Physical setting

General points on physical setting

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is primarily set in the city of Verona, Italy, with a few scenes taking place in Mantua, another northern Italian city (the place to which Romeo is banished). In Elizabethan England, Italians were considered very passionate people, partly due to the heat in Italy, so this setting seems fitting for a tragic love story. In this way, the setting helps underline the violence of the young lovers’ emotions.

It is a bit harder to establish the time period in which the story is supposed to take place. We know that Shakespeare wrote the play in the early 1590s (during the Elizabethan era) and that he based his story on older sources. Shakespeare himself never visited Italy, but he includes several typical features of the Elizabethan era in the play, such as violent street gangs and the plague. The general consensus seems to be that the play takes place sometime in the 1300s, but we can still read the play as a mirror of the values and beliefs of Elizabethan England.

If you are working with the play as a whole, it is also an important point that the setting and order of the individual scenes contribute to the narrative technique of the play. Shakespeare often switches - almost like an action film - between dramatic scenes taking place in the open streets of the city and more quiet scenes taking place in the claustrophobic Capulet home. Often, the latter scenes slow d...

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