Romeo and Juliet: CliffsNotes

Romeo and Juliet: CliffsNotes

Romeo and Juliet: CliffsNotes

Romeo and Juliet: CliffsNotes


The original CliffsNotes study guides offer expert commentary on major themes, plots, characters, literary devices, and historical background. The latest generation of titles in this series also feature glossaries and visual elements that complement the classic, familiar format.

In CliffsNotes on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, you explore Shakespeare's greatest tragedy - the heartbreaking love story of Romeo and Juliet amid the conflict between their two feuding families, the Montagues and the Capulets.

This study guide carefully walks you through every twist and turn of Shakespeare's classic by providing chapter summaries and critical analyses of each act and scene of the play. You'll also explore the life and background of the "Bard" himself - William Shakespeare. Other features that help you study include

  • Character analyses of major players
  • A character map that graphically illustrates the relationships among the characters
  • Critical essays
  • The history of the play's development, as well as its first performance
  • A review section that tests your knowledge
  • A Resource Center full of books, articles, films, and Internet sites

Classic literature or modern modern-day treasure - you'll understand it all with expert information and insight from CliffsNotes study guides.


Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet early in his career, between 1594-1595, around the same time as the comedies Love’s Labour’s Lost and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Scholars often group these plays together because they explore the themes of love, courtship, and marriage. The plays also share a similar poetic quality in the language used, as they incorporate sonnets and the conventions associated with them such as falling in love at first sight.

The first performance of Romeo and Juliet took place in the autumn/winter of 1594, when the playhouses reopened for the first time after a sustained outbreak of the plague had forced the authorities to close all the playhouses in London in January 1593. During this period, over 10,000 people in London alone died from the disease, and Shakespeare emphasizes the relevance of the plague for his audience by using it in Romeo and Juliet to prevent Friar Laurence’s message from reaching Romeo in Mantua.

The first performance of the play was at the playhouse called the Theatre where Shakespeare and his company the Lord Chamberlain’s Men were based until 1597. The Theatre was the first purpose-built playhouse in London and could hold over 1,500 people. It was a large, octagonal-shaped building with a thatched roof just around the perimeter so that the yard below was open air. Most of the audience, referred to as groundlings, paid a penny to stand in the yard surrounding the stage. Wealthier playgoers preferred to pay an extra penny to sit in one of the galleries so that they could watch the play in comfort and more importantly, be seen by the rest of the audience.

In the first performance of Romeo and Juliet, Richard Burbage, the company’s leading actor, who was in his mid-twenties, played Romeo. Juliet was played by Master Robert Goffe; young boy actors often played female roles because women did not legally appear on the stage until the late 17th century.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.