William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Shakespeare's famous star-crossed lovers

by David Johnson

Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers are probably the most famous of all fictional romantic couples. The balcony scene where they confess their love provides some of the best-known lines in English literature, such as, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet."

The story of young lovers seeking happiness despite opposition from their families was well known to Elizabethan audiences. It had appeared in various forms, including as a long, narrative poem by Arthur Brooke. But Shakespeare's beautifully crafted play, with its brilliant use of words and compelling characters, gave the old story a vibrancy that soon eclipsed all other versions.

Even today, more than 400 years after it was first presented, Romeo and Juliet symbolizes true burning love.

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