In the Spotlight: Romeo and Juliet

In the Spotlight

Romeo and Juliet
Were very much in love when they were wed
They honoured every vow
So where are they now?
They’re dead, dead, very, very dead
– Ms. Fieldmouse, Thumbelina

Date Written: Uncertain but typically placed between 1594-1595

First performed: between 1594 and 1595

Setting: Verona and Mantua in Italy

Summary

Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet are teenagers in Verona who fall in love but can’t be together because their families are enemies. They decide to marry in secret despite Juliet being betrothed to Count Paris. Romeo is then forced to leave Verona for killing Juliet’s cousin in a duel and is unable to return.

In an attempt to escape marrying Paris, Juliet fakes her death and tries to let Romeo know of her plan. Unfortunately he never gets the message and he visits her crypt thinking she’s dead. In his grief he kills himself, but Juliet wakes up and seeing Romeo dead before her, kills herself.

Themes: love, revenge, fate

Characters

Prince Escalus: ruling Prince of Verona.

Ruling house of Verona

Count Paris: a kinsman of Escalus who wishes to marry Juliet.

Mercutio: a kinsman of Escalus, and a friend of Romeo.

House of Capulet

Capulet: patriarch of the house of Capulet.

Lady Capulet: the matriarch of the house of Capulet.

Juliet: the 13-year-old daughter of Capulet, and the play’s female protagonist.

Tybalt:  cousin of Juliet, and the nephew of Lady Capulet.

The Nurse: Juliet’s personal attendant and confidante.

Rosaline: Lord Capulet’s niece, and Romeo’s love in the beginning of the story.

House of Montague

Montague:  patriarch of the house of Montague.

Lady Montague: matriarch of the house of Montague.

Romeo: son of Montague, and the play’s male protagonist.

Benvolio: Romeo’s cousin and best friend.

Others

Friar Laurence: a Franciscan friar, and is Romeo’s confidant.

 Famous quotes

“Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?” (Act I, Scene I)

“My only love sprung from my only hate.” (Act I, Scene V)

“It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” (Act II, Scene II)

“Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.” (Act II, Scene II)

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Act II, Scene II)

“For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” (Act V, Scene III)

Fun Facts

1. The first words of Romeo and Juliet are in the form of a sonnet. This prologue reveals the ending to the audience before the play has properly begun.

2. The number of words in Romeo and Juliet, according to the Complete Public Domain Text is 25,948

3. Romeo and Juliet has inspired other works, such as Berlioz’s dramatic symphony (1839), Tchaikovsky’s fantasy-overture (1869-80), and Prokofiev’s full-length ballet (1938).

4. The academy award winning musical West Side Story is based on the story of Romeo and Juliet.

5. 90% of the play is in verse, with only 10% in prose. It contains some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful poetry, including the sonnet Romeo and Juliet share when they first meet.

6. Although a story of passionate first love, the play is also full of puns. Even in death, Mercutio manages to joke: ‘ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a grave man’.

7. Juliet is only 13 at the time she meets and marries Romeo, but we never learn exactly how old he is.

8. Nahum Tate adapted the play to give it a happy ending.

9. The famous balcony didn’t appear in Shakespeare’s performances. In the 16th Century, the theatrical scenery was so poor that the location was described by actors, and a balcony would’ve been very difficult to represent. Nevertheless, subsequent stagings of the play made it so famous, that it had to be added to Juliet’s house in Verona at the beginning of the 20th Century.

10. In 1916, a silent film version of the play was made.

11. Shakespeare did not invent the story of Romeo and Juliet. He probably heard it via a poem: Romeus and Juliet (1562) written by a poet called Arthur Brooks.

12. Tudor theatre audiences were vulgar and rude, and they would have cheered Mercutio’s rude sexual innuendos.

13. In the famous line ‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?’ ‘wherefore’ doesn’t mean ‘where’ – it means ‘why’.

14. Shakespeare original title for Romeo and Juliet is “The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.”

15. A summary going around the internet is that Romeo and Juliet is not a love story it is a 3 day romance between a 13 years old and a 17 year old that caused six deaths. It is a very weird love story to idealise.

Sources

Five Facts about Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare Facts
Wikipedia
Romeo & Juliet Facts

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