William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet Background notes about William Shakespeare and the play
- Born in 1564 in Stratford, England
- Died in 1616 on his birthday
- Married Anne Hathaway and had three children.
- He worked as an actor, a poet, and a playwright.
- He thrived as a playwright during the monarchs of Elizabeth I and James I.
- Founded and wrote plays for the theatrical company The Lord Chamberlain’s Men
16th-century Elizabethan Theatre
- Religious groups condemned theater for the immorality in the plays.
- All of society attended the theater, including royalty.
- Plays were meant to be performed-- not seen as literature, therefore only rough copies of Shakespeare’s plays survive today.
- Only men were actors at the time, even for female roles.
- Shakespeare’s theater group constructed The Globe, an open-air round theatre.
- The original theatre burned in 1613. A new Globe Theatre was built in London in 1997.
Romeo and Juliet
- Romeo and Juliet was written in Elizabethan English circa 1595.
- Shakespeare derived the plot from another play, which was common at the time.
- Like his other works, this play was celebrated for its experimental and exciting language.
- This was one of his first tragedies; he had mainly written comedies until this time.
- Tragedy- a play dealing with tragic events; usually has an unhappy ending, culminating in the main character’s downfall
- Comedy- a humorous play where the characters triumph over adversity
Romeo and Juliet
- This play is an unusual tragedy because Romeo and Juliet is about love.
- Shakespeare had a flair for mixing comedy, tragedy, and romance in his writing.
- At the time, marriage was not always viewed as a result of love. People married for reasons other than love.
- Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter.
- Iambic pentameter- a type of meter with 10 syllables per line (1 unstressed syllable,
- 1 stressed syllable [5x] in each line)
- iamb= foot pent= 5 5 feet per line
- This type of meter was originally used in dance and by actors to remember lines in theatre.
- The regular rhythm helps dancers keep the beat when dancing and the actors keep the beat when speaking.
- When lines in iambic pentameter do not rhyme and are not grouped in stanzas, they’re called blank verse.
- Rhyme scheme is the ordered pattern of rhymes at the ends of the lines of a poem.
- Letters of the alphabet are used to assign the pattern, e.g., aabbcc.
- A sonnet is a fourteen-line rhyming poem in iambic pentameter.
- Shakespeare’s sonnets contain three four-line stanzas (quatrains) and one couplet.
- The rhyme scheme for a Shakespearean sonnet is abab cdcd efef gg .
- The chorus, or narrator, in Romeo and Juliet speaks in sonnets.
- In Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting, their dialogue is a sonnet.
- A theme is a story’s insight about life.
- Themes in Romeo and Juliet :
- The Power of Attraction, specifically of opposites
- A motif is a recurring element that usually relates to one of the story’s themes.
- Motifs in Romeo and Juliet :
- All the motifs are opposites of one another.
- Foreshadowing is the use of hints to suggest what will happen later in the story.
- Shakespeare uses foreshadowing throughout Romeo and Juliet to provide clues about the fate of the characters in the play.