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10 Interesting Facts about Romeo and Juliet

Betsy Mugavero as Juliet and Shane Kenyon as Romeo in 2017 production

By Liz Armstrong

It’s no secret that Romeo and Juliet is one of of Shakespeare’s earliest tragedies. Rivaled perhaps only by Hamlet, it is speculated that this is Shakespeare’s most performed and adapted play to date. 

  1. Directing Romeo and Juliet is a dream come true for Besty Mugavero. “I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to work with some of the most talented collaborators in the country on a play that is so very dear to me,” Mugavero said. What makes Mugavero directing the play even more exciting is that the last production of Romeo and Juliet at the Festival in 2017 featured her as Juliet. 
  2. Romeo and Juliet has been produced eight times at the Festival, including in 1968, 1977, 1982, 1990, 1998, 2005, 2011, and 2017. This means that on average, Romeo and Juliet hits Festival stages every seven years. 
  3. This play has influenced many movies, such as Disney’s Lion King II: Simba’s Pride and Gnomeo and Juliet. The popular musical West Side Story, adapted into a 1961 and 2021 film, is another retelling. 
  4. Romeo and Juliet  is known for being lyrical and beautifully told, so it makes sense that an overwhelming amount of it––90 percent––is told in verse, with only 10 percent in prose. 
  5. Although Romeo’s exact age is never revealed, Juliet is only 13 years old when she meets her lover for the first time. This may seem startlingly young to us, but during her time, this was a perfectly marriageable age. 
  6. Spoiler alert: the tragic ending of the play is actually revealed to the audience in the form of a sonnet in the prologue!
  7. Although Shakespeare wrote the play between 1591 and 1596, women were not allowed on stage until nearly a century later. Mary Saunderson became the first woman to professionally play Juliet in 1662. 
  8. Although Shakespeare is credited with the tale, he most certainly based Romeo and Juliet off of Arthur Brooke’s The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, which was written in 1562. However, it’s said the story was told even earlier, first printed in 1476 in an Italian version called Mariotte and Gianozza.  
  9. It actually wasn’t Shakespeare to first mention the Montagues and Capulets, but Dante. Between 1308 and 1321, Dante wrote The Divine Comedy, a long narrative poem that mentioned the warring families.
  10. Perhaps the most iconic scene in the play is the balcony scene when the two declare their love for each other after Romeo overhears Juliet speaking of him. How ironic that Shakespeare wrote that Juliet really appeared in a window, and Elizabethan England wouldn’t have even been familiar with the term “balcony.” The famous balcony scene gained its popularity after an adaptation in 1679, in Thomas Otway’s play he retitled The History and Fall of Caius Marius. The idea of the balcony stuck––and this romantic scene is featured in our play artwork by our Creative Director Clare Campbell this season. 

To purchase tickets for the play, visit bard.org/plays/romeo-and-juliet/

For more information on the play, characters, synopsis, and a longer summary, visit our study guide here.

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