not to live without one another. Their...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2020, 11:28 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

The drama Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare relates the tragedy of two “star-crossed” lovers who are separated and victimized by fate, primarily because of an ongoing feud between their...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2020, 1:07 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet are described as "star-crossed lovers" in the prologue, which prophesies their death. This means that they never had a chance to survive and be happy together, since their destiny...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2020, 11:52 am (UTC)

3 educator answers

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo buries Paris with Juliet because this is Paris's dying wish. Grief and misery, rather than any quarrel, lead Romeo and Paris to fight, and when Romeo kills Paris, he bears him no ill-will. He...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2020, 11:10 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

The play never mentions any minimum legal age Juliet must reach before she can marry. Juliet is thirteen years old when the play begins, and her family all disagree as to how much longer they...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2020, 11:42 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is a play written by famed English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It tells the tragic story of two young, star-crossed lovers named Romeo and Juliet whose love is doomed...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2020, 11:25 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo's killing of Paris arises from a tragic misunderstanding. Paris is keeping a vigil by what he believes to be Juliet's dead body. Juliet's not dead, of course; she's taken a powerful sleeping...

Latest answer posted September 26, 2020, 11:31 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

The beginning of act 3, scene 5 indicates that Romeo and Juliet have slept together. We know the young couple had been secretly married the day before by Friar Laurence. We also know that they were...

Latest answer posted September 25, 2020, 11:25 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

In Shakespeare's classic play Romeo and Juliet, the two star-crossed lovers get married in secret and tragically commit suicide at the Capulet tomb. In the play, Romeo is portrayed as a passionate,...

Latest answer posted September 25, 2020, 1:29 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

Balthasar is Romeo's servant rather than his friend. Romeo does say that Balthasar can show friendship by leaving him alone in the churchyard and not enquiring further into his plans, but only...

Latest answer posted September 25, 2020, 2:15 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

In Romeo and Juliet, Paris is not a Capulet. He is related to the Prince of Verona, like Mercutio, although the audience is not told the precise nature of their relationship. He is referred to as a...

Latest answer posted September 25, 2020, 11:11 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

Mercutio is undoubtedly one of the more sympathetic characters in Romeo and Juliet. It's clear right from the start that he has a very wicked sense of humor, which he uses to great effect to...

Latest answer posted September 25, 2020, 11:15 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is a romantic tragedy written by famed English playwright and poet William Shakespeare, who is commonly regarded as one of the most prominent and influential figures in literature....

Latest answer posted September 25, 2020, 11:40 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet presents two young “star-crossed” lovers separated and victimized by fate. They lose their lives through suicide after a misleading and...

Latest answer posted September 25, 2020, 12:45 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer
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Summary