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All About Romeo and Juliet

February 08, 2017

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With Valentine's Day right around the corner, it seems appropriate to take a close look at one of the most romantic stories of all time, that of Romeo and Juliet. This tragic play, depicting the lives and deaths of two star-crossed lovers, is one of the most beloved works of literature of all time. 

History

  • William Shakespeare published his famous play Romeo and Juliet, in 1597. He's thought to have written it earlier though, perhaps as early as 1591. 
  • You may think that Shakespeare deserves all the credit for coming up with this timeless romance, but actually he "borrowed" a lot of the material from other sources. The story itself is based on an Italian tale translated by Arthur Brooke in 1562, and later retold by William Painter in 1567. 
  • Though Shakespeare did take a lot from other works, he can certainly be credited with developing supporting characters such as Mercutio, as well as heightening the tension of the story by moving regularly from comedy to tragedy. Without these special touches, who knows whether or not we would still remember the tale today. 

William Shakespeare is often though to be one of the greatest English writers of all time. William Shakespeare is often though to be one of the greatest English writers of all time. Courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

Performances

  • Romeo and Juliet was one of the most performed of Shakespeare's plays, rivaled only by Hamlet. The play enjoyed popularity even within Shakespeare's lifetime. 
  • The play was modified many times over the first couple of hundred years during which it was performed. In some versions, the two lovers survived, whereas in others, the play was restructured and had plot points that were deemed inappropriate removed. 
  • It wasn't until 1845, in North America, that Shakespeare's original version began to be performed again. It soon caught on in Britain again at around the same time. 
  • Though the play is certainly still performed today, its theater versions have been somewhat overshadowed by the popularity of some of the film versions that have been produced. 

This 1996 film version of Romeo and Juliet is one of the most popular adaptations of the play ever. This 1996 film version of Romeo and Juliet is one of the most popular adaptations of the play ever. Courtesy of theredlist.com

Romeo and Juliet Fun Facts

  • Shakespeare's play is set in Verona, Italy, and every year an organization called the Juliet Club (based in Verona) receives thousands of letters, sharing stories of unrequited and lost love. The employees of the Juliet Club make a point of answering each letter by hand. 
  • The character of Juliet is thought to have been only 13 years old at the time of first meeting Romeo. Things sure have changed since then!
  • There have been over 70 movie versions of the play made! The most popular are Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version and Baz Luhrman's 1996 version (starring a young Leonardo DiCaprio). 

Just some of the many letters the Juliet Club receives ever year. Just some of the many letters the Juliet Club receives ever year. Courtesy of NPR

Now that you know a little bit more of the history behind Romeo and Juliet, have another read of the play or another viewing of one of the films. Maybe you'll have a new appreciation for the story! 

Have Your Say!

Have you ever seen Romeo and Juliet performed? Share your experiences with our Kidzworld readers!