Offers explanatory notes on pages facing the text of the play, as well as an introduction to Shakespeare's language, life, and theater
Set during five of the most intensely dramatic days ever portrayed, ROMEO AND JULIET was probably written in 1594 or 1595, and first published in a 1597 edition, as transcribed by actors who had performed it. Other editions appeared later, but even the more authoritative versions, such as that of 1599--probably drawn from Shakespeare's own manuscript copies--lack the detailed stage directions present in the actors' transcription; thus, modern editions incorporate several sources. ROMEO AND JULIET is among the most oft performed of Shakespeare's works, and it has been among the most beloved since its earliest days on the stage. Though the title page of the 1597 edition declares that ROMEO AND JULIET had been performed and enjoyed many times prior to its publication, the first extant direct record of the events of a production refer to a 1662 staging, in which the play was probably adapted or altered--adaption was particularly popular in the 17th century. One London stage ran different conclusions on alternative nights; audiences who went home glum on Friday could be uplifted by the play's ending if they returned on Saturday night. The story of ROMEO AND JULIET was derived by Shakespeare from many sources. The version most contemporary to his own was the 1562 poem "The Tragicall History of Romeus and Iuliet" by Arthur Brooke, which itself was an adaptation of a French piece by Pierre Boaistuau, which Boaistuau had adapted from the Italian. Indeed, aspects of the tragic story have recurred throughout Western literature since at least the third century. Shakespeare greatly intensified the pace by compressing a piece which had unfolded over the course of several months into the space of five days--a period in which much transpires at daybreak, including the famous balcony scene where Romeo declares, "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?/It is the east, and Juliet is the sun." Romeo is forced to approach Juliet in secret because of the impassioned rivalry between his family, the Montagues--and Juliet's, the Capulets. Despite the intensity of their family's mutual disdain, the young lovers strive to marry. However, fate intervenes to keep them apart, and, when the Montagues and Capulets discover the folly of their ways, it's too late for Romeo and Juliet.
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