Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet

Did my heart love ’til now? Forswear it, sight for I ne’er saw true beauty ’til this night!

Quite possibly William Shakespeare’s most popular play, Romeo and Juliet was written between 1591-1595 and was first published in 1597:

There are so many very memorable parts in the play – it’s all so endlessly quotable. At Rockledge High School, I was fortunate to have a wonderful teacher who had a great passion for Shakespeare – Ms. Dupree. I have a great deal to thank her for because I was a painfully shy, bookish girl (still am bookish, still shy, but not painfully so now!) and she chose me for leads in the school plays – most of which were by Shakespeare. Perhaps she could see how much I loved Shakespeare? Anyway, during rehearsals for the shows, we had intensive training in Shakespearean dialogue, instruction on the complexities of iambic pentameter, and a focus upon textual analysis – all of which has helped me in my career as a historian.

“A plague o’ both your houses!”

One of the group projects I did in her class was organise a staging of Romeo and Juliet – from costumes, and analysis of the text to making set design. I ended up memorizing the whole play, and most of it has been retained by my brain even some ten years later. I also played Juliet in selection of romantic Shakespearean plays at the Henegar Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne, Florida. I think the evening was called Sonnets and Chocolates, and it was for Valentine’s Day, and I have associated Valentine’s with Romeo and Juliet ever since.

The following is an excerpt from Juliet’s monologue in Act 3, Scene 2:

Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Toward Phoebus’ lodging. Such a wagoner
As Phaeton would whip you to the west
And bring in cloudy night immediately.
Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
That runaways’ eyes may wink, and Romeo
Leap to these arms, untalked of and unseen.
Lovers can see to do their amorous rites
By their own beauties, or, if love be blind,
It best agrees with night. Come, civil night,
Thou sober-suited matron, all in black,
And learn me how to lose a winning match
Played for a pair of stainless maidenhoods.
Hood my unmanned blood bating in my cheeks,
With thy black mantle, till strange love, grow bold,
Think true love acted simple modesty.
Come, night. Come, Romeo. Come, thou day in night,
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow upon a raven’s back.
Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-browed night,
Give me my Romeo. And when I shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
Oh, I have bought the mansion of a love,
But not possessed it, and though I am sold,
Not yet enjoyed…

Simply beautiful. Juliet really wants to have sexual intercourse with her husband, Romeo, and it’s quite possibly the most eloquent way someone can express both love and lust together. It just blows me away.

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”

There have been countless stage and film productions of this work, but my favourite is Franco Zeffirelli’s version from 1968, which had Leonard Whiting as Romeo, Olivia Hussey as Juliet, and a supporting cast which included Michael York, and a pre-Withnail and I Bruce Robinson. The soundtrack by Nino Rota is one of my favourite soundtracks – it just exudes tragic romance.

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Since it’s Valentine’s Day, here is Romeo & Juliet:

I used to watch this every Valentine’s Day and cry like crazy because I was so lonely. I was always that girl that no one wanted to go out with [I asked a male friend (who wasn’t interested) once who said it was because I was “too intelligent and that scares guys”].

In a world that seemed to value vacuous superficiality over the contents of a person’s character and sporting achievement over intellectual achievement, I felt isolated. Thank goodness I had a great, supportive mother and my books. My books and my mom got me through my adolescence.  I was lonely until I was 22 and then I met the man who is now my husband and who isn’t intimidated by my thinking. If anything, I don’t feel intelligent enough around him! haha. It took longer than most, but it was worth it 🙂

Sorry for all the personal stuff. I hope you all have a lovely evening.

Read more: Full text of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

“Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”

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