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William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet

What century does Romeo and Juliet take place?


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July 15, 2009 9:36AM

Like most of Shakespeare's plays Romeo and Juliet is set 'long, long ago, in a land far, far away'.

Romeo and Juliet was first performed in the 1590's, but the story was borrowed from a book that was popular when Shakespeare was a little boy (Arthur Brooke's 'Romeus and Juliet' - first published in 1562). Even in Brooke's version of the story we are not given any date.

Most of the plays written in the early years of the theatre were set in a fantasy world. Shakespeare says that Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona, but there is very little in the play to make this 'Verona' any different from the 'Vienna' or 'Venice' or 'Athens' where some of his other plays are set.

The idea that plays should be set in a real time and a real place really only comes along after Shakespeare. In fact one of the important playwrights to introduce such 'Citizen Comedies' was Thomas Middleton - who took over Shakespeare's writing role with the Kings Men (Shakespeare's company) after Shakespeare retired.