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Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare

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