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Romeo and Juliet

A scene from Romeo and Juliet

Introduction to the play

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.

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Cover of the Folger Shakespeare edition of Romeo and Juliet

The Folger Shakespeare

Our bestselling editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems

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
That I shall say “Good night” till it be morrow.

Act 2, scene 2, lines 199–201

From the audio edition of Romeo and Juliet

Full recording available from Simon & Schuster Audio on CD and for download.

Romeo and Juliet in our collection

A selection of Folger collection items related to Romeo and Juliet. Find more in our digital image collection

Dan Sayre Groesbeck. Costume design for Edna May Oliver as the Nurse in George Cukor's 1936 MGM film of Romeo and Juliet. Watercolor, ca. 1936
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
Federal Negro Theatre [Project Number Three] Presents "Romey and Julie": a romantic comedy by Robert Dunmore, Ruth Chorpenning, Sames Norris. Musical settings by Margaret Allison Bonds at the Ridgeway Theatre.
Costume worn by Julia Marlowe in the role of Juliet, White silk velvet and iridescent scale dress

Essays and resources from The Folger Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet

Learn more about the play, its language, and its history from the experts behind our edition.

About Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
An introduction to the plot, themes, and characters in the play

Reading Shakespeare’s Language
A guide for understanding Shakespeare’s words, sentences, and wordplay

An Introduction to This Text
A description of the publishing history of the play and our editors’ approach to this edition

Shakespeare and his world

Learn more about Shakespeare, his theater, and his plays from the experts behind our editions.

Shakespeare’s Life
An essay about Shakespeare and the time in which he lived

Shakespeare’s Theater
An essay about what theaters were like during Shakespeare’s career

The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays
An essay about how Shakespeare’s plays were published

Related blog posts and podcasts

Teaching Romeo and Juliet

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.

See more primary sources related to Romeo and Juliet on Shakespeare Documented