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The play Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona, Italy and is based on the long-standing feud between Verona’s two noble families of Montague and Capulet. The prologue to the play warns that Romeo (Montague) and Juliet (Capulet) are ‘star-crossed lovers’. Elizabethan belief was that the stars govern fate, and that the love between Romeo and Juliet will not work out.
Romeo and Juliet meet at a masked ball, and fall in love, but are unable to declare their love for each other openly because of the quarrel between their families. Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, is the main antagonist in the play. He is a vengeful character, and plays a pivotal part in the story - when he kills Romeo’s best friend, the entertaining and mercurial Mercutio, Romeo goes after Tybalt. Tybalt’s death however is interpreted as a fight gone wrong.
As the feud is so intense, Romeo knows that the Capulets will avenge Tybalt’s death, and he kills himself with poison. On discovering Romeo’s body, Juliet tries to kill herself, but when poison fails, uses Romeo’s dagger instead. In a stark ending to the play, the two families end their feud once they discover Romeo and Juliet’s deaths.
This play is an intense drama. It is contained within four days – from a Sunday to Thursday, which adds to the feeling of compression of action, and the play deals with strong passions and disturbing fights.
Today, critics discuss whether Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, or a comedy with a tragic ending. The lovers are bourgeois/middle class, rather than high class, and there is a strong ‘macho’ friendship between Romeo and his friends (Mercutio and Benvolio) and the challenges to them from Tybalt.
The romance between Romeo and Juliet – while it is the main dramatic drive in the play – takes place amongst the feuding families and friends. How we see the romance, and the feud, and the warring factions throughout may have been interpreted differently in Elizabethan times.
This edition includes the complete text with explanatory notes and a full introduction that describes the setting, summarises the plot and profiles the main characters. It discusses Shakespeare's language and the play's themes, and it gives typical essay and test questions to help students prepare for exams.
The introduction contains the following subjects:
Trimmed Page Size: 193 x 124mm; Paperback; 208pp; Spine: 14mm: Weight: 141g
About the editor:
Angela Sheehan, who introduces the play, is a Shakespeare enthusiast. She has had a distinguished career editing encyclopaedias, educational texts and reference books for children, and published The Best-Loved Plays of Shakespeare and the Shakespeare for Everyone series.