Background Notes

William Shakespeare and and Shakespeare: A brief biography

• Shakespeare was born on , 1564 in Stratford-on-Avon, to an upper/ middle class family.

Shakespeare: A brief biography

• He learned and Greek history in his grammar school as a child. This would explain the Latin and Greek references in his works. • There is not evidence that Shakespeare continued his schooling after elementary school. Shakespeare: A Brief Biography

In 1582 at the age of 18, he married who was 26.

She was pregnant before they were married. Shakespeare: A Brief Biography

• After a few years of marriage, Shakespeare left Stratford-on-Avon and his family for to pursue his career in and writing. Shakespeare: A Brief Biography

• Shakespeare wrote and acted with The ’s Men. This was an acting troupe that would perform during Shakespeare’s time. Shakespeare: A Brief Biography

• It is believed that Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616. • In his will, Shakespeare left his daughters the majority of his wealth and possessions. He left his wife his “second best ”.

Shakespeare: A Brief Biography

• The inscription on his tomb states: "Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.” Shakespeare wrote this because in his time, old bodies were dug up and burned to make room for new burials. Shakespeare despised this treatment of bodies, so he wrote this.

Romeo and Juliet and Elizabethan Theater • Shakespeare did not create the story of . In fact, it was done at least twice before. • The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet was written by Arthur Brooke in 1562. This is considered Shakespeare’s chief source for Romeo and Juliet. • However, the Roman myth, Thisbe and Pyramus, is also a story with the same plot as Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet and Elizabethan Theater • Much of Shakespeare’s wealth came from his investment in The Globe Theater. • The Globe Theater was the primary home of Shakespeare’s acting company beginning in late 1599. Romeo and Juliet and Elizabethan Theater • Anyone could attend a performance at The Globe. However, where the person watched it from depended on how much he or she could afford. • Groundlings, or poor people, stood closest to the stage, which cost a penny. • People could pay a $.02 to sit in a seat and another penny for a cushion. • Queen Elizabeth also frequently attended the theater. This time was called The . Romeo and Juliet and Elizabethan Theater • Because of the lack of special effects in the Elizabethan Era, the scenery, costumes, and were used to set the mood for the . • During the Elizabethan Era, all parts were played by males (even female parts). Romeo and Juliet

By The

Romeo’s family, the Montagues, have a long standing feud with Juliet’s family, the Capulets. While the audience never learns about the source of the ancient quarrel, we do learn that it has recently grown stronger. and Romeo and Juliet begins as a comedy but ends as a tragedy. Elements of a tragedy Elements of a comedy •Must have a /heroine •A struggle of young lovers to •Ends in the death of many of the main overcome difficulty that is often characters presented by elders

•Separation and unification •Heightened tensions, often within a family

The shift from comedy to tragedy is what sets Romeo and Juliet apart from the rest of Shakespeare’s plays. Themes Love •The power of love •Love as a cause for violence Hate

•Hate as a forced emotion

Fate •The inevitability of fate


“Star-crossed lovers” refers to two people who are in love but have conflicting astrological signs. In Shakespeare’s times, people believed the course of their lives was determined by the exact second they were born.


- Is a Montague - 16 years old - Cute, smart, sensitive and romantic Lady Montague

• Romeo’s Mom Lord Montague

• Romeo’s dad • Worries about Romeo’s sadness Balthasar

• Romeo’s servant Abram

• Montague’s servant • Fights Sampson and Gregory in the beginning

• Romeo’s cousin & friend • Tries to break-up fights and keep the peace.


• is a Capulet, 13 yrs old

• Juliet is very close with the . Lord Capulet

• Juliet’s dad Lady Capulet

• Juliet’s mom • Ineffectual mother- relies on the nurse to “mother” Juliet Nurse

• Has cared for Juliet since she was born • Vulgar, long-winded, loyal and a confidante to Juliet

Gregory & Sampson

• Servants to the Capulets • Start a fight w/ Montagues at the beginning of the play

• Juliet’s cousin • Quick tempered

• Related to • Good friends W/ Romeo • Believes love is about the physical contact and nothing else. Prince Escalus

• Prince of • Related to Mercutio and

• Related to the prince • Preferred by the Capulets to marry Juliet

• The woman who Romeo is obsessed with at the beginning of the play. The

• Like a pharmacist • He sells the poison to Romeo. • Values money more than Friar Lawrence

• Friend to Romeo and Juliet • Kind, civic-minded • Secretly marries & J in hopes that their marriage will end the feud. • He is a Catholic holy man and also familiar with and herbs. Friar John

• A Catholic holy man Setting The story is set in the late 1500s mostly in the town of Verona, . However, there are a few acts set in , Italy a smaller town just a few miles away. Timeline Sunday – Act One Monday – Act Two Tuesday – Act Three Wednesday – Act Four Thursday – Act Five