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Romeo and Juliet: Introduction

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Date and Sources:

Romeo and Juliet is an early play of Shakespeare. The play was probably written between 1591 and 1595 (I’d guess 1594), after The Taming of the Shrew.


The play is based on an Italian tale, translated into English and turned into verse by Arthur Brooke, and published in 1562. It was then turned into prose and published as The Palace of Pleasure in 1567 by William Painter. Shakespeare borrowed from both these sources, but developed the play significantly, particularly around the characters of Mercutio and Paris.


The Plot:


The play begins with a testosterone-fuelled fight between the Montagues and the Capultets. That really is the leitmotiv for the whole play with Romeo suffering from a surfeit of testosterone and in love with Rosaline or is that Juliet. The story is so well known that I’m not sure I can say anything interesting about it, other than these few brief comments:


Juliet seems a much more interesting character to me than Romeo. He seems a typical young male, fuelled by testosterone, admittedly less agressive than most young males, whilst she seems intelligent; brave; and sensitive.

In the scene where Juliet is discovered ‘dead’, the discussion between Peter and the musicians must usually be cut (I have no memory of seeing it in a production. This seems to me to be a terrible shame. There’s a certain delight in the attitude of the musicians to the death of Juliet.

Although it’s a wonderful story, I’m not sure that it is all that easy to make ‘come off’ in a production.

The next time I revise the play, I’ll make a point of coming up with a more detailed Introduction.

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