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Romeo and Juliet

The prologue of Romeo and Juliet calls the title characters "star-crossed lovers"—and the stars do seem to conspire against these young lovers.

Romeo is a Montague, and Juliet a Capulet. Their families are enmeshed in a feud, but the moment they meet—when Romeo and his friends attend a party at Juliet's house in disguise—the two fall in love and quickly decide that they want to be married.

A friar secretly marries them, hoping to end the feud. Romeo and his companions almost immediately encounter Juliet's cousin Tybalt, who challenges Romeo. When Romeo refuses to fight, Romeo’s friend Mercutio accepts the challenge and is killed. Romeo then kills Tybalt and is banished. He spends that night with Juliet and then leaves for Mantua.

Juliet’s father forces her into a marriage with Count Paris. To avoid this marriage, Juliet takes a potion, given her by the friar, which makes her appear dead. The friar will send Romeo word to be at her family tomb when she awakes. The plan goes awry, and Romeo learns instead that she is dead. In the tomb, Romeo kills himself. Juliet wakes, sees his body, and commits suicide. Their deaths appear finally to end the feud.

Early printed texts

Romeo and Juliet was first printed in 1597 (Q1) as a quarto that is markedly different than any subsequent early printing: it is shorter, the wedding scene is radically different, and the language widely differs in the last three acts. The play appeared as a quarto in 1599 (Q2) in a text that seems to have had a different source than the one behind Q1; this version of the play was reprinted in 1609 (Q3) and in 1623 (Q4). The play is included in the 1623 First Folio, with a text that differs from Q3 beyond what we would expect typesetters to change. Most modern editions, like the Folger, are based on Q2.

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Item Title: 
[Romeo and Juliet] An excellent conceited tragedie of Romeo and Iuliet. As it hath been often (with great applause) plaid publiquely, by the right Honourable the L. of Hunsdon his Seruants.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22322
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1597

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Item Title: 
[Romeo and Juliet] The most excellent and lamentable tragedie, of Romeo and Iuliet. Newly corrected, augmented, and amended: as it hath bene sundry times publiquely acted, by the right Honourable the Lord Chamberlaine his Seruants.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22323 copy 1
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1599

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Item Title: 
[Romeo and Juliet] The most excellent and lamentable tragedie, of Romeo and Iuliet. As it hath beene sundrie times publiquely acted, by the Kings Maiesties Seruants at the Globe.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22324
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1609

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Item Title: 
[Romeo and Juliet] The most excellent and lamentable tragedie, of Romeo and Iuliet. As it hath beene sundrie times publikely acted, by the Kings Maiesties Seruants at the Globe. Written by W. Shake-speare.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22325a
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
[1623?]

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Item Title: 
Works. 1623] Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies : published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22273 Fo.1 no.68
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1623

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Item Title: 
Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares comedies, histories, and tragedies. : Published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22274 Fo.2 no.07
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1632

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Item Title: 
[Romeo and Juliet] The most excellent and lamentable tragedie of Romeo and Juliet. As it hath been sundry times publikely acted by the Kings Majesties Servants at the Globe. Written by W. Shake-speare.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22326 copy 1
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1637

Picturing Romeo and Juliet

As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to Romeo and Juliet is shown below, with links to our digital image collection.

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Charlotte Cushman and Susan Cushman as Romeo and Juliet (19th century)

Item Title: 
Miss Cushman and Miss Susan Cushman in the characters of Romeo and Juliet [graphic] / [Mi]ss Gillies, pinxt. ; T. Fairland, lit[h].
Item Call Number: 
ART File C986 no.1 (size L)
Item Creator: 
Fairland, Thomas, 1804-1852, printmaker.
Item Date: 
London [England] : Published by Thomas McLean, 26 Haymarket, [19th century]

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Maud Granger and Lawrence Atkins as Romeo and Juliet (ca. 1866)

Item Title: 
Maud Granger and Lawrence Atkins as Romeo and Juliet [graphic].
Item Call Number: 
ART File A874 no.1 PHOTO (size XS)
Item Date: 
[New York? : s.n., ca. 1866]

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Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer (1936)

Item Title: 
Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer
Item Call Number: 
Ball Collection 879-320X
Item Date: 
1936

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J.G. Holman as Romeo (late 18th century)

Item Title: 
Mr. Holman in the character of Romeo [in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet]: She speaks ... [graphic].
Item Call Number: 
ART File H747 no.2b (size XS)
Item Date: 
[Great Britain? : s.n., late 18th century]

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Julia Marlowe as Juliet (1892)

Item Title: 
Julia Marlowe as Juliet [in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet] [graphic] / B.J. Falk.
Item Call Number: 
ART File M349.5 no.86 copy 2 PHOTO (size M)
Item Creator: 
Falk, B. J. (Benjamin J.), 1853-1925, photographer.
Item Date: 
New York : [s.n.], 1892.

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Fanny Kemble as Juliet (19th century)

Item Title: 
Romeo and Juliet, Fanny Kemble as Juliet, "Sweet, good night!" [graphic].
Item Call Number: 
ART Box H426 no.1 (size L)
Item Creator: 
Hayter, John, 1800-1895, artist.
Item Date: 
[S.l. : s.n., 19th century]

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Romeo at the apothecary (Act 5, scene 1; 1867)

Item Title: 
[Bottom and Titania, Romeo at the apothecary] [graphic] / Geo. Cruikshank, 1867.
Item Call Number: 
ART Box C955 no.61 (size L)
Item Creator: 
Cruikshank, George, fl. 1866-1894, attributed artist.
Item Date: 
[1867]

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Friar Lawrence and Juliet with the corpses of Romeo and Paris (Act 5, scene 3; 1790)

Item Title: 
James Northcote. Romeo and Juliet, act V, scene III, Monument belonging to the Capulets: Romeo and Paris dead, Juliet and Friar Laurence. Oil on canvas, ca. 1790
Item Call Number: 
ART 265225 (framed)
Item Creator: 
Northcote, James 1746-1831, artist.
Item Date: 
[1790]

More images of Romeo and Juliet can be seen in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)

Teacher & student resources

Created by teachers and curated by the Folger, these teaching modules can help you with Romeo and Juliet in the classroom:

More teaching modules and resources for teachers and students can be found in our Teach & Learn section.