|But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?|
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun.
Act 2, scene 2, lines 2–3
Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say "Good night" till it be morrow.
Act 2, scene 2, lines 199–201
A plague o' both your houses!
Act 3, scene 1, line 111
In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare creates a violent world, in which two young people fall in love. It is not simply that their families disapprove; the Montagues and the Capulets are engaged in a blood feud.
In this death-filled setting, the movement from love at first sight to the lovers' final union in death seems almost inevitable. And yet, this play set in an extraordinary world has become the quintessential story of young love. In part because of its exquisite language, it is easy to respond as if it were about all young lovers.
Scholars generally date the writing of Romeo and Juliet to 1595–96. Sources include Arthur Brooke’s Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet. A version was published as a quarto in 1597; a fuller text appeared as a quarto in 1599.
Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 1992 Folger Shakespeare Library
Dympna Callaghan, ed. Romeo and Juliet: Texts and Contexts. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003.
Janette Dillon. The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare’s Tragedies. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Alexander Leggatt. Shakespeare’s Tragedies: Violation and Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Courtney Lehmann. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: The Relationship Between Text and Film. London: Methuen Drama, 2010.
Joseph A. Porter. Shakespeare's Mercutio: His History and Drama. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.
Katherine Wright. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in Performance: Traditions and Departures. Lewiston: Mellen University Press, 1997.
Romeo + Juliet (1996, 20th Century Fox and Bazmark Films). Directed by Baz Luhrmann. Cast includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite, and Brian Dennehy.
Romeo and Juliet (1968, BHE Films, Verona Produzione, and Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica). Directed by Franco Zefferelli. Cast includes Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey, and Michael York.
Romeo and Juliet (1936, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). Directed by George Cukor. Cast includes Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, John Barrymore, Edna May Oliver, and Basil Rathbone.
Gnomeo & Juliet (2011, Touchstone Pictures, Rocket Pictures, Arc Productions, Miramax Films, and Starz Animation). Directed by Kelly Asbury. Animated: cast includes James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Jim Cummings, Maggie Smith, Ozzy Osbourne, Patrick Stewart, Hulk Hogan, and Dolly Parton.
West Side Story (1961, The Mirisch Corporation and United Artists). Directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise. Cast includes Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris. Based on the stage musical inspired by Romeo and Juliet.