Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of
renowned playwright William Shakespeare about two teenage "star-cross'd lovers"
whose untimely deaths ultimately unite their feuding households. The play has
been highly praised by literary critics for its language and dramatic effect. It
was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during his lifetime and, along with
Hamlet, is one of his most frequently performed plays. Its influence is
still seen today, with the two main characters being widely represented as
archetypal young lovers.
Romeo and Juliet belongs to a tradition of tragic romances stretching back to Ancient Greece. Its 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 1582. Brooke and Painter were Shakespeare's chief sources of inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. He borrowed heavily from both, but developed minor characters, particularly Mercutio and Paris, in order to expand the plot. Believed to be written between 1591 and 1595, the play was first published in a quarto version in 1597. This text was of poor quality, and later editions corrected it, bringing it more in line with Shakespeare's original text.
Shakespeare's use of dramatic structure, especially his expansion of minor characters and use of subplots to embellish the story, has been praised as an early sign of his dramatic skill. The play ascribes different poetic forms to different characters, sometimes changing the form as the character develops. Romeo, for example, grows more adept at the sonnet form over time. Characters frequently compare love and death and allude to the role of fate.
Since its original publication, Romeo and Juliet has been adapted numerous times in stage, film, musical and operatic forms. During the Restoration, it was revived and heavily revised by William Davenant. David Garrick's 18th century version, which continued to be performed on and into the Victorian era, also modified several scenes, removing material then considered indecent. Performances in the 19th century, including Charlotte Cushman's, restored the original text, and focused on greater realism. John Gielgud's 1935 version kept very close to Shakespeare's text, and used Elizabethan costumes and staging to enhance the drama.
— Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.