Romeo and Juliet

by Shakespeare, William

Romeo and Juliet is one of the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare's most beloved and popular plays, remaining since its premiere one of the most performed as well. The story was derived by Shakespeare (1564 - 1616) from many sources. The version most contemporary to his own was the 1562 poem "The Tragicall History of Romeus and Juliet" by Arthur Brooke, which was an adaptation of a French piece by Pierre Boaistuau Boaistuau had adapted from the Italian. Indeed, aspects of the tragic story have recurred throughout Western literature since at least the third century. Shakespeare greatly intensified the pace of the story, compressed what initially unfolded over the course of several months into the space of five days--a period in which much transpires at daybreak, including the famous balcony scene where Romeo declares, "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?/It is the east, and Juliet is the sun." 

The play tells the story of two young lovers from feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues, whose love ultimately leads to their tragic deaths.

It opens with a street brawl between the Capulet and Montague households in Verona, Italy. Prince Escalus intervenes and declares that any future fighting will result in death. Romeo Montague, who is love-sick over a woman named Rosaline, attends a Capulet ball in disguise and falls in love with Juliet Capulet. Juliet also falls in love with Romeo, and they vow to marry the next day.

Friar Laurence agrees to secretly marry the two, hoping their union will end the feud between their families. However, things quickly take a turn for the worse when Tybalt, Juliet's cousin, challenges Romeo to a duel and kills Romeo's friend Mercutio. Romeo avenges Mercutio's death by killing Tybalt and is banished from Verona.

Juliet is forced to marry Count Paris but refuses and seeks Friar Laurence's help. He gives her a potion that will make her appear dead, and he plans to send word to Romeo of their plan to reunite after she wakes up. However, the message never reaches Romeo, and he hears only that Juliet is dead. He rushes to her tomb and kills himself, believing Juliet to be dead. When Juliet awakens and sees Romeo dead, she too takes her own life.

So, to sum up, over the course of five days, these two teenagers fall desperately in love (Juliet is 13 and Romeo is around 16), and six people, including both of them, end up dead. "For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

Today, Romeo and Juliet remains one of Shakespeare's most popular and frequently performed plays, and it has been adapted into numerous films, operas, and other works of art. Some of the most famous movie adaptations of the play are: The 1986 classic directed by Franco Zeffirelli, Die in a Gunfight (2021) a modern adaptation, Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words, a 2019 ballet adaptation, Shakespeare in Love, a 1998 movie interpretation of Shakespeare's life, Gnomeo & Juliet (2011) starring garden gnomes as the star crossed lovers, and the 1996 best reimagining ever, Romeo + Juliet with Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio.

First Edition Identification

It is unknown when Shakespeare originally wrote the play, sometime between 1591 and 1595. Romeo and Juliet was first published as an unauthorized quarto in 1597, transcribed by actors who had performed it. A quarto is a small, inexpensive book, each printed sheet folded twice to produce eight pages, often sold in flimsy bindings or none at all. The first quarto was published by John Danter, who printed the first four sheets (his name appears on the imprint), and Edward Allde printed the final six sheets. The first published edition declared '"AN EXCELLENT conceited Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet, As it hath been often (with great applause) plaid publicly." The first extant direct record of the events of a production refer to a 1662 staging, in which the play was probably adapted or altered--adaptation was particularly popular in the 17th century. The first quarto edition is known as "Q1" and is considered a "bad quarto," as it contains numerous errors and textual inconsistencies. It is over one-fifth shorter than the second edition and includes linguistic and theatrical differences. There are five known copies of the Q1 of Romeo and Juliet. 

Other editions appeared later, but even the more authoritative versions, such as that of 1599--probably drawn from Shakespeare's manuscript copies--lack the detailed stage directions present in the actors' transcription; thus, modern editions incorporate several sources. 

The second quarto edition, known as "Q2," was published in 1599 and is considered the authoritative text. It includes a prologue and epilogue that were absent in Q1 and several other changes to the text. It is about 800 lines longer than Q1, and the title page claims it is the "Newly corrected, augmented, and amended" text.

In 1609 the text of the Q2 was reprinted, and referenced as the Q3. It was also reprinted in 1622 (Q4) and 16377 (Q5). It was also included in Shakespeare's First Folio, a collection of Shakespeare's plays published in 1623, seven years after his death. The First Folio version of the play is primarily based on the Q3 text but also includes a few additional lines and stage directions, some taken from theatrical prompt books and Q1. Other editions of the play were included in Folio 2 (1632), Folio 3 (1664), and Folio 4 (1685). 

Other Collectible or Notable Editions

Any Shakespeare Folio will set you back over a hundred grand and are excessively rare. Other options to collect the works of Shakespeare, including Romeo and Juliet, would be beautifully illustrated editions by Arthur Rackham (Tales from Shakespeare by J.M. Dent and Co), or J. Wagrez and Louis Titz (Societe des Beaus Arts, Paris). 

Specialty bindings, such as Cosway-Style, beautiful leather bindings by Easton Press with gold gilt decoration, limited editions by The Grolier Society and The Folio Society, or miniature versions by David Bryce and Son or Knickerbocker Leather & Novelty Co. Also readily available are mass market paperback editions by Penguin, Bantam, and Signet. 

There are no known 'signed' editions of this play.

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Romeo and Juliet (2009 edition): Oxford School Shakespeare

by William Shakespeare

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Global Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet : Student Edition

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Romeo and Juliet: Stratford Festival Edition

by Shakespeare William

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Toronto, Ont.: CBC Enterprises. Fine with no dust jacket. 1985. Trade Paperback. 0887941346 . Fine in no dust jacket as issued. Trade paperback. Illustrations by David Walker This volume is the text used in the 1984 performance of Romeo and Juliet. Full-colour and black and white photographs illustrate the action of the play.; 8vo - over 7¾"… Read more about this item
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by Shakespeare, William

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Romeo And Juliet

by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

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Romeo and Juliet.

by SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM [BRIAN GIBBONS - ED.]

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Romeo and Juliet

by William Shakespeare

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ROMEO AND JULIET

ROMEO AND JULIET

by William Shakespeare

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by William Shakespeare

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Romeo and Juliet (The BBC TV Shakespeare)

by Shakespeare, William

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Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

by Shakespeare, William

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by William Shakespeare

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Penguin Books, 2005. Standard. Paperback. Very Good. Outline:- The greatest love story in English, William Shakespeare`s Romeo and Juliet is a play of star-crossed lovers who take a valiant stand against social convention, with tragic consequences. This Penguin Shakespeare edition is edited with notes by T.J.B. Spencer, and an introduction by Adrian Poole. `What`s in a name? That… Read more about this item
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Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

by William Shakespeare

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Edited by Brian Gibbons. Soft cover, 20 cm, XII+280 pp. ISBN: 0174434715.
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Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

by William Shakespeare (Editor: Brian Gibbons)

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