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Introduction to Romeo and Juliet by Mario DiGangi
“Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” So familiar is Romeo and Juliet to us that it takes an act of conscious will to imagine a time when Juliet’s question was not a cliché. In its immediate dramatic context, Juliet’s question is the spontaneous, tentative, and private expression of a young woman’s burgeoning erotic desire. It also serves to confirm Juliet’s true feelings for Romeo, who overhears her confession from beneath her window. Yet in our own time, Juliet’s anguished question is repeated again and again in the classroom, on the stage, and in popular culture as part of an enduring myth of romantic love associated with Shakespeare’s play. As a result, we are perhaps far more likely to regard “Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” as something that Shakespeare, rather than Juliet, said. Detached from its dramatic context, Juliet’s question can be taken as a prime example of the Bard’s romantic lyricism, or, less reverently, as a piece of romantic sentiment irresistibly ripe for burlesque—perhaps most memorably in Bugs Bunny’s absurdly exaggerated, cross-dressed performance of Juliet’s passion.
The modern understanding of Romeo and Juliet as archetypical tragic lovers has been shaped by centuries of performance history and critical commentary, and, more recently, by popular movies and secondary school curricula. Yet Elizabethan audiences might have been surprised to find that they were being asked to regard this pair of contemporary Italian adolescents as serious tragic protagonists. The most elevated dramatic genre, tragedy traditionally dealt with the fall of great men—“great” because both aristocratic and historically important. Romeo and Juliet are neither. Thus part of the Chorus’s job is to persuade his audience to bring “patient ears” to this unconventional, but nonetheless “piteous” and “fearful,” tragedy featuring “star-crossed lovers” rather than great historical figures (Prologue 13, 7, 9, 6). By defining Romeo and Juliet as “star-crossed lovers” instead of as son and daughter, boy and girl, Montague and Capulet, or husband and wife, the Prologue places the protagonists in a lofty tradition of legendary and historical tragic couples such as Dido and Aeneas and Antony and Cleopatra. Romeo and Juliet, however, are non-noble, nonlegendary lovers whose story originated not in ancient epic or historical narratives but in modern romances. As such, an Elizabethan audience might well have felt skeptical about the value of a tragedy centered on their lives and loves. Shakespeare’s unconventional protagonists might have further alienated the sympathies of many London playgoers through their association with Catholicism, the extremely young age at which they enter into a clandestine marriage,
and their sacrilegious acts of suicide.
In order to find Romeo and Juliet figures worthy of tragic treatment, then, Shakespeare’s audience would have to find value in their love. The Prologue’s reference to the protagonists as “star-crossed” begins to establish this value by attributing cosmic significance to their story. But the value of Romeo and Juliet’s experience emerges most forcefully from the way that Shakespeare invests their love with depth and dimension as a force of personal and social change. Whereas the mature protagonists of Shakespeare’s later love tragedies Othello and Antony and Cleopatra discover that their personal histories and social identities thwart their ability to sustain romantic intimacy, the young lovers of Romeo and Juliet discover that romantic intimacy provides an opportunity to challenge and transform their inherited social identities as enemies. Romeo and Juliet believe that they can shape a future that will reward their own standards of value. In one of the play’s most poignant moments, Romeo assures Juliet that “these woes shall serve / For sweet discourses in our times to come” (3.5.51–52). (The more experienced Friar regards the future with greater apprehension: “So smile the heavens upon this holy act / That after-hours with sorrow chide us not” [2.6.1–2]). Like the protagonists of Shakespeare’s later tragedies, however, Romeo and Juliet are not simply “star-crossed” victims of fate: they actively participate in bringing about the woes that will prevent a sweeter future from being realized. Evading public recognition of the transformations wrought by their love, Romeo and Juliet disastrously underestimate the power exerted over their lives by the very familial and social forces whose standards of value they have attempted to circumvent.
Despite all the misgivings an Elizabethan or modern audience might feel about the prudence of the young lovers’ actions, Shakespeare enlists our sympathies by depicting their love as a potential force of change in a society paralyzed by self-consuming passions. In the first part of the play, both Romeo’s infatuation with Rosaline and the recursive violence of the feud are driven by passions that are paradoxically self-sustaining and self-defeating. The opening scene encapsulates the ethos of the feud through the aimless banter of two idle servants, whose bawdy puns on “stand,” “tool,” and “naked weapon” sexualize the violent encounters between Verona’s young men (1.1.10, 29, 31). Charged by the erotic energy of aggressive masculinity, the feud continues to run on its own juices, detached from any evident origin or goal.
Although Romeo has removed himself from the feud’s sterile cycle of violence, he is stuck in a no less sterile identity as a Petrarchan lover. In the literary tradition derived from the fourteenth-century Italian poet Petrarch, the lover uses antithetical phrases such as “bright smoke,” “cold fire,” and “sick health” to express the paradoxical mixture of joy and sorrow he feels in devoting himself to a woman who does not return his affection (1.1.174). Caught in a highly stylized representation of love that prevents him from experiencing desire as an immediate, deeply felt emotion, Romeo languishes in melancholy solitude. Montague worries that his sole heir will fail to blossom into a healthy and prosperous young man, that he will wither like “the bud bit with an envious worm / Ere he can spread his sweet leaves to the air / Or dedicate his beauty to the same” (1.1.145–147). This image of thwarted love as a withering bud will later be replaced by Juliet’s hopeful image of love’s flourishing: “This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath, / May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet” (2.2.121–122). Rosaline, impervious to love’s “ripening” powers, will remain an unopened bud frozen in time; in dedicating his life to her service, Romeo must therefore “live dead” (1.1.218).
Encouraging Romeo to regard Rosaline as an object of sexual desire, not a subject of poetic adoration, Mercutio attempts to return his lovesick friend to the social world of aggressive masculinity from which he has strayed. In Shakespeare’s primary source for Romeo and Juliet, Arthur Brooke’s narrative poem The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet (1562), Mercutio appears in a single passage as a courtier who competes with Romeus for Juliet’s love. In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio competes with women for Romeo’s love, trying to cure his friend of the romantic infatuations that keep him from male society. Echoing Sampson and Gregory’s punning associations between sex and violence in the play’s first scene, Mercutio claims that Romeo can only be “move[d]” or “stirre[d]” out of his amorous lethargy by taking sexual possession of his mistress (2.1.16). Whereas Petrarchan poetry bestows a unique value on the chaste mistress, Mercutio believes that Romeo should understand Rosaline as a collection of body parts—“bright eyes,” “scarlet lip,” “fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh”—that are conveniently available “to raise [him] up,” or stimulate him into an erection (2.1.18–20, 30).
Romeo’s idealistic Petrarchanism and Mercutio’s coarse anti-Petrarchanism seem to represent antithetical positions on love. Yet both attitudes devalue the mutuality of love, and hence love’s transformative capacities, by erasing the woman’s role as an actively desiring partner. For Romeo, Rosaline is to be praised from afar; for Mercutio, Rosaline is to be enjoyed in the flesh. That Rosaline apparently desires only to protect herself from the “siege of loving terms” and the lover’s “assailing eyes” seems not to matter much to either man (1.1.206–207).
Living up to the “good will” of his name, Benvolio offers Romeo an escape from the narcissistic sterility of Petrarchan love. He does so, surprisingly, by introducing an analogy between love and commerce. Earlier, Romeo had drawn a different analogy between sexuality and economics in describing Rosaline’s preservation of her virginity as a hoarding of riches. By preserving her virginity, Rosaline paradoxically “makes huge waste” of her beauty, because she will not have any children that might inherit and preserve that beauty (1.1.212). This language of hoarding associates Rosaline with the repellent figure of the miser or usurer, later described by Friar Laurence as one who “abound’st in all” and fails to make “true use” of his riches (3.3.123–124). Significantly, Benvolio evokes a very different model of financial exchange when he promises to help Romeo to forget Rosaline: “I’ll pay that doctrine or else die in debt” (1.1.232). By playfully “indebting” his life to Romeo, Benvolio challenges himself to fulfill his promise to teach Romeo a new “doctrine” of love. Benvolio’s view of economics as a risky venture that can produce profit (“pay”) as well as loss (“debt”) describes the quality of mutual exchange that will characterize the love between Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare would develop this metaphor of love as economic exchange at greater length in The Merchant of Venice, but in Romeo and Juliet it serves to suggest the rewards and risks, and hence the value, of the “true use” of love.
Both the rewards and risks of love are apparent in Romeo and Juliet’s first conversation. When they meet at the Capulet feast, Romeo and Juliet speak to each other in alternating lines of dialogue that combine to form a fourteen-line sonnet. While their dialogue produces a conventional poetic form, their mutual authorship of this poem significantly moves beyond Petrarchan convention in giving the woman an active voice of desire. By putting Petrarchan language to a less narcissistic use, Romeo reaches out across the borders that are everywhere constructed in Verona: significantly, the topic of the sonnet is a pilgrimage, a healing journey to a new land. Moreover, the sonnet’s religious imagery of giving and taking sin echoes Benvolio’s economic imagery of giving and taking payment. Romeo offers Juliet a kiss as amends for any offense done by his hand; when Juliet grants his prayer with a kiss, Romeo claims that his lips have purged or paid for the sin of his hand. Juliet, however, keeps the exchange going. She protests that Romeo’s kiss has transferred his sin to her lips, tacitly inviting him to take back his sin through another kiss. Hence both have sinned, and both have pardoned each other’s sin: as Romeo will later explain to the Friar, “one hath wounded [him] / That’s by [him] wounded” (2.3.50–51). When Romeo and Juliet discover each other’s true identity, they express their shock through a paradoxical language of simultaneous loss and gain. Romeo exclaims, “O dear account! My life is my foe’s debt”; Juliet laments, “My only love sprung from my only hate” (1.5.116, 136). Although the imagery of death and hatred in these lines seems to foreshadow the lovers’ demise, Romeo and Juliet must acknowledge the mutual risk and sacrifice involved in love before they can begin to fashion their new identities as lovers.
If Juliet appears to demonstrate greater emotional maturity about love and more courage in the face of adversity than Romeo, it might well be because she faces greater risks by engaging in a clandestine romance. In the Renaissance, much greater value was placed on female chastity than male chastity, since the orderly legal transmission of a man’s name and property to his heirs was dependent on the secure knowledge that his children were really his own. Even for a woman to speak openly about her sexual desires could earn her a reputation as a whore. The play’s famous balcony scene significantly focuses on the risks Juliet takes in expressing her sexual desires to a young man she has just met. Since Romeo has overheard her confession of love, Juliet cannot take shelter in the conventional postures of female modesty. Thus, she rightly worries that Romeo might perceive her behavior as “light”—that is, whorish (2.2.99). Whereas Romeo rather insouciantly anticipates that Juliet will simply “cast . . . off” her virginity, it is left to Juliet to raise the issue of marriage in response to his complaint about being left “unsatisfied,” a word with strong sexual connotations (2.2.125).
It is not that Romeo pressures Juliet into a sexual relationship. Juliet powerfully articulates her sexual desires in a soliloquy that calls upon night to veil the world in darkness so that she and Romeo might secretly perform their “amorous rites” (3.2.8). Juliet’s gorgeously sensuous language of passion imparts great seriousness and depth to her feelings, a view of female sexuality not always found in Shakespeare. For instance, in the contemporary narrative poem Venus and Adonis, Venus, the goddess of love, demonstrates little of Juliet’s solemn grace in her attempt to seduce the beautiful mortal boy Adonis. Like Juliet, Venus believes that acts of love are best performed in the dark, yet Venus’s attitude toward sex is unabashedly “light”: “Art thou ashamed to kiss? Then wink again, / And I will wink. So shall the day seem night. / Love keeps his revels where there are but twain. /Be bold to play—our sport is not in sight” (121–124). For the audience to find value in Juliet’s passion, and in her willingness to die for that passion, she must neither speak nor act like the aggressively frolicsome Venus. Moreover, Juliet must acknowledge the importance of marriage as the social institution that legitimizes sexuality.
Marriage has been Juliet’s destiny from the beginning of the play. The various episodes of consultation (1.2), persuasion (1.3), dispute (3.5), and courtship (4.1) that precede her arranged marriage to Paris reveal the collective effort spent on verbally negotiating the precise conditions under which that destiny will be fulfilled. Juliet accepts her destiny to become a wife. Nonetheless, she bypasses the judgment of the familial and social authorities that give marriage its public validity when she independently determines, from an argument that she conducts with herself, that Romeo is worthy to be her husband. Affirming that a rose “[b]y any other word would smell as sweet,” Juliet concludes that Romeo’s value derives from his inherent “perfection,” not from the familial or social identity signified by his name (2.2.44, 46). As their secret relationship brings the lovers into open conflict with familial and social authorities, Juliet’s belief that he and Romeo can simply refuse their inherited identities is revealed to be an untenable, if appealing, fantasy.
Through its focus on the power of language to shape experience, the play suggests that Romeo and Juliet cannot escape from conventional “names” (or social identities) because, as social beings, they cannot escape from conventional “words” (or names). Even the intensely personal and poetic language through which Romeo and Juliet fashion their secret romance depends on a common understanding of words such as “rose” and “sweet” (2.2.43, 72). Words and their meanings are determined by social convention, not by individuals; and though individuals have a certain freedom in how they use and interpret language, that freedom is also circumscribed by the particular contexts in which communication occurs. Thus the sweetness of the rose’s smell to Juliet is not necessarily the same sweetness that she experiences in the “sweet sorrow” of parting from Romeo or that she attributes to the “sweet Nurse” who bears “sweet news” (2.2.187; 2.5.21, 23); or that Romeo mocks in the “sweet goose” Mercutio (2.4.76); or that Paris values in the “sweet water” that he sprinkles on the tomb of his “[s]weet flower” (5.3.14, 12). Just as Juliet cannot control the multiple meanings that the word “sweet” might acquire as it travels through the play, so she cannot control the meanings of Romeo’s “name” or social identity as he travels through Verona in his multiple roles as son, friend, husband, subject, and enemy.
Juliet’s insistence on determining for herself the value of Romeo’s “perfection” suggests both the appeal and the danger of their love. Romeo and Juliet assume that they have the power to negotiate their love privately, to remove it from the realm of public knowledge and authorization. This assumption leads Juliet to conclude her meditation on naming with a fantasy in which Romeo gets everything for giving up nothing: “Romeo, doff thy name, / And for thy name, which is no part of thee, / Take all myself” (2.2.47–49). Juliet will later claim that her “bounty is as boundless” and her “love as deep” as the sea; consequently, “The more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite” (2.2.134–135). In this formulation, love no longer involves giving and taking, gaining and losing; instead, it has the miraculous power to produce infinite gain from infinite giving. It is this view of a constant, bountiful, and mutually transformative love that readers and playgoers have celebrated in Romeo and Juliet. Yet this view of love also involves a miscalculation about the relationship between the private and the public that sets in motion the lovers’ demise.
The play’s action overtly shifts to tragedy with Mercutio’s death, for which Romeo must bear some responsibility. Having married Juliet, Romeo finds himself in a paradoxical position: he has altered his social status through an alliance with the Capulet family, but he cannot give that alteration in status a social meaning by naming his kinship to Tybalt. In response to Tybalt’s challenge, Romeo’s cryptic assurance that he “love[s]” Tybalt and “tender[s]” the name of Capulet as “dearly as [his] own” thus cannot help but be misunderstood (3.1.66, 68–69). Unaware of Romeo’s new kinship with the Capulets, Mercutio regards Romeo’s tranquil response to Tybalt’s insults as a “dishonorable, vile submission” (3.1.70). Romeo’s submission is “vile” because in failing to refute Tybalt’s charge of “villainy” he dishonors his own name and, by association, Mercutio’s name. The highly rhetorical, equivocal language that serves Romeo and Juliet so well in expressing the bittersweet emotions of love fails dismally in charged social situations. Romeo discovers that painful truth here, as Juliet will discover it when her father flatly rejects the “[c]hopped logic” she uses to reject his offer of Paris (3.5.148). Racked with guilt, grief, and anger over Mercutio’s death, Romeo challenges Tybalt to a duel by returning to him the name of “villain” (3.1.122). With tragic consequences, Romeo finally acts in accordance with the violent code of masculine honor he has heretofore resisted.
Ironically, by dueling Tybalt, Romeo only confirms his dishonorable reputation as a “villain.” Not only do Capulet’s wife, Paris, and even Juliet identify Romeo as a “villain,” but the Prince, whose words have the power to determine social identity, new baptizes and banishes him as a “vile” participant in “rude brawls” (3.1.138,186). Romeo’s and Juliet’s tormented reiterations of the word “banishèd,” which Romeo calls “death mistermed” (3.3.21), point up the tragic irony that their private attempt to redefine their own identities has resulted in the highly public imposition of a stigmatized criminal identity. Less publicly, but with no less disastrous an impact on the choices Juliet will make, Capulet new baptizes his daughter as a “[d]isobedient wretch,” “green sickness carrion,” “young baggage,” “wretched, puling fool,” and so on (3.5.159, 155, 159, 183). Recalling the Prince’s sentence upon Romeo, Capulet threatens forever to banish Juliet from his care should she refuse her new identity as Paris’s bride.
As they make the decisions that rush them toward their violent deaths, Romeo and Juliet provide little indication that they have acquired any deeper insight into the causes of their tragic demise. In Shakespeare’s later love tragedies, protagonists such as Othello and Cleopatra reveal an acute concern for how they will be remembered after their deaths. Through moving final speeches and highly theatrical suicides, they attempt to demonstrate to those who will report their deaths that they have achieved a complex understanding of their tragic circumstances and of the social and moral impact of their actions. Late in the play, Romeo comes to refer to himself as a “man,” as if to acknowledge the maturity that accompanies suffering (5.3.59). Yet neither Romeo nor Juliet overtly ponders the social or moral implications of the circumstances and choices that have brought about their shared tragedy.
Denying Romeo and Juliet the privacy that might encourage such self-reflection, the social world of Verona relentlessly impinges upon the isolation of the tomb in which they spend their last moments. Although Paris and Romeo each approach the Capulet tomb alone and in secret, their unfortunate encounter results in the second mortal duel that Romeo has unsuccessfully tried to avoid. Once in the tomb, Romeo addresses not only Juliet but also Paris, Tybalt, and Death, the male rivals and enemies who silently witness the act of fidelity he undertakes with the aid of the “true apothecary[’s]” poison (5.3.119). Prior to ingesting the Friar’s sleeping potion, Juliet, too, had imagined the tomb as a crowded place, packed with the bones of her ancestors and stalked by Tybalt’s ghost. Juliet awakens to find herself in the cold company not of the silent dead, as she had initially feared, but of Friar Laurence, who hurriedly indicates Romeo’s lifeless body slumped at her side and recommends that she spend the rest of her days in a convent. In the few moments of solitude between the Friar’s furtive departure and the watch’s clamorous arrival, Juliet has time only to reject the new identity that social authority would determine for her, choosing instead to share Romeo’s fate.
Shakespearean tragedies typically close with a reconstitution of social order around the slain bodies of the protagonists. In the face of so much suffering and death, the survivors’ attempts to draw a moral, to assert that justice (whether human or divine) has been served, or to affirm a brighter future are always vulnerable to the undercutting forces of irony and skepticism. The conclusion of each Shakespearean tragedy achieves a different tension between hope and despair, a different accounting of the price paid for the recognition of error and the resolution of conflict. The deaths of Romeo and Juliet end the feud, thus implying that a social value or “true use” might be made of even the most intensely antisocial romantic love. Yet we are left to ponder exactly what kind of value has been attributed to these “[p]oor sacrifices” (5.3.304). By promising to erect gold statues of each other’s children, do Montague and Capulet prove that former enemies can “tender” each other’s names as “dearly as [their] own,” as Romeo had failed to assure Tybalt (3.1.68, 69)? Or are they still competing for social preeminence, crudely associating the value of their children’s lives with the value of gold?
The Prince locates the lasting value of the couple’s “true and faithful” love not in their golden statues, but in the legacy of their tragic narrative: “For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo” (5.3.302, 309–310). Although sympathetic to the couple’s suffering, the Prince’s closing statement attempts to mold the play’s messily concatenated series of errors, accidents, deceptions, and rash actions into an artfully shaped, purposeful, and thereby consoling “story of . . . woe.” The Prince, that is, directs us to find the meaning of the tragedy in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, not in the deaths of his own kinsmen, Mercutio and Paris, or of Tybalt, or of Montague’s wife. Yet it should not escape our notice that, in a significant departure from his source, Shakespeare has loaded this final scene of carnage with not two but three dead bodies: “the County Paris slain, / And Romeo dead, and Juliet, dead before, / Warm and new killed” (5.3.195–197). Capulet’s wife has begun to tell the much less artful story of social chaos and pointless loss that this bloody spectacle seems to demand: “Oh, the people in the street cry ‘Romeo,’ / Some ‘Juliet,’ and some ‘Paris,’ and all run / With open outcry toward our monument” (5.3.191–193). The authoritative Prince, however, has the last word. And it is his more palatable romantic version of the woeful story that most of us have preferred to regard as Shakespeare’s own.
Posted July 7, 2007
I am in High School, and we used this edition in class, and it was extremely helpful. Not only is it very clear to read, explains well the words you don't know, but it also gives an indepths explanations, on the puns, and etc. which enchances your understanding of the play and your reading experience.
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Posted December 4, 2006
I firmly believe that Romeo and Juliet is something everyone should read in their lifetime. It's a beautiful love story and though, yes, it all happened really quickly, it added to the passion of the whole thing. I will always, always, love this play, and I would reccomend it to anyone looking for a great and tragic love story!
9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 13, 2009
I thought this was a good book, but I needed some explanation on the difficult Shakespearean dialect. I liked the plot and the characters, the only thing was that this story was a legend of sorts that Shakespeare simply wrote down; it wasn't his original idea. Other than that, I thought that it was well done.
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 26, 2013
A great classic Shakespeare tale of love and tragedy, but this book takes each part, and translates it into modern, easy-to-read English. What struck me while reading is how little people have changed in 500 years, obsessed with sex appeal, status, and envy of their neighbors.
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Posted May 16, 2004
I read Romeo and Juliet twice; once on my own and once for my freshman English class. It's a little bit hard to understand (make sure you get a copy with footnotes on old language), but an okay story in the end. I love the ending!
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Posted May 7, 2013
Numerated footnotes and explanations on the opposite page made the text easy to follow. My only little complaint is that the tiny font of this series got annoying sometimes. To enlarge it on the nook color, you have to enlarge the page, which becomes bothersome when you have to swipe back-and-forth from one line to the next. All in all, a good version of Romeo and Juliet, whether for the scholar or casual reader.
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Posted November 7, 2007
Romeo and Juliet is a great way to get hooked on reaing Shakespeare. This play is about the tragic tale of two lovers who's parents are enemys and the parents raise their children to despise eachother. But little do they know that their children have fallen in love till death do them part. The ending is both happy and sad.
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Posted May 13, 2007
Posted November 19, 2013
I enjoyed reading Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare Made Clear). Garamond Press has done a good job of creating an informative and readable guide to Shakespeare’s play. I learned some interesting background information on Shakespearean England as well. This would be especially helpful for students who want a modern-day explanation of Romeo and Juliet. The one thing I would have done differently is create footnotes instead of using in-text notes. This would have made the text even easier to follow.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 29, 2013
Don't understand Shakespeare's play ? This review will spell it all out for you in easy terms. It not only tells you in the chapter summary what each act is about but it also explains the characters, the words and why they were used and the history of the town and culture of the people. It also explains the dialect of the time and what the slang or pun terms of the words mean. Throw away your cliff notes, this review is way better than notes, its as if there is someone right next to you talking to you about what the play means in easy detail. Definitely worth buying!!
Posted October 3, 2013
This is a time-saver for sure and will spare students a great deal of confusion. The layout is great, will help introduce younger readers to Shakespeare in a way they can relate to. Even Shakespeare veterans will learn a lot through helpful comments in the text (e.g., definitions, performance notes, historical commentary), although the tone is slightly patronizing.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 2, 2013
This little booklet provides a hearty synopsis of a dense and sometimes confusing masterpiece. It’s pretty much a godsend for anyone reading a Shakespeare drama for the first time while also being a fun and informative (but maybe light) read for folks who are familiar with the work. Worth keeping side-by-side while you’re reading the play itself.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 1, 2013
This semester I was assigned Romeo and Juliet in my introduction to Shakespeare class. I wanted to do well so I asked a friend of mine who has previously taken this course to give me some advice. Very simply she said, “Read Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare Made Clear); it’s a great supplemental text and will help you understand Shakespeare so well it will be like night and day!” She was right because after getting this book I’ve understood all the underlying messages, poetry and themes so well that I have aced my essay recently!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 1, 2013
Romeo and Juliet (Shakespear Made Clear) was written for folks that do not pick up Shakespeare to read for pleasure on a quiet
afternoon. This book was written for the vast majority of us that find Shakespeare a chore, not a joy. The author not only provides clear,
succinct translations of the text as it was originally written, but provides brief, entertaining descriptions of the culture, setting, and history of eatre
theatre in the 1500's. I strongly recommend this book for anyone struggling with the Elizabethan language and the sonnet form.
I think you will be pleasantly surprised and may find yourself actually reading Shakespeare on a quiet afternoon.
Posted October 1, 2013
Shakespeare Made Clear’s “Romeo and Juliet” contains Shakespeare’s full original text. Alongside the original, there is a modern day translation that clarifies what’s going on for the 21st century reader.
It also comes with an in-depth analysis of the play’s themes, characters, and scenes, along with a specific overview of the story and important facts.
If you haven’t read the play, or you’ve read it a million times, this guide will surely provide new insight and pleasant reading.
Posted October 1, 2013
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in American Lingo
It can’t be disputed that there is no substitute for the classic Shakespeare work, Romeo and Juliet. According to the book, Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare made clear by Garamond Press, other versions of this story existed before Shakespeare wrote his, and certainly this story moved through time with other versions . These included the 1957 West Side Story musical stage production and the 1961 film which garnered the Academy Award for best picture.
This book offers a wealth of information about the history of the era, the traditions and customs of the times, the previous and post versions of Shakespeare work, a synopsis of the play, summaries of each act, explanations of the way the language was used, and a full translation of every set of lines into the American vernacular.
This book is an excellent tool for any student assigned to read this work, and for anyone else who really wants to know what the characters in this story are saying.
Posted October 1, 2013
I found this guide to Romeo and Juliet to be extremely useful. It eliminates the language barrier of a few hundred years or so and allows for a clear and complete understanding of the play. For me, the layout was most helpful. The old text is broken up into small fragments with the modern translation directly below it, allowing me easy transitions between the two translations. Another benefit is the definitions and explanations offered of words and phrases.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 1, 2013
This book helps you fully understand, in modern English, the play Romeo and Juliet. It gives details about England at the time the play was written and it talks about Shakespeare life so you can fully appreciate his masterpiece. With the modern translation summarizing the whole play, scene by scene, anyone can master Romeo and Juliet with ease.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 1, 2013
This book caught my attention from the very beginning. It opens with a mini history lesson about Shakespeare, his plays, and the people who acted in and watched his plays. I was able to read this book very quickly because of the way Shakespeare’s words are translated into modern English on the same page as the old English. I understand the story a lot more now! This book would be great for someone in school who is studying the story of Romeo and Juliet, and for those of us who have read it and needed a little more help understanding some of the phrases.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 1, 2013
Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare Made Clear) is all you need in order to get the most out of reading Romeo and Juliet. With easy to read synopses and line by line translations into contemporary language, this well designed study guide is just what the Bard ordered to make his tragic tale come alive for today’s readers. Whether you are Montague or Capulet, you will enjoy!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.