Shakespeare’s Romeo And JulietWilliam Shakespeare, the English poet and playwright of the 16th -17th centuries, is known as the best dramatist in the world. He is also known as the best author who has written in the English language. He has written a lot of great plays and sonnets, which are read and admired by people all over the world. The reason for his popularity is his understanding of people and his ability to create the characters almost mirroring the real life situations, human feelings and behaviors. Shakespeare could understand the human character very deeply, therefore he could create characters beyond the time and place of his plays (The World Book Encyclopedia 17 345).
One of his most popular plays is the tragedy Romeo and Juliet, talking about the tragic ending of the young love of two teenagers. It is considered the best play about love in the world. The story takes place in Verona, a city in Italy. Romeo and Juliet are two young teenagers who love each other indeed but can not realize their dreams because their families Montagues and Capulets are in a deadly feud. Romeo and Juliet get secretly married. After the wedding Romeo comes across the Juliets cousin Tybalt, who challenges him to a fight. But Romeo doesnt want to fight his new relative. Instead Romeos friend Mercutio fights Tybalt and gets killed. In revenge Romeo fights and kills Tybalt, for what he is expelled from the city. Meanwhile Juliets father forces her to marry his friend Paris. To escape this terrible situation, she asks Friar Lawrence for help, who gives her a drug that puts her in a deathlike sleep for two days. Romeo hears the bad news about Juliets death before he gets the message sent by Friar Lawrence and rushes to the tomb where Juliet was put. Life has no meaning for him anymore, so he takes a poison and dies near Juliets body. When Juliet awakens from the sleep, she sees her love dead and doesnt want to live anymore, so she stabs herself. Death of the two young lovers make the families understand that they must end their feud (The World Book Encyclopedia 17 358).
At that time it was strongly believed that the true love always struck at first sight and in this play Romeo and Juliet fall in love from the first sight (Brian C). Some critics say that the idealized love of Romeo and Juliet is rooted on passionate sexuality. But to Elizabethans sexual desire was not antithetical to romance; it was the essence of romance (Brian C).
Romeo and Juliet is based on a poem by an English author Arthur Brooke The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet (The World Book Encyclopedia 17 358). Some critics refer to this as one of the weak points of the play, saying that Shakespeare didnt write many original plots, he found what he was looking for ready in Arthur Brookes poem (Rowse 70). But thinking about the plays interesting plot, the beautiful language full of word-plays, different characters and at last the love theme which is the basic element that makes it so interesting, all these things completely make this and the other weak points and faults found by critics fade out.
Many critics have also addressed the language of the play. Artificial language, used a lot in the play, was characteristic for the Elizabethan age (The World Book Encyclopedia 17 358). Elizabethans liked those long phrases and fast word-plays, which become simple conversations if retold in modern word interpretation (Brian C). But Shakespeare has used some simple language, characteristic for his later plays, too (The World Book Encyclopedia 17 358). Another thing we should keep in mind is that although the script pas been written for the performance, its read and understood easily (Brian C).
There are a lot of elements and characteristics in the play that make it popular and successful. One of the points that gets critics attention is that despite the plays Italian setting, the language, customs and attitudes are generally English (Brian C). Another characteristic thing for the Elizabethan age is that there are no sudden and original plot turns. Elizabethans werent so interested in that, how the story was told was more important for them (Brian C). The good rhyming lines are much frequent in the play, which is another positive element (Rowse 68). Music and references to music are also used a lot in the play. In fact, musical elements in this play are greater than in any other one (Rowse 73).
Romeo and Juliet is rich of different and contrasting personages, who eventually become persons and this personality continues throughout the play (Ward 267). One of these characters is Romeo, who is an excellent example of a person with the lovesickness and stereotypical attitude towards love (Brian C). Some of the finest poetry in the play is given by Romeo, when he sees Juliet for the first time (Brian C). The play also contains a mix of high tragedy and comedy, displayed in another character – the Juliets nurse (Brian C).
Romeo and Juliet has been a very good target for critics of the past three centuries. Some critics have praised this play for its beautiful and easy-reading language, interesting plot and touching theme and characters. Others have found some faults with certain aspects of the play (Scott 410). But despite these faults, most of the critics have been saying that Romeo and Juliet is one of the best works of Shakespeare and it has had a big influence on the development of the English drama (Scott 410).
In general, Romeo and Juliet has been a really good topic to discuss and criticize. But however it has always been and will remain a work proving Shakespeares perfect talent and a great love story to read, watch and admire.
Brian, Paul. Study Guide for .
Rowse, A.L. The Annotated Shakespeare, Volume 3: The Tragedies and Romances.
Romeo and Juliet. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc./Publishers. 1978.
Scott, Mark W. Shakespearean Criticism, Volume 5.
Romeo and Juliet. Detroit: Gale Research Company. 1987.
The World Book Encyclopedia 17: S-Sn.
William Shakespeare. Chicago: World Book, Inc. 1997.
Ward, A.W. and A.R.Waller. The Cambridge History of English Drama,
Volume 5: The Drama to 1642, Part 1.
Shakespeares Plays. London: Cambridge University Press. 1970.