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Romeo and Juliet

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In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare creates a violent world, in which two young people fall in love. It is not simply that their families disapprove; the Montagues and the Capulets are engaged in a blood feud.

In this death-filled setting, the movement from love at first sight to the lovers’ final union in death seems almost inevitable. And yet, this play set in an extraordinary world has become the quintessential story of young love. In part because of its exquisite language, it is easy to respond as if it were about all young lovers.

281 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1597

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William Shakespeare

22.1k books43.9k followers
William Shakespeare was an English playwright, poet, and actor. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "the Bard"). His extant works, including collaborations, consist of some 39 plays, 154 sonnets, three long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Shakespeare remains arguably the most influential writer in the English language, and his works continue to be studied and reinterpreted.
Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Sometime between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner ("sharer") of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men after the ascension of King James VI and I of Scotland to the English throne. At age 49 (around 1613), he appears to have retired to Stratford, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive; this has stimulated considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, his sexuality, his religious beliefs, and even certain fringe theories as to whether the works attributed to him were written by others.
Shakespeare produced most of his known works between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were primarily comedies and histories and are regarded as some of the best works produced in these genres. He then wrote mainly tragedies until 1608, among them Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, all considered to be among the finest works in the English language. In the last phase of his life, he wrote tragicomedies (also known as romances) and collaborated with other playwrights.
Many of Shakespeare's plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. However, in 1623, John Heminge and Henry Condell, two fellow actors and friends of Shakespeare's, published a more definitive text known as the First Folio, a posthumous collected edition of Shakespeare's dramatic works that includes 36 of his plays. Its Preface was a prescient poem by Ben Jonson, a former rival of Shakespeare, that hailed Shakespeare with the now famous epithet: "not of an age, but for all time".

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 32,632 reviews
Profile Image for Anne.
4,290 reviews70.1k followers
January 26, 2024
This is what happens when you jump into a rebound relationship with both feet.
So, when the story opens, Romeo is desperately in love with Rosaline. But since she won't give up that pussy has sworn to remain chaste, he's all depressed and heartbroken.
Annoying emo style.


His friends, tired of his constant whining, give him a Beyoncé mixtape.
He takes her words to heart, and her lyrics begin to mend his broken soul.


His boys drag his sad ass to a party, and across a crowded room, Romeo spies his next victim. I mean, his really really for real this time True Love.


Meet 13 year old Juliet.
Who is 13.


And how old is Romeo? Well, he's old enough to kill Juliet's cousin in a sword fight, so...yeah. Probably not 13.
But since he's such a punk little pussy - what with the whining, sobbing, and spouting off crap poetry - I'm going to assume he's not much older than she is and say 15 or 16.
If I'm wrong, don't correct me. It'll help me sleep tonight.


Tragically, Juliet is a Hatfield, and Romeo is a McCoy. Their families have been feuding over a McCoy pig that was killed during a Hatfield moonshine run decades ago. Totally true. I swear.
Needless to say, tensions are still running high.
So. Shhhhh. They gotta keep their love on the down low.
And it is love, dammit! I mean, they've stared at each other a whole bunch and had like two conversations.


This time around, Romeo isn't going to make the same mistake as before, and let the new girl of his dreams slip through his fingers.
Fuck, yeah! Time to get married!
Because marriage will solve all your problems. No, really.
Pinkie promise.


And we all know what happened next, right?!


You know, I can't help but wonder what that first encounter would've been like if they'd met when they were older?

Romeo: Hey baby, Heaven must be missing an angel. Mind if I crawl up to your balcony tonight?


Juliet: The fuck?!


*taser crackles...Romeo screams*

At any rate, this isn't a romance, it's a cautionary tale.
And a pretty funny one at that! I originally gave it 3 stars, but I had to bump it up for making me smile as I remembered all the fun I had mistakes as a young woman - without drinking poison! Between Romeo & Juliet both crying, moping, and twirling around like tweenage girls and the rest of the cast flailing around to accommodate these idiots, this was way better than I remembered it.


I listened to this on Playaway, so I got to have the audio version with a full cast of characters, sound effects, and music. Loved it! Totally recommend going this way if you're planning on trying out Shakespeare.
Profile Image for Catriona.
62 reviews29 followers
August 11, 2013
The people who dislike this play are the ones who view common sense over being rational, and prefer to view the world in a structured way. One of the main arguments that come across is the 'meeting, falling in love, and dying all in a weekend when Juliet is but 13'. We all must die in the end, so wouldn't you want to in the name of love than of an awful disease?
Perhaps the two lovers weren't truly in love, but their last living moments were spent believing so, so what does it matter? How can one truly know if one is in love? Is it a feeling? In that case, what is a feeling? If you believe you are in love, then you may as well be, contrary to what others might say.
The argument with the 'weak' plot; Shakespeare didn't invent Romeo and Juliet. It was infact a poem which is constantly being adapted over time. Shakespeare did add in some aspects but the meeting in the ballroom, Tybalts death, the sleeping draught and such were already in the poem.

I personally love this play, purely because it's an escape from this modern world. I'm not saying I like the treatment of women, nor the fighting, but it's like a different world that i'm never going to experience, and reading it through Shakespeare's gorgeous writing makes Verona seem all the more romantic.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 2 books83.4k followers
August 4, 2019

Two things struck me during this re-reading:

1) From the first scene of the play, the sexual puns are drenched in metaphorical violence (drawing your weapon, laying knife aboard, forcing women to the wall, etc.), creating a stark contrast with the purity of Romeo and Juliet's love and language, and

2) Mercutio, the Nurse and Old Capulet are something totally new both in Shakespeare and also in English drama, that is, characters who are not only realistic but whose language completely reflects their thought processes to the point where they take on a life of their own. Shakespeare would create many other such characters, but these three are the first.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews192 followers
August 3, 2021
Romeo and Juliet = The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, written by William Shakespeare early in his career, about two young star-crossed lovers, whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families.

Romeo and Juliet belongs to a tradition of tragic romances stretching back to antiquity.

The plot is based on an Italian tale translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562 and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1567.

Shakespeare borrowed heavily from both but expanded the plot by developing a number of supporting characters, particularly Mercutio and Paris.

Believed to have been written between 1591 and 1595, the play was first published in a quarto version in 1597.

The text of the first quarto version was of poor quality, however, and later editions corrected the text to conform more closely with Shakespeare's original.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «رومئو و ژولیت»؛ «رومئو و جولیت شعر عربی ترجمه علی احمد باکثیر»؛ «رومیو و ژولیت»؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1977میلادی

عنوان: رومئو و ژولیت؛ ویلیام شکسپیر؛ مترجم علی اصغر حکمت؛ مقایسه با لیلی و مجنون نظامی، تهران، در 248ص؛ 1332؛ در سال 1333 و سال1335خورشیدی با عنوان پنج حکایت؛

عنوان: رومئو و ژولیت؛ ویلیام شکسپیر؛ مترجم: هدایت کاظمی؛ تهران، نشر هنر، سال 2536 = 1356؛ در 225ص؛ موضوع نمایشنامه های نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 16م

مترجم: علاء الدین پازارگادی؛ تهران، علمی و فرهنگی، 1375؛ در 223ص؛ چاپ دهم 1385؛ شابک 9789644451676؛ چاپ چهاردهم 1392؛

مترجم: فواد نظیری؛ تهران، نشر روایت، 1375؛ در 191ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، ثالث، 1377، شابک 9646404332؛ چاپ بعدی 1380، چاپ هفتم 1394؛ در 191ص؛ شابک 9789646404335؛ چاپ هشتم 1395؛

مترجم: هوشنگ آزادی ور؛ نشر مرداد، 1379؛ در نه و 147ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، رشدیه؛ 1395؛ در 184ص؛ شابک 9786009168576؛

مترجم: مریم رسولی؛ تهران، اردیبهشت، 1390؛ در 223ص؛ شابک 9789641710882؛

مترجم: مریم نظری؛ مصطفی اکبری؛ قم، نوید ظهور، 1393؛ در 144ص؛

مترجم: شیما طیبی جزایری؛ تهران، گیسا، 1393؛ در 82ص؛ برای نوجوانان

مجله فرهنگی «بهار»، که در سال 1328خورشیدی توسط «یوسف اعتصامی (ملقب به اعتصام‌الملک پدر پروین اعتصامی)» منتشر میشد، در شناساندن «شکسپیر» جایگاه ویژه‌ ای داشت؛ در یکی از نخستین شماره‌ های آن ماهنامه، نخستین بیوگرافی کامل درباره ی «شکسپیر» منتشر کرده، و از «شکسپیر» به عنوان «یکی از اعاظم شعرا و اساتید ارباب نظم و نثر» یاد نموده است؛ «اعتصام‌الملک» که به زبان‌های «عربی» و «فرانسه» تسلط داشتند، افزون بر اشعار، به نمایشنامه‌های «شکسپیر» نیز توجه نشان دادند، و برخی از آنها را، با نامهای «افسانه لیر (شاه لیر)» و «ای محبوبه من رومیو و ژولیت)» به فارسی برگرداندند

ترجمه های بسیاری با عنوان «رومئو و ژولیت» چاپ شده، که بازنگاری نویسندگان، از اثر: «ویلیام شکسپیر» است، که به فارسی برگردان شده اند

تراژدی «رومئو و ژولیت»، روایت داستان دو دلداده ی عاشق، و از نخستین آثار استاد سخن «ویلیام شکسپیر» است؛ ایشان کششی به آثار عاشقانه دوران باستان داشتند؛ درونمایه، براساس داستانی «ایتالیائی» است، که به صورت شعر، و با عنوان «تاریخ باستانی رومئو و ژولیت»، اثر «آرتور برووک»، در سال 1562میلادی، و به صورت نثر، در سال 1591میلادی، توسط «ویلیام پینتر»، نوشته شده اند؛ «شکسپیر»، در نگارش اثر خویش، از هر دو اثر سود برده، و شخصیتهای «مرکوشیو» و «پاریس» را نیز دیگر کرده، اثر ایشان، نخستین بار در سال 1597میلادی، به چاپ رسیده است؛

چکیده: قهرمانان نمایشنامه، دختر و پسری، از دو خانواده ی بزرگ و رقیب، در شهر ��ورونا» هستند، که با یکدیگر دشمنی، و اختلاف دیرینه دارند؛ «رومئو»، که از خاندان «مونتگیو» است، به امید دیدار با «رزالین»، دختری که «رومئو» دلباخته اش شده، به ضیافت «لرد کپیولت» می‌رود؛ آنجاست که «رومئو»، دختر «لرد کپیولت»، «ژولیت» را دیدار، و «رزالین» را فراموش می‌کند و ...؛ ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 28/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 11/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 35 books15k followers
October 10, 2010
Every emo fourteen year old's dream. In bullet-point form:

• fall in love with hot boy/girl (delete as appropriate) that parents can't stand;

• tender words and some sex - gotta find out what that's like;

• major tragic incident that really wasn't your fault, you were provoked;

• everyone's mad at you;

• die beautiful death in loved one's arms;

• parents finally understand how much they cared about you and are sorry they didn't treat you better when you were alive.

So how did Shakespeare manage to turn this heap of crap, which even Zac Efron would think twice about, into one of the most moving stories of all time? If you still need proof that he was a genius, look no further.
November 11, 2022

Let us zealously, prance through this amorous love-story, to relish the Shakespearean era!😊

Following, is the abridged plot summary, as per what all I could gather, post the endearing read, pardon and correct me for any of my follies and errors-


The long-standing brawl between the Capulets and Montagues, the banquet-

The Capulets throw a feast, in which Montagues aren’t invited, due to the long-standing feud between the two families. The hero of the play, Romeo Montague, pining over Rosaline, dares to masquerade and gate-crash, the banquet, just to catch a glimpse of his searing-love. But destiny has other plans, Romeo loses his heart to the heiress of the Capulet family, Juliet!
Meanwhile in the banquet, Tybalt, nephew to the Lady Capulet, having recognised Romeo, willing to enter into a brawl with him, is dissuaded by Lady Capulet, in order to maintain the decorum of the ball. Juliet has also discovered his identity in the feast, and has been swooned and swept by his charm. Both are head-over-heels for each other by now!

The balcony love-scene 😊-

Forlorn and lovelorn, resorting to her balcony, Juliet confides her affection for Romeo to the moon and the stars(this famous balcony scene is the most-loved!), unaware, Romeo has heard it all underneath the balcony. Ecstatic, by Juliet’s searing passion, both resolve for a secretive and speedy nuptial the following day. The marriage is brought to pass, in the cell of Friar Laurence, Romeo’s friend.

The brawl and gory on the street ☹-

On the wedding day, Benvolio and Mercutio, Romeo’s friends, are accosted by Tybalt, seeking vengeance from Romeo for trespassing the feast. A contention ensues, Romeo lost in marital-bliss, doesn’t show any interest in the brawl, but Mercutio, all infuriated, takes on Tybalt and is slain! Romeo, now all exasperated, in turn butchers Tybalt. For this act of gory, Romeo is banished by the Prince of Verona.

Juliet’s condition ☹-

The bride of one night, Juliet, is left sobbing and dishevelled. Unaware of the secret nuptial rites, Juliet’s father, resolves to get her married to the kinsman, Paris.

The devastating conspiracy! Devised for the good, but fails miserably ☹-

Friar Laurence, devises a secret plot to help the love-birds unite.(the dramatic failure of the plot, leads to the long-lived tragedy!). He suggests Juliet to drink a potion, which will give her semblance to death, on the day of her marriage to Paris. But Alas! Purporting as dead, she is consigned to the tomb by her father mistakenly.
Unaware of the plot, Romeo, is all frenzied, frantic, heart-broken, grieved, and rushes to the tomb, having drunk poison, just to lay beside Juliet in the tomb. Upon waking up and discovering, Romeo lying dead beside her, Juliet seizes his dagger, and kills herself.


This double tragedy, reconciles the two families, alas, after all the carnage & gory.

Favourite lines from the play-

Defining the bad-luck of the two-

“A pair of star-cross 'd lovers take their life”

Few general ones-

To move is to stir, and to be valiant is to stand

“With tears augmenting the fresh morning's dew.
Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs :
But all so soon as the all-cheering sun
Should in the farthest east begin to draw”

Romeo brooding over the luxury of his sorrow, post which he meets Juliet-

" Why, then, O brawling love ! O loving hate !
O anything, of nothing first create !
O heavy lightness ! serious vanity !
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms !
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health ! "
"Under love's heavy burden do I sink."
"Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty."
"Thus with a kiss I die."

Upon hearing the sweet Juliet’s voice in the garden-

How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night.
Like softest music to attending ears !

Juliet’s expression of love-

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep ; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite,
Good night, good night ! parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till it be morrow
"O, swear not by the moon, th' inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable."

The Prince of Verona-

"For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

My views-

It is a play with delineation of all sentiments, from a hideous family feud, a personal vendetta turning into bloodshed, to a torrential love story, and a tragedy of mistakes and a failed plan!

Both Romeo and Juliet, are subjects of a tumultuous youth, living in a warlike hubbub, living a contrasting life, of passion and despair!

, is a man with good intentions, but all his efforts are forfeited. He is showcased as an epitome of bad-luck/star-crossed. Romeo nurses his love in his heart, and is seen lamenting and foreboding, shedding tears throughout. He isn’t a mature thinker, and is given into hopelessness on every occasion, soon enough!

, is a simpleton, naïve, true to the core, and is given into poetic imaginations of a tender heart. She thinks aloud in words!

An ardent, unrestrained, tender, young love, nothing is factitious or fallacious about their sovereign love!
I am gob-smacked, how can one write a play with such a purity of heart, dignity of manners, passion in love and violence, in a rhythmic sonnet, in an era, beyond contemplation!! That is what Shakespeare is all about, after all! 😊

This delicate tale of love and misfortune, deserves an endearing 5-star!!!!
Profile Image for Nayra.Hassan.
1,259 reviews6,008 followers
March 26, 2022
يعني انت عامل فيها : روميو؟
سؤال استنكاري مرح..لا يعني عبر العالم كله سوى انك عاشق بجنون
نادرة هي الشخصيات الادبية التي تقفز خارج السطور..لتتحول إلى أساطير واقعية..نلفظ باسمها بدلا من جمل تملأ مجلدات

و سر خلود شخصية روميو.انه احد الرجال القلائل في الأدب..و في الواقع".ممن ضحوا بحياتهم من أجل الحب"

الحب هو مفتاح شخصية ذلك الشاب الذكي..حاد اللسان..المفتقر إلى الوسطية
زاده حبه لجولييت نزقاً..و ليس نضجا

و على النقيض نجد جولييت..فرغم سنواتها ال 14تتبلور شخصيتها بعد وقوعها في الحب ..و تتحول لفتاة ذات إرادة و قوة..وفي خلال 5ايام هي كل عمر قصة الحب التي صدعتنا لقروون..تحولت لامرأة وفية قادرة.. ✒
و من الغريب حقا ..ان مدارس العالم اتفقت علي ان تقررها على الطلبة في سن 14-15..لا اعلم ..من باب الإنذار و لا التشجيع؟

على المستوى الشخصي أري ان شكسبير كان موفقا حقا في اختيار هذا السن الصغير..هكذا صار من حقه..التمادي الىاقصى مدى في تطورات هذا الحب ..و أثبت لنا للمرة المائة ..ان ذكائه و خياله كان سابقا لعصره✏
وصالحا لكل العصور...ويكفيه فخرا أن روميو هو اللقب الذي يحظى به كل عاشق ..بعد مرور 4قرون كاملة
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,358 reviews3,312 followers
January 19, 2024

Romeo and Juliet is an enduring tragic love story between Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet written by William Shakespeare. It is also a story of the family feud between the Montagues and Capulets and how it affects the romance between Romeo and Juliet. The story is set in Verona and Mantua in Italy.

I have more than a dozen friends who love to read works with romance as the central theme. I was surprised to see that most of them haven't read this masterpiece yet. If you are an ardent fan of romance or William Shakespeare, you should never miss the opportunity to read this book.

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Profile Image for jessica.
2,577 reviews43.9k followers
November 6, 2019
‘in fair verona, where we lay our scene..’

i went to verona this past weekend and there is a very special experience that comes from reading a story in the same place where it is set. the city has a very romantic feel to it, but its a gentle and quiet romance. which is completely different from the urgent and desperate love between romeo and juliet.

we could argue for days about whether or not romeo and juliet were actually in love with each other (let alone old enough to know what love is) but, for me, my focus isnt the story. its how its told. the writing in this is so lovely (even when tybalt gets called a saucy boy lololol). i think shakespeare is a genius and the way his characters express love and longing and desire in this is really something else.

‘come, gentle night; come, loving, black-browed night;
give me my romeo; and, when i shall die,
take him and cut him out in little stars,
and he will make the face of heaven so fine
that all the world will be in love with night.’

maybe i just fell under the spell of city, or maybe shakespeares words really do have a profound effect on the reader, but i enjoyed this play and these star-crossed lovers. and its true what the prince says, ‘for never was a story of more woe than this of juliet and her romeo.’

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Emily May.
2,067 reviews312k followers
July 22, 2016
In terms of language and style, Romeo and Juliet might possibly be the best of all Shakespeare's work. It's crammed full of some of the most beautiful poetry I've ever had the pleasure of reading. But the story of lust-filled teens sacrificing themselves because of an extreme burst of instalove? Never really been my cup of tea.
Profile Image for Brina.
1,051 reviews4 followers
January 12, 2018
Happy 2018, everyone! I thought I would get the year off on the right track by reading my first book for classics bingo in the group catching up on classics...and lots more. One of the squares on this year's board is to read a book published before the 18th century, and, because Romeo and Juliet is one of this month's group reads, I decided to mark off this square early. Way back in ninth grade, I read Romeo and Juliet. I happened to have a teacher who assigned us outside of the box assignments such as writing letters between the primary characters or keeping Juliet's diary. Thus, this Shakespearean tragedy remains more memorable to me than some of the other dramas I have read over the years. Yet, the play still warranted a reread through adult eyes so here I am, beginning 2018 by reading Shakespeare.

I will be the first to admit that I although I enjoy reading through modern drama, usually Pulitzer winners, Shakespeare is tough for me. The language I am able to slog through; however, most plots are dull and leave me with much to be the desired. The only dramas I enjoy enough to want to reread is The Merchant of Venice and MacBeth for their strong, female protagonists. Which, brings me back to Romeo and Juliet. Most people know the basis of the story, one that has been retold so many times that it is part of western vernacular. My favorite version of Romeo and Juliet is the musical Westside Story. The song that begins "when you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way" sets the tone for the entire musical: the Jets and Sharks just flat out don't like each other but they are loyal to members of their own gang until their last dying day. This plot comes right out of Romeo and Juliet which features the Montagues and Capulets of Verona who have been feuding for time eternal. Like its more modern counterpart, the Montagues and Capulets just flat out don't like one another no matter the circumstances. It has always been thus and no member of the leadership of either family has done anything to lessen the feud.

All these feelings of ill will change on one special night when young Romeo Montague is smitten with Juliet Capulet at a masked ball. The two instantly fall in love and do everything in their power to hide their romance from their feuding family members, parents included. I can understand why this is the play often assigned to fourteen year olds because what young teenager has not been smitten and thinks that he/she is in love. Combine this with the aspect of star crossed lovers who are going against the prevailing trends of society, and there are many directions that a teacher can go in while discussing this with students. Boys will like enjoy the dueling between members of the Montagues and Capulets and perhaps also the innuendo imagery that Romeo uses to describe Juliet whereas, perhaps, girls will swoon over the descriptions of Romeo and how he does everything in his power to marry and be with Juliet for all eternity. Reading through adult eyes and admittedly 21st century eyes, I enjoyed the plot myself as well as descriptions of Juliet. The star-crossed lover unique aspect of this play allowed me to read it quicker than I would with other Shakespearean drama that I find tedious to get through at best.

Despite the imagery and the storyline, Shakespeare's language was still a bore for me to read. The planning and plotting and long soliloquies made for heavy reading. The story of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet and the consequences of their relationship could be completed in one to two acts. Yet, then the story would not be a Shakespearean five act timeless classic. Perhaps because I am reading this drama during the 21st century where people need information before it happens makes plays with more speaking than action too slow at times for modern readers. Even with modern literature, unless it is quality literary fiction, I find it sluggish to get through slow moving novels with little plot movement, and prefer those novels with shorter chapters. After rereading a number of Shakespearean plays over the past few years I have come to realize that unless there is a lot of plot development-- feuding, fighting, falling in love, illicit marriage, more fighting-- that it is a challenge for me to get through the text. Lucky for me that Romeo and Juliet contains the elements of a quality story so it is only the text that challenges me, not the story itself.

Shakespeare's story of star-crossed lovers remains timeless classic that has been redone many times over. Romeo and Juliet have made appearances in some form on Broadway plays to Hollywood movies including a modern version starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo. Without stretching one's imagination all that much, Romeo and Juliet even resurface in the Star Wars story during the prequel trilogy. Their imagery is everywhere in modern society and by telling of two feuding groups as a backdrop, Shakespeare created a tale that could relate to people across many places and times, from school groups to rival governments. Now that I got through my first book of the year I am excited to get a jump start on bingo and my other challenges, both in groups and personal ones. Whether I read another Shakespeare remains to be seen because at the end of the day, if there are no feuds, fights, star-crossed lovers, and other elements of a modern story, Shakespeare's long soliloquies are not really my taste.

3.75 stars
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,305 reviews1,360 followers
April 11, 2024
Who does not know the story of Romeo and Juliet? And these immortal lines,

"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?"

"But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."

"Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow."

The very word "Romeo" has become synonymous with "male lover" in English, and the idea of the doomed romantic lovers, whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families, is famous world-wide. It has been adapted numerous times for stage, film, musical, opera and radio; the latest film went on general release just a few months ago in 2013.

However, Shakespeare did not invent the story of Romeo and Juliet. He reworked a long poem by Arthur Brooks, called "The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet", written in 1562. The tradition of tragic romances had been well established in literature - in particular Italian literature - for almost a hundred years, but what may be surprising is that many of the plot elements of Romeo and Juliet were all in Brooks' poem. The first meeting of the lovers at the ball, their secret marriage, Romeo's fight with Tybalt, the sleeping potion, and even the timing of their eventual suicides, are all episodes which we usually attribute to Shakespeare. This is characteristic of the author, who often wrote plays based on earlier works.

Shakespeare's text is believed to have been written between 1591 and 1595, and as such was one of his earliest performed plays, although not published until later. It was an immediate success; so popular that Shakespeare continued to rework and hone the notes from the play's performances. It was then first published in 1597, with later editions improving on it still further. It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during his lifetime, and has remained so, now being the most performed of all his plays alongside "Hamlet." Although the initial idea for Romeo and Juliet came from the earlier text, it is Shakespeare's wonderful play which is credited with having had such a profound influence on subsequent literature.

It starts with a short prologue, in sonnet form, which tells the audience what is to follow. Nobody can be in any doubt that the story is a tragedy about young love, and that it will take their deaths to bring an end to family feuds. We are then straight into the action, which is a masterly piece of writing, full of bawdy references to ensure his audiences' attention, while providing all the background information needed to understand the world of the play. We are immediately told about the long-standing hatred between the two feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues, and then immediately find ourselves engaged by an exciting brawl.

Shakespeare cleverly establishes some of the major themes of the play, right at its start. He also portrays all of the layers of Veronese society starting with the servants, right through to Prince Escalus. Many of the secondary characters important to the play are also introduced here; for instance, Romeo's friend, Benvolio, thoughtful, pragmatic and fearful of the law, and Juliet's cousin Tybalt, a hothead, professing a hatred for peace as strong as his hatred for Montagues. A modern audience becomes aware that in the Verona of this play, masculine honour is not restricted to indifference to pain or insult. Tybalt makes it plain that a man must defend his honour at all times, whether the insult is verbal or physical.

Mercutio is established as another friend; one who who can poke friendly fun at Romeo quite mercilessly. Benvolio is not nearly so quick-witted. Mercutio is confident, constantly joking, making puns and laughing. He is a passionate man, but his passions are different from Romeo's love and Tybalt's hate. Their passions are founded respectively upon two ideals of society - love and honour - but Mercutio believes in neither. He comes across as the character with the clearest vision. Just as Mercutio can see through words to other meanings, he can also see through the ideals held by those around him. He understands that often they are not sincerely held, but merely adopted for convenience.

The characters in this play are multi-layered and complex, and Shakespeare is adept in revealing their subtleties by means of the action. Even as Mercutio dies, he utters his wild witticisms, cursing both the Montagues and the Capulets,

"A plague o' both your houses!
They have made worms' meat of me!"

"Ask for me tomorrow, and
You shall find me a grave man."

The character of Romeo develops significantly from the first impression we have of him as a stock callow youth. At first he is melancholy, distracted and lovelorn, as we expect. But surprisingly he is not lovesick over Juliet, but is in love with Rosaline. This love seems to stem almost entirely from the reading of bad love poetry! We understand from this that Romeo's love for Rosaline is an immature love, more a statement that he is ready to be in love than actual love. Perhaps Rosaline, who never appears in the play, exists only to demonstrate Romeo's passionate nature, his love of being in love.

We meet Juliet in scene 3, and learn that in the Verona of this play, her status as a young woman leaves her with no power or choice in any social situation. Juliet at 13 years old is completely subject to parental influence, and is being encouraged to marry her parent's choice of Paris. Lady Capulet observes wryly that that she had already given birth to Juliet herself when she was Juliet's current age, before she was 14.

In this way the forces that determine the fate of Romeo and Juliet are laid in place well before they even meet. Parental influence in the tragedy becomes a tool of fate. Juliet's arranged marriage with Paris, and the longstanding feud between Capulets and Montagues, will eventually contribute to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. The reader enjoys the tension, and knowledge that terrible events are about to happen. Events and observations continually reinforce the presence and power of fate.

Juliet's speeches have many different facets, and are capable of many interpretations. She often professes one thing, whilst we know she has an ulterior motive, and another intention. This is particularly evident when she is speaking to her parents, knowing that she intends to make her own decisions, she perversely wants to speak her mind, but deliberately couches her words in double meanings so that the truth will remain hidden.

Juliet is a strong character in the play, particularly fascinating to a modern reader as she seems almost contemporary. She repeatedly goes against what is expected of women of her time and place, and takes action. The best example of this is when she drinks the sleeping potion. She comes up with many reasons why it might cause her harm, and recognises that drinking the potion might lead her to madness or even death. Yet she chooses to drink it anyway. This demonstrates a willingness to take her life into her own hands - and also hints at future events. There is never just one side to, or interpretation of, any event in this play. It is a portent. Juliet drinks the potion just as Romeo will later drink the apothecary's poison.

Another instance of ominous foreshadowing is when the Nurse teases Juliet by saying that she is too tired to tell her what happened when she first met Romeo. This delay in telling Juliet the news is mirrored in a future scene, when the Nurse's anguish prevents her from relating news to Juliet and thereby causing terrible confusion. Another example of delicious dramatic irony is when Romeo is proclaiming his love to be the most powerful force in the world. Friar Laurence advises caution, saying,

"These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triump die, like fire and powder
Which, as they kiss, consume".

The reader knows that the play is a tragedy, and that Romeo and Juliet will die. Shakespeare ingeniously manipulates the plot, so that we feel the impending doom, and are swept up in the inevitability of it all. Even the characters themselves are sometimes aware that they are pawns. Romeo cries,

"O, I am fortune's fool!"

when he realises he has killed Tybalt. He knows that by killing his new wife's cousin, he will be banished from Verona, and feels the inevitability of the situation. This emphasises the sense of fate - or fortune - that hangs over the play.

Juliet also indicates in her speeches the power of fate and predestination. In her final scene with Romeo, the last moment they spend alive together, she says that he appears pale, as if he were dead. She looks out of her window and cries,

"O God, I have an ill-divining soul!
Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low,
As one dead in the bottom of a tomb."

This vision blatantly foreshadows the end of the play. The next time she sees Romeo, he will be dead.

Friar Laurence is a pivotal character in the play. When we first see him he is collecting herbs and flowers for medicinal purposes, demonstrating a deep knowledge of the properties of the plants he collects, and alerting the reader to what may be to come. He meditates on the duality of good and evil that exists in all things; another clearly portentous speech. Referring to the plants, Friar Laurence says that, although everything in nature has a useful purpose, it can also lead to misfortune if used improperly,

"For naught so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give,
Nor aught so good but strain'd from that fair use
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse:
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied;
And vice sometime's by action dignified".

Friar Laurence ruminates on how good may be perverted to evil and evil may be purified by good. By making plans to marry Romeo and Juliet, he hopes that the good of their love will reverse the evil of the hatred between the feuding families. Shakespeare portrays him as a benign, wise philosopher. But his schemes also serve as tools of fate; secretly marrying the two lovers, sending Romeo to Mantua, and staging Juliet's apparent death. The tragic failure of his plans are outside his responsibility, and due to chance.

The structure of the play is carefully controlled; it would be interesting at this distance to read the earlier versions. Different poetic forms are used by different characters, and sometimes the form changes as the character develops. There are many instances of the sonnet, as the reader would expect, because it is a perfect, idealised poetic form often used to write about love. The play starts with a Prologue in sonnet form, a masterly precis of the story. As it describes Romeo and Juliet’s eventual death, it also helps to create the sense of fate that permeates the entire play.

Romeo himself, develops his expertise in the sonnet over the course of the play. When Romeo and Juliet meet they speak just fourteen lines before their first kiss. These fourteen lines make up a shared sonnet, which creates a link between their love and their tragic destiny, as told in the introductory prologue.

There are numerous instances of such tightly written formal structure, which is remarkable in such an early play. Even the dramatic action of the play has a tight schedule, spanning just 4 days. Perhaps this is why many of the most important scenes, such as the balcony scene, take place either very late at night or very early in the morning.

Shakespeare makes great use of effects such as switching between comedy and tragedy to heighten the tension, and bringing minor characters into the foreground to increase depth and interest. His additional use of sub-plots to enrich the story, is often cited as an early sign of his dramatic skill.

This play has everything; love, beauty, and romance, but also sudden, fatal violence early on. Viciousness and danger are continually present, yet just at the point when they threaten to overcome the reader, the action will be tempered by wit, comedy and humour. We are in a masculine world in which notions of honour, pride, and status are prone to erupt in a fury of conflict, but there is a strong female who defies her confined expectations. Rashness, vengeance, passion, grief; they are all here. The motif of fate continues to the very end of the play. Romeo proclaims,

"Then I defy you, stars" and

"I will lie with thee tonight" in a last desperate attempt to control his own destiny by spending eternity with Juliet.

Yet in this ultimate example of tragic irony, this defiant act seals both his fate, and their double suicide. Shakespeare tells his audience that nothing can withstand the power of fate. The neat twists of the ending are supremely ironic, devastating and heart-wrenching. Here is Romeo, in despair,

"O true apothecary!
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die."

And on waking, Juliet,

"I will kiss thy lips;
Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,
To make die with a restorative...
O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath...
There rust and let me die!"

It is said that the best way to appreciate Shakespeare is to go to a live performance of a play. Of course in one sense this is true of any play; the live action is how the play was intended to be experienced. But there is a lot to be said for reading Shakespeare on the page. The structure and poetry of the language is so much more evident. The puns and in-jokes are so much clearer. The reader can give pause to properly interpret the manifold meanings of both the exciting events and the rousing speeches. And above all we can marvel at the mastery of a writer who can still speak to us with relevance, move us with poetry and story, and entertain his audience well over 400 years later.

"For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."
Profile Image for Maureen .
1,576 reviews7,014 followers
November 20, 2020
ROMEO: Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace!
Thou talk’st of nothing.

MERCUTIO: True, I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
Which is as thin of substance as the air
And more inconstant than the wind.

Read this one many years ago so it was time for a reread. Witty, sarcastic, and sad, enjoyed it all over again.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
500 reviews3,290 followers
May 22, 2024
"Never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo "...........The ultimate love story, 400 years old, you may ask why? William Shakespeare's narrative , the poetry, a tragic saga drenched in beauty, the words are magical , a reader will be entranced by its imagery , no one could be better...really a long exquisite poem disguised as a play set in the 14th century of the Renaissance, in Verona, Italy during the turbulent age of petty kingdoms , fierce wars and passionate times. The short but interesting lives, young marriages and early exists, the atmosphere thick with unseen calamities...Romeo , a Montague, loves Juliet, a Capulet...that is a big problem, the two teenagers don't care or understand the long lasting bloody feud, between their families. Hate is not them, passion is...the opposite...a great love consumes the immature couple , after just a few hours of knowing each other they impulsively decide on a secret marriage. Romeo had gone with his friends to a perilous, masquerade party given annually by Juliet's father, at his house, the sumptuous feast is strictly off -limits to their archenemies the Montagues, of course this makes for a rather tantalizing challenge, brave or moronic , the youths want some excitement...The Montague stranger immediately falls in love with this supposedly loathsome girl , of the rival evil clan, the daughter of the leader , the couple are smitten... not knowing their true identities, yet nothing matters to Romeo and Juliet, even after the revelations ... except feelings, too much so it will cause heartache. Then reality sets in ...Mercutio a good friend of Romeo's, is slain in a tawdry street brawl, by Tybalt Juliet's cousin...the lover of hers seeks revenge and kills the Capulet. Now what...Juliet must decide, stay loyal to the family or continue to be a wife, their secret marriage performed by Friar Lawrence, he naively believed the joining of the two would end the foolish conflict...Nevertheless blood flows again, even the Prince in the city cannot stop the animosity, his threatened harsh penalties, including death, does nothing to calm the situation. Romeo is banished forever from town, the distraught daughter of a Capulet is told to marry Count Paris a relative of the ruler Prince Escalus ...How can a 14- year-old girl, not quite a woman, cope. Her adoring servant, who raised her, yet an uneducated nurse, tells Juliet to marry Paris and forget her first wedding...Will she... Friar Lawrence has a dangerous plan... the only hope for the pair, it could result in a happy solution ....A story that will be read again and again...love is always in fashion , especially the kind that engulfs every walking minute in a young life...they know nothing else.
Profile Image for emma.
2,156 reviews68.6k followers
January 17, 2022
every time someone refers to romeo and juliet as the greatest romance of all time, a pretentious high school english teacher's pet writing their final paper on how stupid these two bozos are loses their wings.

part of a series i'm doing in which i review books i read a long time ago, and also roast myself
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,276 followers
February 18, 2017
Excellent! I can't believe I've waited so long to read this classic play! Having only surmised the story of ROMEO AND JULIET and not even seen the movie (yet) I now know Romeo was a Montague and Juliet a Capulet, two houses at odds. I know about the disastrous duels, the secret marriage, the surprise suitor and the botched plan; and then there's the fatal ending..... I even had that wrong, and OMGOSH they were so young!

I enjoyed actually reading Juliet's melodramatic expressions of love....."O Romeo Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" and "Good-night, good-night! parting is such sweet sorrow....That I shall say good-night till it be morrow." But, IMHO, none were better than this one......

"Give me my Romeo. And, when I shall die

Take him and cut him out in little stars,

And he will make the face of heaven so fine

That all the world will be in love with night

And pay no worship to the garish sun."

Bring on more Shakespeare! Unforgettable read!

Update: March, 2016

Oh Boy! Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 movie version of Romeo and Juliet is excellent! Just like reading the screenplay. Loved it!

Thank you GR friends Sara, Lisa and Jonetta for the recommendation!

Profile Image for Luís.
2,116 reviews908 followers
March 24, 2024
I will be less tedious than some in this famous play because everything has already been said, or almost!
I read Romeo and Juliet late after seeing two different versions of the play: one in the open air in a very refined natural setting and the other in a classical theatre, both dressed in drapes and shimmering costumes.
Tasty verbal jousts, a ferocious and irremediable hatred, a pure, whole, and heroic love, an unjust sacrificial death but triumphing over human stupidity, finally reconciling the enemy families on the corpses of their children.
This play was a tragically epic, undeniably exhilarating, and utterly timeless work.
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books4,056 followers
September 11, 2017
As I looked over my previously read books and searched for one that was missing a review, Romeo and Juliet stood out to me. But then I thought about it... who doesn't know about this play? Who hasn't read it in school sometime in the past? Who hasn't watched a movie version or seen some sort of take on the classic tortured romance story? And why on earth would anyone care to read another review, let alone my review, on it? Exactly. So... don't look for much here as I'm sure most everyone has read it already. And I'm not that funny to even make reading my opinions worth it. That said... a few shared thoughts about what I've learned from this play:

1. Parents exist to torture their children. It's a simple fact. If your child wants X, it is your responsibility to keep X away from him/her.

2. Love will always end in disaster. Don't attempt it without proper back-up.

3. Even though someone looks dead, they probably aren't. Kill them again just to be sure.

4. Your bros or girls don't always have your back.

5. Magic powders are the cure for everything. Always trust what you don't understand. And just inhale it like the world is about to end.

In all sincerity, I do like the play a lot. I've enjoyed countless interpretations. I think parts of it are brilliant and parts of it are pure illogical nonsense. Every TV show and movie has their own re-appropriation to tell. Not everything can be perfect when it comes to love. But this play certainly teaches a lot of lessons and provides a lot of bumps. And this reader still goes along for the ride...

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews23k followers
July 31, 2019
True confessions time: I've read Romeo and Juliet at least once, maybe more (probably it was in one of my college English courses) and mostly thought, great poetry, but GAH! silly kids! idiotic people! I've seen it on stage once or twice -- one production cast Romeo's family entirely with black actors and Juliet's family with white ones, to bring the feuding a little closer to home, I guess. It was interesting, but still, didn't really move me. I'm sure I teared up during the final scene, but I'm easy to manipulate emotionally that way. Books and movies make me cry All. The. Time. It's not a major achievement.

And then I saw the movie Shakespeare in Love (on cable TV, years after it was in the theaters). The movie has Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow doing numerous scenes from R&J together, not to mention a little Dame Judi Dench on the side, which always helps, and I totally ate it up. The actors were amazing, and it hit me right in the heart.

So all of that is to say that yes, Shakespeare is a genius, but sometimes it just takes the right set of actors in one of his shows to make you love it emotionally as well as intellectually. Which reminds me of my favorite actors ever in a Shakespeare production, Oberon and Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream ... but that's a different story.
Profile Image for Carlos.
120 reviews106 followers
February 13, 2024
I don't know if fortunately or unfortunately, but I read the book in Shakespearean English. I did understand it, but it was so difficult. I got the plot and stuff. I understood the story, the way it is written. I like the story a lot, the ending even more! In my opinion, it is a bit too long, but I still recommend it. I think it will be better to read it in "normal" English, since I read it like that short time ago and it's much easier to understand it and it can be read in a much more fluent way. I recommend you to read it in normal English, it's easier to chew it. Good play!
Profile Image for Piyangie.
543 reviews631 followers
February 1, 2023
My first reaction when the read was over is why on earth it took me so long to read this beautiful work of Shakespeare having it physically with me all this while. Perhaps, I thought I didn't really need to read it since I know the story from the movie adaptations I have watched. How foolish! I had no idea what I had missed for so long.

I have never enjoyed Shakespearean writing as much as I did in this play. It is passionate, lyrical, and humorous. It is amazing that you find all these in a tragedy; only a great master can accomplish that feat. The story is both romantic and tragic, as we well know. But what is incredible is that the play is a "beautiful" tragedy.

This is one of the most outstanding plays that I have read. I loved it. I haven't read many Shakespearean tragedies, and in my mind, no tragedy will outmatch the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet. It certainly will be my favourite Shakespearean tragedy.
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