Did you know...?
- The first words of Romeo and Juliet are in the form of a sonnet. This prologue reveals the ending to the audience before the play has properly begun.
- The play can be considered as a companion piece to that staged by the Mechanicals at the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Here the young lovers take their lives in earnest, but in A Midsummer Night's Dream the story of Pyramus and Thisbe becomes comic entertainment for three sets of newly-weds.
- 90% of the play is in verse, with only 10% in prose. It contains some of Shakespeare's most beautiful poetry, including the sonnet Romeo and Juliet share when they first meet.
- Although a story of passionate first love, the play is also full of puns. Even in death, Mercutio manages to joke: 'ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a grave man'.
- Juliet is only 13 at the time she meets and marries Romeo, but we never learn exactly how old he is.
- Like King Lear, the play was adapted by Nahum Tate, changing the story to give it a happy ending.
- In 1748, the famous David Garrick staged a version which did not include any mention of Romeo's love for Rosaline, because Garrick felt this made the tragic hero appear too fickle.
- In March 1662, Mary Saunderson became almost certainly the first woman to play Juliet on the professional stage. Until the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, women were not allowed to perform in public.
- Romeo and Juliet, alongside Hamlet, is probably Shakespeare's most performed play and has also been adapted in many forms.
- The musical West Side Story is probably the most famous adaptation, while Baz Lehrmann's Romeo+ Juliet brought Shakespeare's play to the MTV generation.
Compiled by Kath Bradley, MPhil (Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham) © RSC
Kath has worked for the RSC in a variety of roles since 2005.
Photo shows Rupert Evans as Romeo and Morven Christie as Juliet in the RSC's 2006 production © RSC