In this study guide, you'll find help to analyze the famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. The guide will make you well equipped to work with the play in classes and in your written assignments.
The text, Romeo and Juliet, itself is available in a vast number of versions in textbooks and online. It is crucial to note that the numbering of the acts and scenes are the same no matter the source, while the line numbers, however, may vary.
With the present study guide for Romeo and Juliet, the story about two teenagers' tragic love is a little easer to handle.
Presentation of the text
Title: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (1597)
Author: William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet and playwright. He rose to fame in his own lifetime, and today he is one of the most recognized authors in the world.
In the 16th century, they didn't document information as we do today, hence there are large parts of Shakespeare's life that we don't know very much about. It is believed that he was a student at the local grammar school in his native Stratford-upon-Avon, which has given him some basic knowledge that he later drew on in his texts. He got married at the age of 18 with the slightly older Anne Hathaway from the local area with whom he had three children.
However, it was not until Shakespeare moved to the capital city, London, and became an actor and writer that his later so famous career took off. Even though the theater wasn't seen as respectable in England in those days, he achieved so much acclaim that he is known as “the Bard” today. It is believed that he wrote or co-wrote 39 plays and 154 sonets.
The tragedy Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's earliest works and was very popular even in his lifetime. Today, the play is often considered the greatest love story of all time. We don't know exactly when the play was written, but presumably in the beginning of the 1590's when Queen Elizabeth I was regent. The first printed version of the play came in 1597, but it was inconsistent with the original play. Then, in 1599, a more reliable printed version became available.
It is worth noting, that Romeo and Juliet is based on earlier works by other authors. The story of the two young lovers cursed by destiny was already found in an old Italian story, which had since been retold by English writers. These works then became the inspiration for Shakespeare, who used the main plot but added side stories and more characters.
In our topic guide on William Shakespeare and his texts in general, you can find a lot of information about how to analyze the texts. You can also read about Shakespeare's historical context (the elizabethan era) and much, much more.