Romeo and Juliet - Facts and Trivia

ROMEO AND JULIET - What's it all about?

Romeo and Juliet is the most famous love story in the world. The famous "balcony scene" is the most famous in the history of theatre.

But Romeo and Juliet isn't simply a love story in the sense of "boy loves girl".

It deals with the powerful emotion of love and how it affects us as young human beings: romantic love, the love of our families, the love between friends, the love for the church and the love for the society in which we live.

In contrast it also deals with "violent love" ie hate, power, politics.

Two feuding families - the fathers of Romeo and Juliet - and how their long term hatred for each other has poisoned the city of Verona.

It asks questions about who has the power in Verona - The Montagues? The Capulets? The Church? Or the State?

And finally it deals with the inevitability of fate. Destiny. The stars.

Above all it tells us that everything - our life, our loves and ultimately our deaths - is controlled by the stars.

ROMEO AND JULIET - What are the sources?

Shakespeare's primary source for Romeo and Juliet was Arthur Brooke's narrative poem The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, first published in 1562, two years before Shakespeare's birth, and reprinted in 1587, about eight years before the first performance of Romeo and Juliet.

The story originates from a 1476 story of Mariotto and Gianozza by Masuccio Salernitano, in Il Novelino.

In Luigi da Porto's Istoria novellamente ritrovata di due Nobili Amanti, he gave the story much of its modern form, renaming the lovers to Romeus and Giulietta and shifting the action from Siena (near Florence) to Verona.

ROMEO AND JULIET - What should I look out for?

Look out for the three (and a half sonnets) contained within the text of Romeo and Juliet.

They are found right at the beginning -
Chorus: "Two households both alike in dignity ...";

at the beginning of Act II
Chorus again (though this is cut in the S4K version)
"Now old desire doth in his deathbed lie ...";

and very cleverly when Romeo and Juliet first meet:
"If I profane with my unworthiest hand ..."

Here, Romeo speaks the first four lines, Juliet the next four, Romeo one, Juliet one, Romeo two this time (that makes 12), then Juliet one and finally Romeo one. They kiss and then set off on another sonnet!Which is interrupted after the first four lines by the Nurse:
"Madam, your mother craves a word with you!"

ROMEO AND JULIET - What are the most famous bits?

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene.

(Act I, Prologue)

O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you
(Act I, Scene 4)

My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
(Act I, Scene 5)

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun

(Act II, Scene 2)

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
(Act II, Scene 2)

What's in an name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

(Act II, Scene 2)

Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow

(Act II, Scene 2)

A plague on both your houses!
(Act III, Scene 1)

O, I am fortunes fool!
(Act III, Scene 1)

O true apothecary!
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

(Act V, Scene 3)

O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.

(Act V, Scene 3)

For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo

(Act V, Scene 3)


It is thought that Romeo and Juliet was written in 1595. There are 3,003 lines in Romeo and Juliet (although the First Folio has 3,185) and 24,023 words. Measured by number of lines it is the 12th longest play (Hamlet is the longest at 3,834 lines and 29,844 words)

86.9% of Romeo and Juliet (2,610 lines) is written in verse; 13.1% (393 lines) in prose. (Richard III, King John and King Edward III are written entirely in verse; while The Merry Wives of Windsor has only 12.5% of its lines in verse.

In the original text Romeo speaks 617 lines and Juliet speaks 542.

Up to the year 2000, it is thought there have been 479 films based on, or adapted from Shakespeare's plays. Of these the number one title with 77 versions is Romeo and Juliet. (Hamlet is second with 75, and Othello third with 43)

Probably the two most well-known versions are William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996) starring Leonardo di Caprio, and Leonard Bernstein's brilliant musical West Side Story (1961). Us oldies all remember seeing Franco Zeffrelli's 1968 version - which was beautifully shot - starring Olivia Hussey as Juliet.

The part of Romeo is the 19th largest male role in Shakespeare's canon at 617 lines (Hamlet's the longest at a whopping 1,506). Juliet is the 5th largest female role at 542 lines (Rosalind in As You Like It is the largest at 685 lines).

The are 24 scenes in Romeo and Juliet (excluding Prologues) making it number 10 on the list. The play with the most scenes is Antony and Cleopatra.

In a famous production of Romeo and Juliet at the New Theatre in 1935, Peggy Ashcroft played Juliet, but Laurence Olivier (Romeo) and John Gielgud (Mercutio) famously alternated their parts at each performance.

Romeo and Juliet opens with a Prologue (in fact it also a sonnet, which is very clever!) spoken by Chorus. There are seven other Shakespeare plays which open with a Prologue: Henry IV Part II, Henry V (Chorus speaks before each act), Henry VIII, Pericles, Trolius and Cressida, The To Noble Kinsmen and The Winter's Tale. In Hamlet, there is a Prologue spoken in the play within a play: The Mousetrap!




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