Romeo & Juliet

Romeo & Juliet

The most likely source for Romeo & Juliet was Dante‘s “Purgatorio” and Arthur Brooke‘s English translation entitled “Tragicall Historye of Romeus & Juliet” (1562), first registered at the Stationer’s Office in 22nd January 1607 and only featuring in the First Folio of 1623 (F1). This was based on a French translation of a poem by Boiastuau of Bandello’s. Charlton Ogburn suggests the play was probably written when the Earl of Oxford was having an extra-marital affair with Queen Elizabeth’s Lady-in-Waiting, Anne Vavasour around the time when he was obliged to return living with his wife, Anne Cecil (late 1581). In my view this was overlaid onto the warring families of Montecchi and Capelleti who lived in 13th century Italy. The play was first performed in 1595 and published first in a corrupt Quarto (1597) and an authentic one in 1599 before being included in the Folio of 1623. Shakespeare’s play Romeo & Juliet was presented at the Curtain Theatre an amphitheatre situated in Curtain Close, Finsbury Fields, Shoreditch, by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men from October 1587. Romeo & Juliet was first published by Cuthbert Burbage (1599), the same year that the Globe Theatre opened with the other Shakespeare play Julius Caesar. His copyright was bought by Nicholas Ling who passed it on to John Smethwick, Master Warden at the Stationer’s Office who had a shop in Fleet Street. John Danter (?-1599), in company with Henry Chettle, printed two of Shakespeare’s quartos for the distributor Thomas Millington and Edward White (1594) as well as a pirated version of Romeo & Juliet (1597). They were especially poor quality and Danter was reprimanded for illegal printing.

Romancing the Rose

A feud erupts in Verona, Italy between two warring families the Montagues and Capulets where two servants, Benvolio and Tybalt fight a duel. The Prince of Verona eventually quells the disagreement and decrees that any future outbreak or disturbance will be punished with death. We soon discover that lady Montague is worried about her son’s (Romeo) melancholic mood, which we are informed by his cousin Benvolio is due to his unrequited love for Rosaline who has refused his affections. Benvolio persuades Romeo, against his better judgement to attend a party given by the Capulets and there compare Rosaline with other lovely ladies. Meanwhile we are informed that the young count Paris currently seeks the hand of the Capulet’s daughter Juliet. Romeo and Benvolio arrive masked at the ball and meet the charming Juliet but they are spotted by Tybalt and they are restrained by Lord Capulet. This scene only fuels the romance between Romeo and Juliet who secretly declare their undying love for each other. In act II we are witness to the famous balcony scene “Romeo, Romeo where for art thou…..” in which the lovers declare their intention to marry at any cost and despite the enmity between their families. Meanwhile Benvolio receives news that Tybalt has issued a secret challenge to Romeo and he then makes arrangements for a secret wedding ceremony to be held. Soon after a fight breaks out between Mercutio and Tybalt with Romeo attempting to resolve the dispute. However, Mercutio is killed and Romeo swears vengeance, and swiftly killing Tybalt. Although now secretly married to Juliet Romeo is nevertheless banished and despondent is saved from killing himself by the local Friar, Laurence. He is then instructed to journey to Juliet’s side for a parting comfort and then exile himself in Mantua. Meanwhile Capulet has agreed to Paris’ suit for the hand of Juliet, not realising that she has already secretly wed Romeo. Juliet and Romeo spend their first and last night together and at daybreak he leaves for Mantua. Paris calls upon the Friar to arrange the wedding of Juliet and he is then visited by her anxious to resolve the matter of Paris’ suit. The old Friar hatches a plan for Juliet to take a sleeping draught on the eve of her wedding so that to all intents and purposes she appears to have died. Thus avoiding a marriage to Paris her body can then be taken to the Capulets’ vaults where she can be revived.
In act V Romeo is informed at Mantua by Balthazar that Juliet has died and he stricken with anguish decides to poison himself. Moreover, the Friar’s messenger to Romeo has been delayed and he then goes immediately to the vault where Paris has strewn flowers over the body of Juliet. Paris naturally attacks Romeo but in the skirmish is killed. Romeo then says a last fond farewell to his beloved, takes the poison and dies himself. Later Juliet revives from the drug administered by the Friar and realising that Romeo is now dead, takes a dagger and kills herself. The two warring families gather together in mutual remorse and grief and the Friar is left to explain the unnatural circumstance which caused their demise.

The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:


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