Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young “star-cross’d lovers” whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare’s most popular archetypal stories of young, teenagers lovers. Romeo and Juliet belongs to a tradition of tragic romances stretching back to antiquity. It’s plot is based on an Italian tale, translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeous and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562 and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1582. Romeo and Juliet has been adapted numerous times for stage, film, musical and opera. David Garrick’s 18th century version also modified several scenes, removing material then considered indecent. Performance 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 costumed and staging to enchance the drama. In the 20th century the play has been adapted in versions as diverse as MGM’s comparatively faithful 1936 film, the 1950’s stage musical West Side Story, and 1996’s MTV-inspired Romeo+Juliet.
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
The play, set in Verona, begins with a street brawl...
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