Romeo and Juliet
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The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet, commonly referred to as Romeo and Juliet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare concerning the fate of two young star-crossed lovers. It is perhaps the most famous of his plays, one of his earliest theatrical triumphs, and is thought to be the most archetypal love story in Renaissance time period.
The first printed edition appeared in 1597, a "bad quarto" printed by John Danter. The superior Q2 followed in 1599, published by Cuthbert Burby and printed by Thomas Creede; Q2 contains 800 lines missing from Q1. (Q2 also has an interestingly defective stage direction: it reads "Enter Will Kempe" instead of "Enter Peter" in IV,v,102.) Q3, a reprint of Q2, followed in 1609; there was also an undated Q4. The play next appeared in print in the First Folio in 1623.
After the theatres re-opened at the Restoration, Sir William Davenant staged a 1662 production in which Henry Harris played Romeo, Thomas Betterton was Mercutio, and Betterton's wife Mary Saunderson played Juliet. Thomas Otway's adaptation Caius Marius, one of the more extreme of the Restoration versions of Shakespeare, debuted in 1679. The scene is shifted from Renaissance Verona to ancient Rome; Romeo is Marius, Juliet is Lavinia, the feud is between patricians and plebians; Juliet/Lavina wakes from her potion before Romeo/Marius dies. Somewhat amazingly, Otway's version was a hit, and was acted for the next seventy years. Theophilus Cibber mounted his own adaptation in 1744, followed by David Garrick's in 1748. In 1750 came the so-called "Romeo and Juliet War," with Spranger Barry and Susannah Maria Arne (Mrs. Theophilus Cibber) at Covent Garden versus Garrick and Anne Bellamy at Drury Lane. Shakespeare's original returned to the stage in 1845 in the United States (with the sisters Charlotte and Susan Cushman as Romeo and Juliet), and in 1847 in Britain (Samuel Phelps at Sadler's Wells).
The play begins with a 14-line prologue in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet. The chorus explains to the audience that the story concerns two noble families of Verona, the Capulets and the Montagues, that have feuded for generations. The prologue also explains that the lovers' tragic suicides "[bury] their parents' strife."
The action starts with a street-battle between the two families, started by their servants and put down by the Prince of Verona, Escalus. The Prince declares that the heads of the two families (known simply as "Montague" and "Capulet") will be held personally accountable (with their lives) for any further breach of the peace, and disperses the crowd.
Count Paris, a young nobleman, talks to Capulet about marrying his thirteen-year-old daughter, Juliet. Capulet demurs, citing the girl's tender age, and invites him to attract the attention of Juliet during a ball that the family is to hold that night. Meanwhile Juliet's mother tries to persuade her young daughter to accept Paris' wooing during their coming ball. Juliet is not inspired by the idea of marrying Paris — in fact, she admits to not really having considered marriage at all. But, being a dutiful daughter, she accedes to her mother's wishes. This scene also introduces Juliet's nurse, the comic relief of the play, who recounts a bawdy anecdote about Juliet at great length and with much repetition.
In the meantime, Montague and his wife fret to their nephew Benvolio about their son Romeo, who has long been moping for reasons unknown to them. Benvolio promises Montague that he will try to determine the cause. Benvolio queries Romeo and finds that his melancholy has its roots in his unrequited love for a girl named Rosalind (an unseen character). Romeo is infatuated but laments that she will not "ope her lap to saint-seducing gold." Perhaps most frustrating to Romeo is the fact that Rosalind "will not be hit with Cupid's arrow/ She hath Diane's wit". In other words, it's not that she finds Romeo himself objectionable, but that she has foresworn to marry at all (she has vowed not to fall in love, and to die a virgin). Despite the good-natured taunts of his fellows, including the witty nobleman Mercutio (who gives his well known Queen Mab speech), Romeo resolves to attend the masquerade at the Capulet house, relying on not being spotted in his costume, in the hopes of meeting up with Rosalind.
Romeo attends the ball as planned, but falls for Juliet as soon as he sees her and quickly forgets Rosalind. Juliet is instantly taken by Romeo, and the two youths proclaim their love for one another with their "love sonnet" in which Romeo compares himself to a pilgrim and Juliet to the saint which is the object of his pilgrimage.
Tybalt, Juliet's hot-blooded cousin, recognizes Romeo under his disguise and calls for his sword. Capulet, however, speaks kindly of Romeo and, having resolved that his family will not be first to violate the Prince's decree, sternly forbids Tybalt from confronting Romeo. Tybalt stalks off in a huff. Before the ball ends, the Nurse identifies Juliet for Romeo, and (separately) identifies Romeo for Juliet.
Emboldened, Romeo risks his life by remaining on the Capulet estate after the party breaks up, to catch another glimpse of Juliet at her room, and in the famous balcony scene, the two eloquently declare their love for each other. This scene contains arguably the most famous line of Romeo and Juliet, "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" spoken by Juliet to the darkness ("wherefore" means "why" — Juliet is lamenting that Romeo is a Montague, and thus her enemy). The young lovers decide to marry without informing their parents, because they would obviously disallow it due to the planned union between Paris and Juliet.
Juliet sends the nurse to find Romeo. Accompanied by one Peter, who carries her fan, the nurse exchanges some spicy insults with the bawdy Mercutio.
With the help of Juliet's Nurse and the Franciscan Friar Lawrence (Friar Lawrence), the two are wedded the next day. The Friar performs the ceremony, hoping to bring the two families to peace with each other through their mutual union.
Events take a darker turn. Tybalt, still smarting from the incident at the Capulets' ball, had previously sent a letter to the Montagues challenging Romeo to a duel. Meeting Romeo by happenstance, he attempts to provoke a fight. Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt because they are now kinsmen — although Tybalt doesn't know it, as he doesn't yet know that Romeo has married Juliet. Mercutio, who is also unaware of the marriage, is angered by Tybalt's insolence – and Romeo's seeming indifference – and takes up the challenges himself. Benvolio tries to make peace and reminds us of the princes decree. In the ensuing swordplay, Romeo attempts to allay Mercutio's anger, momentarily placing his arm around him. By doing so, however, Romeo inadvertently pulls Mercutio into Tybalt's rapier, fatally wounding him. Mercutio dies, wishing "a plague a'both your houses," before he passes. Romeo, in his anger, pursues and slays Tybalt. Although under the Prince of Verona's proclamation Romeo (and Montague and Capulet, as well) would be subject to the death penalty, the Prince instead fines the head of each house, and reduces Romeo's punishment to exile in recognition that Tybalt had killed Mercutio, who had not only been Romeo's friend but a kinsman of the Prince. Romeo is then exiled to Mantua after attempting to see Juliet one last time.
Just after Romeo leaves Juliet's bedroom unseen, Capulet enters to tell the news to his daughter that he has arranged for her to marry Paris in three days' time, to console her perceived mourning for Tybalt, although it is in fact Romeo's exile that she mourns. Juliet is unwilling to enter this arranged marriage, telling her parents that she will not marry, and when she does, "it shall be Romeo, whom I know you hate." Capulet flies into a rage and threatens to disown her if she refuses the marriage.
Juliet visits Lawrence and tells him to either find a solution to her problem or she will commit suicide. Friar Lawrence, being a dabbler in herbal medicines and potions, gives Juliet a potion and a plan: the potion will put her into a death-like coma for "two and forty hours" (Act IV. Scene I); she is to take it before her marriage day, and when discovered apparently dead, she will be laid in the family crypt. Meanwhile, the Friar will send a messenger to inform Romeo, so that he can rejoin her when she awakes. The two can then leave for Mantua and live happily ever after. Juliet is at first suspicious of the potion, thinking the Friar may be trying to kill her, but eventually takes it and falls 'asleep'.
The messenger of Friar Lawrence does not reach Romeo, due to a quarantine. Instead, Romeo learns of Juliet's supposed "death" from his manservant Balthasar. Grief-stricken, he buys strong poison, sometimes held to be aconite, from an Apothecary, returns to Verona in secret, and goes to the crypt, determined to join Juliet in death. There he encounters Paris, who has also come to mourn privately for his lost love. Paris assumes that Romeo has come to defile the Capulets' crypt and challenges him to a duel. Romeo kills Paris, and then drinks the poison after seeing Juliet one last time, exclaiming: " O true Apothecary! Thy drugs are quick! Thus with a kiss I die."
At this point Juliet awakes and, seeing the dead, seeks answers. Friar Lawrence arrives, and tries to convince Juliet to come with him, but she refuses. He is frightened by a noise, and leaves Juliet alone in the crypt. The pain and shock of Romeo's death is too much for Juliet, and she stabs herself with his dagger. The two lovers lie dead together.
The two feuding families (except Lady Montague, who had died of grief over her son's banishment) and the Prince converge upon the tomb and are horrified to find Romeo, Juliet, and Paris all lying dead. Friar Lawrence reveals the love and secret marriage of Romeo and Juliet. The families are reconciled by their children's deaths and agree to end their violent feud, as foretold by the prologue. The play ends with the Prince's elegiac lamentation:
- A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
- The sun for sorrow will not show his head.
- Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
- Some shall be pardon'd, and some punishèd;
- For never was a story of more woe
- Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
Cast of characters
Ruling house of Verona
- Prince Escalus: Prince of Verona.
- Count Paris: Kin of Prince Escalus; desires to marry Juliet. Is killed by Romeo at the end of the play.
- Mercutio: Kinsman of Prince Escalus and friend of Romeo; killed by Tybalt when Romeo interrupts their duel. His name derives from Mercury.
- Lord Capulet: Head of the house of Capulet; very wealthy.
- Lady Capulet: Wife of Lord Capulet; wishes Juliet to marry Paris.
- Juliet: Thirteen-year-old daughter of the Capulets; loves and marries Romeo.
- Tybalt: Cousin of Juliet; angry and pugnaceous; killed by Romeo, as vengeance for killing Mercutio. His nickname of "the Prince of Cats" may refer to the quarrelsome and vicious character of Tybalt the Cat in the fable cycle Reynard the Fox, which would have been well-known to Shakespeare's audience. Name derived from tyrant.
- Nurse: Juliet's personal attendant and confidante: assists Juliet in her secret betrothal to Romeo.
- Peter: Capulet servant, assistant of the nurse.
- Sampson: Capulet servant; eager to fight the Montagues.
- Gregory: Capulet servant.
- Montague: Head of the house of Montague.
- Lady Montague: Wife of Lord Montague
- Romeo: Son of the Montagues; loves and marries Juliet. Name comes from the word romance.
- Benvolio: Cousin of Romeo. His name means "good will".
- Abraham: Montague servant.
- Balthasar: Romeo's personal servant.
- Friar Laurence: Franciscan friar and Romeo's confidant; he marries Romeo and Juliet. He gives Juliet the sleeping potion that prevents her marriage to Count Paris.
- Friar John: Another friar sent by Friar Lawrence to tell Romeo that Juliet awaits him; fails in this mission.
- Apothecary: Druggist who reluctantly sells Romeo the poison.
Text of the play
Romeo and Juliet was published in two distinct quarto editions prior to the publication of the First Folio of 1623. These are referred to as Q1 and Q2.
Q1 was published in 1597. Because its text contains numerous differences from the later editions, it is labelled a 'Bad Quarto' composited from actors' memories of their lines, rather than on Shakespeare's manuscript or theatre text. It may have been put together by the actors who had played the roles of Romeo and Paris, since their lines are reasonably complete and uncorrupted in comparison to the rest of the play. Modern people would consider this a "pirate" edition, but the practice was far from unusual at the time.
Q2, a much more complete and reliable text, was first published in 1599, and reprinted in 1609, 1623 and 1637. Its title page describes it as "Newly corrected, augmented and amended". Scholars believe that this text was based on Shakespeare's pre-performance draft, since there are textual oddities such as variable tags for characters and "false starts" for speeches that were presumably struck through by the author but erroneously preserved by the typesetter.
The First Folio text of 1623 seems to be based primarily on the 1609 reprint of Q2, with some clarifications and corrections possibly coming from a theatrical promptbook.
Like most of Shakespeare's plays, the greater part of Romeo and Juliet is written in iambic pentameter. However, the play is also notable for its copious use of rhymed verse, notably in the sonnet contained in Romeo and Juliet's dialogue in the scene where they first meet. This sonnet figures Romeo as a blushing pilgrim (palmer) praying before an image of the Virgin Mary, as many people in early-sixteenth-century England did at shrines such as the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Because of its use of rhyme, its extravagant expressions of love, its Italian theme, and its implausible plot, Romeo and Juliet is considered to belong to Shakespeare's "lyrical period", along with the similarly poetic plays A Midsummer Night's Dream and Richard II.
Romeo and Juliet is one of the earlier works in the Shakespearean canon, and while it is often classified as a tragedy, it does not bear the hallmarks of the 'great tragedies' like Hamlet and Macbeth. Some argue that Romeo and Juliet's demise does not stem from their own individual flaws, but from the actions of others or from accidents. Unlike the great tragedies, Romeo and Juliet is more a tragedy of mistiming and ill fate. Other commentators, such as Isaac Asimov, consider rashness and youth to be the tragic flaws of Romeo and Juliet, compounded by the ineffectuality of Friar Lawrence.
In a major change from his source, Shakespeare put the sympathies with the young lovers. Matteo Bandello described the reasons for the play in his prologue:
And to this end, good Reader, is this tragical matter written, to describe unto thee a couple of unfortunate lovers, thralling themselves to unhonest desire; neglecting the authority and advice of parents and friends; conferring their principal counsels with drunken gossips and superstitious friars (the naturally fit instruments of unchastity); attempting all adventures of peril for th' attaining of their wished lust; using auricular confession the key of whoredom and treason, for furtherance of their purpose; abusing the honourable name of lawful marriage to cloak the shame of stolen contracts; finally by all means of unhonest life hasting to most unhappy death.
The legitimacy of marrying without parental consent was in fact fiercely debated at the time. The Catholic Church had, at the Council of Trent, ended centuries of debate by not including parental consent among the requirements for a valid marriage, but Protestant churches did not accept such unions, and in civil law, only England and Spain permitted marriage without parental consent.
Style and themes
It has been noted that the plot of Romeo and Juliet is more that of a farce or comedy of errors than a tragedy, except that it lacks the vital last-minute save and that the main characters die at the end instead of "living happily ever after." In fact, it is crucial to an understanding of the play as a whole to compare it to traditional comedies of its day, such as Much Ado About Nothing, in that most of the characters, especially Romeo and Mercutio, would be recognized by the audience as comedic. Were it not for the prologue, which explicitly states that the play will end in death, Elizabethan audiences would have thought they were watching a comedy until Act III, Scene i. As a reader or audience member, one should note the differences before and after this critical scene (the intermission is often put at the end of III.i., which unfortunately robs the play of the excruciating contrast between Act III, Scene i and Act III, Scene ii). Shakespeare often experiments with dramatic convention in this way - Romeo and Juliet could be called a "tragic comedy", just as many of the romances do not fit easily into conventional ideas about drama.
While a long-running feud is ended, although at the price of not only the two lovers' lives but those of an entire generation: Romeo, Mercutio, Tybalt, Juliet, Paris. The problem with this argument is that one must wonder how remorseful the families truly are. Throughout the play, Montague, Capulet, and the Prince speak of punishment in monetary terms (remember that the families were fined for Tybalt and Mercutio's deaths). At the end, the competition to see who can build a richer statue of the other's child seems petty, especially by comparison to Romeo and Juliet, who had found a love that does not rely on money.
While on a surface level the play is about love, the underlying theme of Romeo and Juliet is the fight for power, which results in the death of all the young members of Montagues (except for Benvolio), Capulets and the Prince's House. The play shows a system which imposes its beliefs on the individual, preventing him or her from reaching happiness and leaving death as the only escape.
There have been many adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, created for many media.
Other versions of the Romeo and Juliet play have been made, which had the "culture" of where the play was made as the "setting". For instance, a version of the play which had Romeo as a Palestinian and Juliet as a Jew in Israel and the Palestinian territories were made, which criticizes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Similarly, versions have also been devised dealing with apartheid in South Africa, in which Romeo is black and Juliet is white.
A Native American version called "Kino and Teresa" was first produced in 2005 by Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles. Written by James Lujan, the historical play was set in 17th Century Santa Fe, seventeen years after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and revolved around the conflict between the Pueblo Indians and Spanish colonists.
An updated version of Romeo and Juliet called Romeo/Juliet Remixed (or R0M30/JUL137 R3M1X3D) is set to a rave dance floor background with a kick-boxing Juliet and an Ecstasy-taking Romeo. Before the play begins, this interactive show features a choice of glowsticks (pink if one chooses to be a Montague, yellow if one chooses to be a Capulet,) an escort to a mock dance club called "Club Verona" where "theater"-goers dance and mingle with the cast and other audience members, as well as the chance to cheer on a crew of breakdancing Montagues or Capulets, and a chance to be on the venue's big screen. Romeo and Juliet communicate via cell phone and text messaging.
The story was converted into the opera Roméo et Juliette by Charles François Gounod in 1867 with a libretto written by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré.
The Romeo and Juliet story was also the subject of Vincenzo Bellini's opera I Capuleti e i Montecchi, although Bellini and his librettist, Felice Romani, worked from Italian sources, and these were only distantly related to Shakespeare's work.
In 2004 American composer Lee Hoiby also adapted "Romeo and Juliet" to write an opera, also titled "Romeo and Juliet."
Several ballet adaptations of the story have been made, the first written in the 18th century. The best known feature music by Sergei Prokofiev, and a variety of choreographers have used this music. The first version featuring Prokofiev's music was performed in 1938. See: Romeo and Juliet (Prokofiev)
The musical West Side Story, by Leonard Bernstein and librettist Stephen Sondheim, also made into a film, is based on Romeo and Juliet, updating the story to mid-20th century New York City and the warring families to ethnic gangs.
In 1999, Terrence Mann's rock musical William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, co-written with Jerome Korman, premiered at the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was not a critical success.
Roméo et Juliette, de la Haine à l'Amour, a musical by Gérard Presgurvic, premiered on January 19, 2001 in the Palais de Congrès in Paris, France. By 2005, it had already attracted already some six million people.
The song "Exit Music (For a Film)" by Radiohead was made for the 1996 movie version (see below) of Romeo and Juliet and is sung from the point of view of someone waking up his lover and inviting them to join them in escaping from the oppression of their respective families through suicide.
Romeo and Juliet is also the name of a song by the British rock band Dire Straits.
English punk/rock group Arctic Monkeys in their song "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" make reference to being a Montague or Capulet, in trying to signify difference.
The Reflections reached #6 on the pop charts in the summer of 1964 with the song "(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet".
Disney Channel's Original Movie High School Musical is loosely based on Romeo and Juliet (the main leads are from different groups).
Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA is based on Egypt and Nubia at war, yet an Egyptian (Radames) and a Nubian (Aida) find a way to be together.
Among the instrumental pieces inspired by the play are Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, Overture-Fantasy and Hector Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette "Symphonie dramatique", although the latter does have substantial vocal parts. Prokofiev also created three orchestra suites and a piano suite, Romeo and Juliet: Ten Pieces for Piano, based on the music from his ballet.
- See also Shakespeare on screen (Romeo and Juliet)
There have been over forty movie versions of the tale, with the first made in France in 1900. Some of the more notable adaptations include:
- 1908 - Romeo and Juliet, a silent film made by Vitagraph Studios.
- The first American production, it was directed by J. Stuart Blackton, the film starred Paul Panzer as Romeo and Florence Lawrence as Juliet.
- 1936 - Romeo and Juliet, produced by Irving Thalberg and directed by George Cukor
- The 1936 screen version was one of the more notable of Classical Hollywood. Thalberg spared no expense, and showcased his wife, Norma Shearer, in the lead role. Romeo was played by Leslie Howard, John Barrymore was Mercutio, and Andy Devine was Peter, the servant to Juliet's nurse. However, the film was criticized because Howard and Shearer were both considerably older than the scripted roles.
Academy Awards nominations:
- Best Picture - Irving Thalberg, producer
- Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Basil Rathbone - as Tybalt
- Best Actress - Norma Shearer
- Best Art Direction - Cedric Gibbons, Fredric Hope and Edwin B. Willis
- 1954 - Romeo and Juliet directed by Renato Castellani.
- A notable British/Italian production with a colourful setting. The cast includes Laurence Harvey as Romeo, Susan Shentall as Juliet, Flora Robson as the Nurse and Mervyn Johns as Friar Laurence.
- 1968 - Romeo and Juliet, directed by Franco Zeffirelli
- Filmed in Italy, the performance of the young Olivia Hussey as Juliet is a defining feature. It won Oscars for best cinematography and best costume design, and was nominated for Best Director and Best Picture. It also starred Leonard Whiting as Romeo - he was seen as 'the next big thing' in film at the time, but his career did not match up to expectations.
- 1978 - Romeo and Juliet, directed by Alvin Rakoff
- for the BBC Television Shakespeare series. This production is generally unregarded due to its inexperienced stars and low production values, although Alan Rickman's Tybalt is notable.
- 1983 - Romeo and Juliet, directed by William Woodman
- This film features an excellent set of costumes. The cast includes Alex Hyde-White, Blanche Baker, Esther Rolle, Dan Hamilton, and Frederic Hehne.
- 1996 - Romeo + Juliet, directed by Baz Luhrmann
- Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the title roles, Luhrmann gave the famous tale a modern setting. The production uses Luhrmann's signature flamboyant color and stylization. Besides the modernization it is notable for significantly tweaking the ending, so that Romeo and Juliet get a final scene alive together.
- At the
Berlin International Film Festival
1997, it won:
- Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio)
- Alfred Bauer Prize
- Best Art Direction and Set Decoration (Catherine Martin and Brigitte Broch)
- 1996 - Tromeo and Juliet, directed by Lloyd Kaufman
- The Troma team put their own inimitable spin on the story, setting it in Manhattan in a punk milieu. Lemmy from Motörhead narrates.
- 2000 - Romeo Must Die, directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak
- With Jet Li as Han Ling (the Romeo of the story) who is out to avenge his brother's murder. He meets and eventually falls in love with Trish O'Day (the Juliet of the story, played by Aaliyah) who is the daughter of a rival American mob boss. Apart from the main characters being the son and daughter of bitter rivals, the plot has practically nothing to do with Romeo and Juliet the play.
- 2005 - Romeo & Juliet directed by Dave LaChapelle
- Featuring Tamyra Gray as Juliet, Gus Carr as Romeo, and Mary J. Blige, this is a 10-minute promotional advertisement for the H&M clothing company. Released in September 2005, this commercial was shown online (H&M website) and during the trailers of certain theatrical films, and featured the new "&denim" selection. In this musical remake which features background music provided by Tamyra Gray and Mary J. Blige (both songs are from the musical Dreamgirls), Romeo is gunned down in a drive-by shooting and Juliet sings over his body while he bleeds to death on the street. Due to complaints that the commercial glamorized gang violence and was H&M's attempt to use gun culture to sell their jeans to teenagers, H&M subsequently withdrew the ad from Canadian & U.S. markets and issued an apology.
- 2006 - Romeo and Juliet, directed by Yves Desgagnés.
- This is a Canadian, québecois adaptation. The two principal roles are played by the newly discovered actors Thomas Lalonde and Charlotte Aubin, whose were both chosen during auditions. It is due for release on 15 December 2006.
The film West Side Story set in 1960s New York City was loosely based on the story of Romeo and Juliet, with the Montagues becoming the Jets and the Capulets becoming the Sharks.
The film Shakespeare in Love is a fictional account of how Shakespeare writes the play against the clock inspired by his love for a noble woman. The movie also describes the start of Twelfth Night, inspired by the same woman's ultimate fate.
- The 1956 song Fever contains the lyrics "Romeo loved Juliet/Juliet, she felt the same/When he put his arms around her/He said, "Julie baby, you're my flame."
- The documentary Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo detailed a starcrossed romance that met a tragic end during the Siege of Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia.
- Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo is also the name of a song from Eric Bogle's 1997 album Small Miracles, presumably inspired by the above documentary.
- The disco group Festival had a minor hit with a song called "Romeo and Juliet" which used as its lyrics the text of the prologue.
- Arctic Monkeys' song 'I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor contains the lyrics 'Oh there ain't no love no, Montagues or Capulets/Just banging tunes in DJ sets'
- Madonna's 1989 album Like A Prayer's third single, Cherish, a song about appreciation towards a lover, has a line that says "Romeo and Juliet, they never felt this way, I bet."
- Dire Straits' 1980 album Making Movies had a popular song "Romeo and Juliet", in which the singer looks back on a failed relationship. It was inspired by Mark Knopfler's broken romance with Holly Vincent. The Indigo Girls covered this song on their album Rites of Passage.
- The album Romeo Unchained by Tonio K includes a song called "Romeo Loves Jane", describing a romance between well-known fictional characters (perhaps as a satire of celebrity relationships). Another song, "Impressed", includes Romeo and Juliet in a long list of what the singer considers bad examples of how love should work.
- The Lou Reed song, "Romeo had Juliette" was included on the 1989 album New York.
- The 2003 musical remake of Reefer Madness featured a song "Romeo and Juliet" in which a pair of young lovers compare themselves to Romeo and Juliet, having only read the first half of the play, and mistakenly assume the ending to be happy.
- The Radiohead song "Exit Music (For a Film)" was written for the closing credits of the Baz Luhrmann version. The lyrics describe a Romeo-like character entreating his sleeping lover to run away, inspired by Act III.
- The Delta Goodrem song "I Don't Care" contains the lyrics "they tried to keep Romeo and Juliet apart..."
- The Blue Öyster Cult song "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" mentions Romeo and Juliet as being "Together in eternity".
- The song Ampersand by The Dresden Dolls, in which the singer rebuffs her former lover, features the lines "and I may be romantic, and I may risk my life for it/but I ain't gonna die for you/you know I ain't no Juliet."
- The Big Audio Dynamite 1985 album This is Big Audio Dynamite has in the song "The Bottom Line" a reference to Romeo (as well as a reference to the famous soliloquy in Hamlet).
- The Ash song "Starcrossed" is a reference to Romeo and Juliet.
- The Bob Dylan song "Desolation Row", from the 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited, contains the lyric "And in comes Romeo, he's moaning..."
- The game The Sims 2 includes a neighborhod, Veronaville (a parody of Verona) in which two characters named Romeo Monty and Juliette Capp fall in love. The neighborhood's story is a parody of the play itself, including the feud between the Monty (Montague) and the Capp (Capulet) families.
- Sea Prince and the Fire Child (1981), an anime movie by Sanrio (based on a story by Sanrio founder, Shintaro Tsuji), was inspired by Romeo & Juliet (the main scharacters are from different races, sea spirits and fire spirits).
- An anime TV series of Romeo and Juliet, produced by GONZO is in the works and will appear in 2007.
- A book details the inter-racial difficulties of a teen-age couple and their community controversies, entitled "Romiette and Julio", by Sharon M. Draper.
- In the card game Magic: The Gathering, a card called Dark Banishing displays a quote from Romeo and Juliet:
- Ha, banishment? Be merciful, say 'death,'
- For exile hath more terror in his look,
- Much more than death.
- The American band The Reflections reference the play in their song called "(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet" which has been covered by Sha Na Na and the Australian band Mental As Anything.
- Two cigar brands exist that bear the Spanish version of the play's title, Romeo y Julieta.
- The Konami game Silent Hill 3 contains a puzzle with excerpts from five tragedies, including Romeo and Juliet. The player must identify which tragedy each quote is from and thereby arrange books in a particular order.
- HIM frontman Ville Valo has stated their song "Join Me in Death" was inspired by Romeo and Juliet.
- The Bon Jovi song "I'd Die For You" contains the lyrics "In a world that don't know Romeo and Juliet".
- Immediately following the end credits in certain episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures, Plucky Duck would say "Parting is such sweet sorrow!"
- The band Genesis uses the names Romeo and Juliet for characters in the song 'The Cinema Show' from their album Selling England by the Pound
- John "the Savage" quotes Romeo and Juliet to Helmholtz Watson in Aldous Huxley's famous novel Brave New World.
- Danish musician Sebastian has a song on the album Dejavu, entitled Romeo. The first line goes (translated from Danish): "There's something about this scene reminding me of Romeo and Juliet."
- The My Chemical Romance song "The Sharpest Lives" mentions Romeo and Juliet, in the second verse; "...Juliet loves the beat and the lust it commands / Drop the dagger and lather the blood on your hands, Romeo."
- The controversial German/Italian 1977 film Maladolescenza ; about a menage a trois between a teenage boy and two preteen girls, the youngest girl falling in love with the male teen; ends with the boy killing the youngest girl and the boy committing suicide later. Like in Romeo and Juliet (But Romeo kills himself first; and later Juliet kills herself).
- The Semisonic song "Singing in my Sleep" alludes to the infamous balcony scene in the lines "I've been living in your cassette / It's the modern equivalent / Singing up to a Capulet on a balcony in your mind."
- In the popular online game RuneScape, one of the non-member quests is based on the story of Romeo and Juliet.
Origins and Sources
A common misconception is that the plot of Romeo and Juliet was invented by Shakespeare. In fact, his play is a dramatisation of Arthur Brooke's narrative poem The Tragicall History of Romeus and Juliet (1562). Shakespeare followed Brooke's poem fairly closely but enriched its texture by adding extra detail to both major and minor characters, in particular the Nurse and Mercutio.
Brooke's poem was not original either, being a translation and adaptation of Giuletta e Romeo, by Matteo Bandello, included in his Novelle of 1554. This was in turn an adaptation of Luigi da Porto's Giulietta e Romeo, included in his Istoria novellamente ritrovata di due Nobili Amanti (c. 1530). This is the version that gave the story much of its modern form, including the names of the lovers, the rival families of Montecchi and Capuleti, and the location in Verona, in the Veneto.
However, the earliest-known version of the tale is the 1476 story of Mariotto and Gianozza of Siena by Masuccio Salernitano, in Il Novelino (Novella XXXIII).
Bandello's story was the most famous and was translated into French (and into English by Brooke). It was also adapted by Italian theatrical troupes, some of whom performed in London at the time that Shakespeare was writing his plays. One such performance or script could have inspired Shakespeare's version of Romeo and Juliet.
This story of ill-fated lovers had obvious parallels with similar tales told throughout history, including those of Hero and Leander, Pyramus and Thisbe, Floris and Blanchefleur, Troilus and Cressida, Antony and Cleopatra, Layla and Majnun, Tristan and Iseult, Shirin and Farhad and Hagbard and Signy. Shakespeare was familiar with these stories, some of which were included in his other plays. The tale of Pyramus and Thisbe appears in comic mode in A Midsummer Night's Dream, while the Trojan War lovers, Troilus and Cressida, were given a history play of their own.
- ^ Charlotte Saunders Cushman played Romeo 54 years before Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet.
- ^ F. E. Halliday, A Shakespeare Companion 1564-1964, Baltimore, Penguin, 1964; pp. 125, 365, 420.
-  - Entire text of the play
- Romeo and Juliet - plain vanilla text from Project Gutenberg
- Romeo and Juliet - Free downloadable audio reading of the play from LibriVox
- Romeo and Juliet summary - Free wiki of scene summaries, character profiles and study questions.
- Romeo and Juliet - HTML version at MIT
- Il Novellino, Novella XXXIII, by Masuccio Salernitano - The electronic text in Italian of the original story (requires free registration)
- Arthur Brooke's Romeus and Juliet
- A history of the Italian sources of Romeo and Juliet
- Essay: How Romeus Became Romeo Comparing Brooke's work with Shakespeare's
- Slashdoc : Romeo and Juliet - Scholarly essays on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
- The history of the story at OperaWorld.com
- Analysis of Romeo and Juliet at Theatrehistory.com