Background information

 Understanding the world of Shakespeare

It has been more than 400 years since William Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet. Many things have changed since then - the language, our sense of humor, and the society around us - which you will clearly see when reading the play. This is why it is crucial to know something about its historical context.

Here, we take you through important background information for analyzing Romeo and Juliet. This can be helpful even if you are only working with a short extract from the play.

The genre of Romeo and Juliet: tragic drama

Romeo and Juliet is a drama or play. The better you understand the characteristics of this genre, the better you will be able to analyze the play. First of all, a play normally has no narrator. This means that we do not have direct access to the characters’ feelings and thoughts. Instead, we must work out the personality and motives of each character by observing what they say (their dialogue) and do (their actions).

Note that this study guide focuses on Romeo and Juliet as a text and not a staged play. The stage version of a play holds a number of interesting elements such as the use of props, clothing, or the actors' movements and facial expressions. However, as these aspects depend on how the director and actors interpret the play, the staging is t...

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