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An Introduction to Romeo and Juliet

Sue Shearman | Sunday September 22, 2019



First performed: 1594
First published: 1597
Revised for publication in The First Folio, 1623

What was happening at the time: Rodrigo Lopez, the Queen’s physician, executed for treason. A Spanish invasion attempted in Cornwall, beaten off by Sir Walter Raleigh

The play is based on a true story. The two lovers died in 1307

There were two families named Montague and Capulet living in Verona at the time.

Romeo and Juliet is probably the most famous of all Shakespeare’s plays.

Although the play is usually described as a tragedy, it doesn’t follow the rules. There is no tragic hero and no single character has a fatal flaw leading to his downfall.

Most of the play conforms more to the conventions of comedy.

→ Young lovers prevented from being together by parents
→ The lovers are parted, but are reunited at the end
→ Clever servants
→ Family tension
→ Frequent use of puns (Mercutio)

However, most of the comedies have a happy ending for the lovers. In this play the happy ending is for the two families who are reconciled at the end.

This is usually described as an ‘early’ play, but Shakespeare had already had 9 plays performed.


1. Juliet is 13

2. We don’t know how old Romeo is

3. Lady Capulet is 28. She says, when discussing Juliet’s marriage to Paris

‘by my count,
I was your mother much upon these years
That you are now a maid.’

4. Lord Capulet is much older

5. The play takes place over a period of five days

The Story

In five lines…

→ It opens with a fight between the Montagues and Capulets. Lady Capulet tells Juliet that she is going to be married. Montague holds a party where Romeo and Juliet meet and discover that they should be enemies.

→ They decide to get married. They get married.

The Montagues and Capulets have another fight. Tybalt kills Mercutio. Romeo kills Tybalt. Romeo is banished to Mantua. Romeo sneaks back to the Capulets’ house to say good-bye to Juliet. Lady Capulet tells Juliet that she is to be...

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