Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet

author  William Shakespeare

type of work  Play

genre  Tragic drama

language  English

time and place written  London, mid-1590s

date of first publication  1597 (in the First Quarto, which was likely an unauthorized incomplete edition); 1599 (in the Second Quarto, which was authorized)

publisher  Thomas Creede (in the Second Quarto, using the title The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedie, of Romeo and Juliet)

climax  The deaths of Romeo and Juliet in the Capulet tomb (5.3)

protagonists  Romeo; Juliet

antagonists  The feuding Montagues and Capulets; Tybalt; the Prince and citizens of Verona; fate

settings (time)  Renaissance (fourteenth or fifteenth century)

settings (place)  Verona and Mantua (cities in northern Italy)

point of view  Insofar as a play has a point of view, that of Romeo and Juliet; occasionally the play uses the point of view of the Montague and Capulet servants to illuminate the actions of their masters.

falling action  The end of Act 5, scene 3, when the Prince and the parents discover the bodies of Romeo and Juliet, and agree to put aside their feud in the interest of peace.

tense  Present

foreshadowing  The Chorus’s first speech declaring that Romeo and Juliet are doomed to die and “star-crossed.” The lovers’ frequent thoughts of death: “My grave is like to be my wedding bed” (Juliet, 1.5.132). The lovers’ thoughts of suicide, as when Romeo threatens to kill himself after killing Tybalt. Friar Lawrence’s warnings to behave moderately if Romeo and Juliet wish to avoid tragedy: “These violent delights have violent ends . . . Therefore love moderately” (2.5.9–14). The lovers’ mutual impression that the other looks pale and deathlike after their wedding night (3.5). Juliet’s faked death by Friar Lawrence’s potion. Romeo’s dream-vision of Juliet kissing his lips while he is dead (5.1). Romeo’s outbursts against fate: “O, I am fortune’s fool!” (3.1.131) and “Then I defy you, stars” (5.1.24).

tones  Passionate, romantic, intense, rhapsodic, violent, prone to extremes of emotion (ecstasy, rage, misery, etc.)

themes  The forcefulness of love; love as a cause of violence; the individual versus society; the inevitability of fate

motifs Light/dark imagery; opposite points of view

symbols  Poison; thumb-biting; Queen Mab