Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of
renowned playwright William Shakespeare about two teenage "star-cross'd lovers"
whose untimely deaths ultimately unite their feuding households. The play has
been highly praised by literary critics for its language and dramatic effect. It
was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during his lifetime and, along with
Hamlet, is one of his most frequently performed plays. Its influence is
still seen today, with the two main characters being widely represented as
archetypal young lovers.
Romeo and Juliet belongs to a tradition of tragic romances stretching
back to Ancient Greece. Its plot is based on an Italian tale, translated into
verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in
1562, and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in
1582. Brooke and Painter were Shakespeare's chief sources of inspiration for
Romeo and Juliet. He borrowed heavily from both, but developed minor
characters, particularly Mercutio and Paris, in order to expand the plot.
Believed to be written between 1591 and 1595, the play was first published in a
quarto version in 1597. This text was of poor quality, and later editions
corrected it, bringing it more in line with Shakespeare's original text.
Shakespeare's use of dramatic structure, especially his expansion of minor
characters and use of subplots to embellish the story, has been praised as an
early sign of his dramatic skill. The play ascribes different poetic forms to
different characters, sometimes changing the form as the character develops.
Romeo, for example, grows more adept at the sonnet form over time. Characters
frequently compare love and death and allude to the role of fate.
Since its original publication, Romeo and Juliet has been adapted
numerous times in stage, film, musical and operatic forms. During the
Restoration, it was revived and heavily revised by William Davenant. David
Garrick's 18th century version, which continued to be performed on and into the
Victorian era, also modified several scenes, removing material then considered
indecent. Performances in the 19th century, including Charlotte Cushman's,
restored the original text, and focused on greater realism. John Gielgud's 1935
version kept very close to Shakespeare's text, and used Elizabethan costumes and
staging to enhance the drama.
— Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Adults looking for a dramatically abridged version of Shakespeare's tragic love story with some lovely backdrops of Verona may find something to savor in Early's (Sleeping Beauty; William Tell) picture-book rendition. She gives a nod to several medieval fresco artists and to such Renaissance painters as Michelangelo and Botticelli, whose ornate patterns and borders may well be the inspiration for her paintings. A sharp attention to detail-- including the exquisite geometric designs of palace floors, elaborate period dress, authentic Verona streetscapes and the delicate strands of Juliet's golden tresses--distinguishes Early's art, but the lovers' faces are mask-like, and even the most dramatic of scenes appear to be static. Early's narrative paraphrases the action of this drama while showcasing some of the most legendary lines from the Bard's quill. But these clunky juxtapositions detract from Shakespeare's own words, as in this example: "Lord Capulet replied that Juliet was too young . Why not wait a little longer? `Let two more summers wither in their pride ere we may think her ripe to be a bride,' he entreated." Children will be better off waiting for the original--and adults better off returning to it. All ages.