ROMEO & JULIET A Background
Romeo & Juliet • William Shakespeare probably wrote Romeo & Juliet some time between 1591 and 1595. • The reason the exact year it was written is unknown is because Shakespeare didn’t date his texts. Our speculations are based upon when it was first performed and when it was first published in a manuscript. • The play was first published in 1597.
Plagiarism? • Romeo & Juliet is not William Shakespeare’s original idea; however, he did add his own touch to the original story. • The play is based on an Italian story titled The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562. • Some believe that Brooke got the idea from a novella written by an Italian author named Matteo Bandello. • This poem was later translated into a prose work named The Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1567.
Shakespeare’s Additions • Though Shakespeare borrowed heavily from both Brooke’s and Painter’s stories about Romeo and Juliet, he added his own material to improve the story for stage performance. • Some things he added: • Mercutio, one of Romeo’s good friends and the cousin of Prince Escalus • Paris, a nobleman who wishes to marry Juliet, and who is also a relative of the prince. • He added other supporting characters as well, but these are the truly important additions. • Some things he changed: • In the original version by Brooke, the Nurse is banished and the Apothecary hanged for their involvement in the plot.
Modern Adaptations • Since being written in the 16 th century, Romeo & Juliet has been adapted many times for film production. • Notable adaptations are: • 1950 s – West Side Story – a Broadway musical • This version adapted the story to two New York City gangs, involving Americans and Puerto Rican immigrants • 1968 – Romeo and Juliet – by Franco Zeffirelli • This version remained mostly true to the original. • 1996 – Romeo + Juliet – by Baz Luhrmann • This version of the play was modernized into an MTV-like setting, but kept true to Shakespearean language.