Romeo and Juliet
belongs to a traditionof tragicromances stretching back toantiquity. Its plot isbased on an Italiantale, translated intoverse as
Painter in 1582.Shakespeareborrowed heavilyfrom both, butdevelopedsupportingcharacters,particularlyMercutio andParis,in order toexpand the plot.Romeo and Julietborrows from atradition of tragiclove stories datingback to antiquity.One of these isPyramus andThisbe, from Ovid'sMetamorphoses,
Renaissance(fourteenth or fifteenthcentury)
· Verona and Mantua(cities in northern Italy)
- The son andheir of Montague andLady Montague. A youngman of about sixteen,Romeo is handsome,intelligent, and sensitive.
- A beautifulthirteen-year-old girl andthe daughter of Capuletand Lady Capulet.
- AFranciscan friar, friend toboth Romeo and Juliet.He is kind, civic-minded,a proponent of moderation, and alwaysready with a plan.
- A kinsman tothe Prince, and Romeo’sclose friend.
- Juliet’snurse, the woman whobreast-fed Juliet whenshe was a baby and hascared for Juliet her entirelife.
- A Capulet,Juliet’s cousin on her mother’s side. He is vain,fashionable, andsupremely aware of courtesy and the lack of it.In the streets of Verona another brawl breaksout between the servants of the feuding noblefamilies of Capulet and Montague. Benvolio, aMontague, tries to stop the fighting, but isembroiled when the rash Capulet, Tybalt,arrives on the scene. After citizens outraged bythe constant violence beat back the warringfactions, Prince Escalus, the ruler of Verona,attempts to prevent any further conflictsbetween the families by decreeing death for anyindividual who disturbs the peace in the future. Romeo, the son of Montague, runs into hiscousin Benvolio, who had earlier seen Romeomoping in a grove of sycamores. After someprodding by Benvolio, Romeo confides that he isin love with Rosaline, a woman who does notreturn his affections. Benvolio counsels him toforget this woman and find another, morebeautiful one, but Romeo remains despondent. Meanwhile, Paris, a kinsman of the Prince,seeks Juliet’s hand in marriage. Her father Capulet, though happy at the match, asks Paristo wait two years, since Juliet is not yet evenfourteen. Capulet dispatches a servant with alist of people to invite to a masquerade andfeast he traditionally holds. He invites Paris tothe feast, hoping that Paris will begin to winJuliet’s heart. Romeo and Benvolio, still discussing Rosaline,encounter the Capulet servant bearing the list of invitations. Benvolio suggests that they attend,since that will allow Romeo to compare hisbeloved to other beautiful women of Verona.Romeo agrees to go with Benvolio to the feast,but only because Rosaline, whose name he
ThemesThe Forcefulness of Love
(The play focuseson romantic love,specifically theintense passion thatsprings up at firstsight betweenRomeo and Juliet.In Romeo andJuliet, love is aviolent, ecstatic,overpowering forcethat supersedes allother values,loyalties, andemotions).
Love as a Cause of Violence
Romeo and Juliet,
is a grand passion,and as such it isblinding; it canoverwhelm aperson aspowerfully andcompletely as hatecan).
The Individual versusSociety
Romeo and Juliet
involves the lovers’struggles againstpublic and social