Romeo and Juliet at a Glance


In William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a long feud between the Montague and Capulet families disrupts the city of Verona and causes tragic results for Romeo and Juliet. Revenge, love, and a secret marriage force the young star-crossed lovers to grow up quickly — and fate causes them to commit suicide in despair. Contrast and conflict are running themes throughout Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet — one of the Bard's most popular romantic tragedies.

Written by: William Shakespeare

Type of Work: play

Genres: romantic tragedy

First Published: 1594-1595

Setting: Verona, Italy

Main Characters: Juliet; Romeo; The Nurse; Mercutio; Friar Laurence

Major Thematic Topics: love; revenge; fate; courtship; marriage; value/doubleness; meaning of gender

Motifs: fate; light and darkness

Major Symbols: poison; nighttime

Movie Versions: Romeo and Juliet (1968); Romeo + Juliet (1996)

The three most important aspects of Romeo and Juliet:

  • The first half of Romeo and Juliet, with its bawdy jokes, masked ball, and love poetry, is more like a Shakespearean comedy than a tragedy. Only after Tybalt kills Mercutio near the play's midpoint do things become tragic.
  • Near the start of Romeo and Juliet's famous balcony scene, Juliet asks "Wherefore art thou Romeo?" Because the word "wherefore" means "why," Juliet is wondering why the boy she loves is called what he's called — not where he is, as many readers believe.
  • Juliet is a mere 13 years old, and Romeo is not much older.

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