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Romeo and Juliet

Written: 1595; Texts: Quartos 1597, 1599, First Folio 1623 (Tragedy)
Source: Brooke, Arthur (?-1563). The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet (English translation in 1562)
Characters: Romeo, Juliet, Friar Lawrence, Capulet, Nurse, Mercutio, Benvolio, Lady Capulet, Prince Escalus, Paris, Montague, Tybalt
Setting: Verona
Time: AD 1303

Romeo and Juliet is assumed to have been written in 1595 chiefly, but not exclusively, based on the Nurse's ramblings in Act 1, Scene 3, in which she attempts to establish Juliet's age in relation to an earthquake. “But, as I said, / On Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen. / That shall she. Marry, I remember it well. / ‘Tis since the earthquake now eleven years, / And she was weaned (I never shall forget it) / Of all the days of the year, upon that day.” Scholars assume the Nurse is referring to the London earthquake of April 6, 1580, which terrorized theater audiences. The fact that this play is set in Verona a few hundred years earlier is irrelevant.

The versions of this play that today's audiences read or watch may be based on some combination of the bad quarto (1597), the good quarto (1599), the folios, and future editors' and directors' emendations to any or all of the above. There is no “authoritative” text.

You and Thee

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In Henry IV Part 1, in the exchange between Hotspur and Owen Glendower, about calling up devils from the vasty deep, Hotspur deliberately shifts from the word you to thee when he addresses Glendower. You was often used to convey respect while thee was used when speaking to someone of inferior rank,
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A Plague and a Scourge

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Mercutio’s curse, “A plague o’ both your houses!” is fulfilled, although not literally. Despite the numerous ways scores of characters die in Shakespeare’s plays, no one in this play or any other Shakespeare play dies of the plague. But the plague is the proximate cause of Romeo’s and Juliet’s deaths.  When Friar Lawrence sends Friar John to deliver a letter to Romeo telling him of Juliet’s fake death,
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Tombs and Wombs

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Friar Lawrence’s rumination on soil as both a tomb and a womb works as a metaphor of one of the play’s central themes. The “misadventure’d piteous overthrows” of  Romeo and Juliet in the Capulet tomb at the end of the play gave birth to a growth of amity between their two families.
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Plagiarizing Himself

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Shakespeare often reused images and metaphors, stealing from himself. The simile in Friar Lawrence’s musing from Romeo and Juliet,

And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume.

is echoed in the metaphor of the third quatrain of  Sonnet 73.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
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Caves, Temples & Palaces

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Juliet’s biting reference to Romeo as “a gorgeous palace,” when she hears that Romeo has killed her cousin, contrasts with Romeo’s earlier reference to Juliet as “this holy shrine.” Both metaphors are echoed about fifteen years later near the end of Shakespeare’s career when Miranda in The Tempest speaks of Ferdinand in a similar figure of speech.
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Richard III and the Sonnet

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“Now is the winter of our discontent” is nearly as familiar as Hamlet’s, “To be, or not to be” and Mark Antony’s, “Friends, Romans, countrymen”. Not one of these three passages is a dramatic dialogue. Mark Antony addresses a large Roman crowd in an extended speech. Hamlet muses to himself in a soliloquy while we the audience listen in. Richard, however,
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Birds — Martial and Marital

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In Hamlet (1.1.432), a cock trumpets in the morn, a bird more fitting to the combative nature of Hamlet than the lark that heralds the morn after the first night of marital bliss in Romeo and Juliet (3.5.6).
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Sonnets in Romeo and Juliet

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Shakespeare, who had begun writing his sonnets sometime in the 1590’s, decided that the form would be useful in Romeo and Juliet. In fact, he wrote four sonnets in the play. The first, spoken by a chorus, opens Act 1. The second appears in Act 1, Scene 5, and it is dialogue spoken by Romeo and Juliet.
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Friars, Friends and Deceivers

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Friar Francis in Much Ado About Nothing (4.1.221), like Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, is a sympathetic character who aids the romantic interests of the young lovers. Both friars fashion a conspiracy whose central conceit is the fake death of the lady. Friars fare better than the Catholic hierarchy in Shakespeare’s plays, even though the friars are as devious in their means as cardinals and archbishops.
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Two households, both alike in dignity

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Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudgeParenthesis
break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.Antanaclesis & Synecdoche
From forth the fatal loins of these two foesAlliteration & Synecdoche
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;Metaphor
Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows
Doth with their deathAlliteration 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,Parenthesis
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here Alliterationshall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.Parenthesis & Synecdoche

Act 1
Scene Prologue
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Connected Notes:
Sonnets in Romeo and Juliet, Richard III and the Sonnet

I strike quickly, being mov’d

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Sampson
I strike quickly, being mov’d.
Gregory
But art not quickly mov’d to strike.
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Act 1
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Line 6

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Black and portendous must this humor prove

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Black and portendous must this humor prove,
Unless good counsel may the cause remove.
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 118

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O, where is Romeo? Saw you him today?

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Lady Montague
O, where is Romeo? Saw you him today?
Right glad I am he was not at this fray.
Benvolio
Madam, an hour before the worshiped sun
Peered forth the golden window of the east,
A troubled mind drove me to walk abroad,
Where underneath the grove of sycamore
That westward rooteth from this city side,
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 118

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Ay me, sad hours seem long.

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Ay me, sad hours seem long.
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 138

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Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love

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Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.
Why then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
O any thing, of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity,
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms,
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 152

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A right fair mark, fair coz, is soonest hit

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Benvolio
A right fair mark, fair coz, is soonest hit.
Romeo
Well in that hit you miss. She’ll not be hit
With Cupid’s arrow. She hath Dian’s wit,
And, in strong proof of chastity well armed,
From love’s weak childish bow she lives uncharmed.
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 215

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He that is strooken blind cannot forget

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He that is strooken blind cannot forget
The precious treasure of his eyesight lost.
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 241

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Younger than she are happy mothers made

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Paris
Younger than she are happy mothers made.
Capulet 
And too soon marred are those so early made.
Earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she;
She’s the hopeful lady of my earth.
But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart;
My will to her consent is but a part.
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Act 1
Scene 2
Line 12

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Such comfort as do lusty young men feel

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Such comfort as do lusty young men feel
When well-apparell’d April on the heel
Of limping winter treads, even such delight
Among fresh fennel buds shall you this night
Inherit at my house; hear all, all see;
And like her most whose merit most shall be.
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Act 1
Scene 2
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