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Updated: Mar 18, 2021


William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564 in Startford-upon-Avon. He was an English playwright, poet and actor, the son of John Shakespeare, an alderman, and Mary Arden, the daughter of the family’s landlord. He was one of the eight children and lived to be the eldest surviving son of the family. (Shakespeare’s exact birth date remains unknown. He was baptized in Holy Trinity Church in Startford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564. This has led scholars to conjecture that he was born on April 23rd, given the era’s convention of baptizing newborns on their third day.)

It is widely assumed that Shakespeare attended the local grammar school where he would have studied Latin, Greek, and classical literature. His early education must have made a huge impact on him because many of his plots were drawn from the classics. He wrote 37 plays, 154 Sonnets and some poems. After the lyrical Richard II, written almost entirely in verse, Shakespeare introduced prose comedy into the histories of the late 1590s Henry IV part 1 and 2, and Henry V. His characters become more complex and tender as he switches skillfully between comic and serious scenes, prose and poetry, and achieves the narrative variety of his mature work. This period begins and ends with two tragedies Romeo and Juliet, the famous romantic tragedy that speaks of destiny, chance and fortune, all sparked by a historic family feud, love and death and Julius Caesar.

In the early 17th century, Shakespeare wrote the so-called "problem plays" and a number of his best known tragedies. In his final period he had written his late romances - Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest. Tradition holds that Shakespeare died on his 52nd birthday, April 23, 1616. After Shakespeare's death, a funerary monument was erected to honor him at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he is buried.

Overview of the Montagu and Capulet Families:

Once upon a time there lived two great families named Montague and Capulet in Verona. They were both rich, and we suppose they were as sensible, in most things, as other rich people. But for one thing, they were extremely silly. There was an old, old quarrel between the two families, and instead of making it up like reasonable folks, they made a sort of pet of their quarrel, and would not let it die out. So that a Montague wouldn't speak to a Capulet if he met one in the street nor a Capulet to a Montague or if they did speak, it was to say rude and unpleasant things, which often ended in a fight. And their relations and servants were just as foolish, so that street fights and duels and uncomfortableness of that kind were always growing out of the Montague-and-Capulet quarrel.


Although there is no record of when Shakespeare actually wrote Romeo and Juliet it was first performed in 1594 or 1595. Romeo and Juliet is borrowed from a tradition of tragic love story dating back to antiquity. This play is a tragedy that wags its finger at the warring Capulets and Montagues, wealthy families who can’t look past their own insularity and self-importance to be good to one another, or to allow children the chance at real love. Shakespeare drew concepts from many poems, novels, and the myths in the construction of Romeo and Juliet. This play also may have been a timely critique of Renaissance era’s social inequality and the trivial concerns of the upwardly mobile elite. The play Romeo and Juliet was published in Bad Quarto (incomplete manuscript) printed in 1597; second more complete quarto printed in 1599; and in First Folio with clarification and corrections, printed in 1623.


It is said to be inspired by Pyramus and Thisbe, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses which is parallel to Romeo and Juliet in which the lover’s parents despise each other, and Pyramus falsely believes his lover Thisbe is dead. The Ephesiaca of Xenophon of Epheus, written in the 3rd century also contains several similarities to the play, including the separation of the lovers, and a potion that induces a death like sleep.

In 1476, the Italian poet, Masuccio Salernitano, wrote a story titled Mariotto e Gianozza. The story takes place in Siena and centers around two lovers who are secretly married against the wishes of their families and end up dying for each other due to a tragic miscommunication.

In 1592 poem by Arthur Brooke called The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet reportedly translated from an Italian novella by Matteno Bandello follows the same arc.

In 1530, Luigi da Porta published Giulietta e Romeo, which was based on Salernitano's story. Every aspect of the plot is the same. The only differences are that Porta changed the names of the lovers and the setting location, Verona rather than Siena. Also, Porta added the ball scene in the beginning, where Giulietta and Romeo meet and has Giuletta commit suicide by stabbing herself with a dagger rather than wasting away like in Salernitano's version. Porta's Italian story was translated in 1562 by Arthur Brooke, who published the English version under the title The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet. William Painter retold the story in prose in his 1567 publication, Palace of Pleasure. It is most likely that William Shakespeare read these English versions of the story and was thus inspired to pen Romeo and Juliet.


The Capulet and Montague families were most likely based on the Cappelletti and Montecchi families, which did exist in Italy during the 14th century. While the term "family" is used, Cappelletti and Montecchi were not the names of private families but rather local political bands. In modern terms, perhaps the word "clan" or "faction" is more accurate.

The Montecchi was a merchant family that competed with other families for power and influence in Verona. But there is no record of a rivalry between them and the Cappelletti. Actually, the Cappelletti family was based in Cremona.

One of the earliest references to the names Montague and Capulet is from Dante’s Divine Comedy, who mentions the Montecchi (Montagues) and the Cappelletti (Capulets) in canto six of Purgtorio.

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