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Romeo and Juliet: Q & A

For more please see the new Examination Questions section on Romeo and Juliet.

Why is Romeo and Juliet a tragedy?
Very simply, Romeo and Juliet can be considered a tragedy because the protagonists - the young lovers - are faced with a momentous obstacle that results in a horrible and fatal conclusion. This is the structure of all Shakespeare's tragedies. A tragic theme also is present in Romeo and Juliet: the triumph of man's spirit and will over life's cruelty.

Who is Queen Mab (mentioned by Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, (1.4.51)). Is she an original character from Shakespeare, or did she come from another source?
Shakespeare's reference to Queen Mab, the well-known fairy in Celtic (Irish) folklore -- famous centuries before Shakespeare -- was the first known reference to her in English literature. After Shakespeare introduced Mab the Fairy Queen to English poets, she became much loved. P.B. Shelley wrote a poem in nine cantos called Queen Mab in 1813.

How long did it take Shakespeare to write the play Romeo and Juliet?
Although we don't know any exact dates surrounding the actual writing of the play, we can say for sure that Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet after 1593 and before 1596, so at the most it would have taken him three years. Most critics believe that he wrote it sometime between 1594 and 1595.

How many quartos of Romeo and Juliet were produced?
Romeo and Juliet appeared in five
Quarto editions, the first printed in 1597 and the last in 1637. The First Folio of 1623 was based on Q3 (1609) and Q4 (1622).

How old is Juliet?
Juliet is thirteen years old. In Shakespeare's primary sources, Juliet is considerably older than she is in the play. Why does Shakespeare change Juliet's age? Professor Gayle Whittier offers this explanation: "Juliet's very age suggests that she both represents and defeats a translation of sonnet into flesh. At 'almost' fourteen (and not sixteen, as in Brooke's earlier "Romeus and Juliet"), she has years almost equal to the completed form of the sonnet's fourteen-lined body."
(The Sonnet's Body and the Body Sonnetized in Romeo and Juliet, in Critical Essays on Romeo and Juliet, Joseph Porter, ed., 63)

How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Romeo and Juliet: Q & A. Shakespeare Online. 21 Nov. 2000. (day/month/year you accessed the information) < >.

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