Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Romeo and Juliet

Tristan and Isolde, Launcelot and Guinevere, Dido and Aeneas, Troilus and Criseyde, Pyramus and Thisbe — the fame of all previously famous lovers ends up almost totally superseded by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Luigi DaPorto’s story of Romeo and Giulietta in 1530 uses the names Montecchi and Cappelletti, taken from Dante’s Purgatorio (Farina 175). In 1554, Bandello published a version of the story. The main direct source is a piece called The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, published in 1562 and, because of “Ar. Br.” on the title page, attributed to Arthur Brooke (d.1567). (Desperation!: the goofy game from Milton Bradley.) Many Oxfordians convincingly argue that the real author was a very young de Vere who then revised his own juvenilia which became the later famous play.

An anonymous bad quarto was published in 1597; but dating this play centers usually on the astrological references mentioned as having occurred eleven years earlier. Earthquakes occurred in 1584, 1580 (a big one that Arthur Golding, Oxford’s uncle, wrote about as being God’s wrath upon an evil age), but also in 1570 in Italy, which destroyed Ferrara and would match other 1581 hints. Indeed, circumstances for de Vere in 1581 match the main concerns and elements in the play, including Oxford’s intense affair with court lady Anne Vavasour, his subsequent banishment from court (“forsaken by Elizabeth,” who is represented by fair Rosaline), the street duels with Vavasour’s relative Knyvet and his faction (e.g., Farina 177) and even the order of deaths on the two sides of the dispute (Anderson 180-181). A reported “intimate riposte to the Queen” may suggest a 1581-83 original date, with a 1591 revision (Ogburn and Ogburn 385). Later anonymous quarto versions (1599, 1609, and 1622) also emerged. With the absence of the author’s name in many cases here, “One is almost forced to conclude that Shakespeare told Burby to stop using his name, either because of some outside pressure or because of the special nature of this particular work” (Farina 173).

Romeo and Juliet, Act by Act

Romeo and Juliet Intro

Romeo and Juliet Act I

Romeo and Juliet Act II

Romeo and Juliet Act III

Romeo and Juliet Act IV

Romeo and Juliet Act V

Further Resources


Romeo and Juliet. Dir. George Cukor. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1936. All the main actors are too old, but Norma Shearer as Juliet is radiant and makes the lines sound spontaneous and thus even more beautiful. Leslie Howard was an Oxfordian! John Barrymore as Mercutio is appropriately hammy, and Basil Rathbone as Tybald — well, it’s Basil Rathbone! Here’s a batch of clips.

Romeo and Juliet. Dir. Renato Castellani. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1954. Filmed in Verona, Mantua, Sienna, Venice, and Florence.

Romeo and Juliet. Dir. Franco Zeffirelli. Paramount Pictures, 1968. The quintessential film version of the play stars an authentically young Olivia Hussey. Michael York is Tybald and an Oxfordian. The song is forever associated with this story of woe.

Romeo and Juliet. BBC, 1979. A young Alan Rickman as Tybalt.

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet. Dir. Baz Luhrmann. Twentieth-Century Fox Film Corp., 1996. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes star with original text in a modern setting. Romeo’s “O, I am Fortune’s fool” is the worst cringe. But the “fish-tank song” is touching.

Rome & Jewel. Walski/Bagg/Kanganis Production, 2008. Updated to being an interracial star-crossing, set in modern L.A.

Gnomeo & Juliet. Touchstone Pictures, 2011. Somehow they roped Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart, and others’ voices into this animated comedy “From the director of Shrek 2. And Elton John. I think it’s about garden gnomes. I can’t remember.

Romeo & Juliet. Relativity Media/Amber Entertainment/Echo Lake Entertainment, 2013. Paul Giamatti is the Friar, and when he sees both lovers dead, it’s as if he’s vomiting emotionally: unforgettable. Here is the entire film.

Warm Bodies. Summit Entertainment, 2013. He’s a zombie who thinks his name began with an R. Julie is a human on her father’s task force to extinguish zombies. How will these two work it out?

Best Editions

Bevington, David, ed. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. 6th ed. Pearson Education Inc., 2009. 1005-1050.

Weis, Rene, ed. Romeo and Juliet. The Arden Shakespeare. 3rd Series. NY: Bloomsbury, 2012.

Weller, Philip, ed. Romeo and Juliet. An annotated online edition.

Oxfordian Resources

Clark, Eva Turner. Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays. 3rd ed. by Ruth Loyd Miller. Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1974. 461-476.

Farina, William. De Vere as Shakespeare: An Oxfordian Reading of the Canon. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 2006. 173-178.

Gilvary, Kevin. Dating Shakespeare’s Play’s. Tunbridge Wells, UK: Parapress, 2010. 343-348.

Gontar, David P. “Is Juliet Tragic?” In Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays. Nashville: New English Review Press, 2013. 51-63.

Green, Nina. “Who Was Arthur Brooke: Author of The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliett?” The Oxfordian 3 (2000): 59-70.

Hatinguais, Catherine. “The Sycamore Grove, Revisited.” The Oxfordian 18 (2016): 85-99. The article re-examined Richard Roe’s identification of Verona’s sycamore trees.

Ogburn, Charlton. The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth & The Reality. 2nd ed. McLean, VA: EPM Publications, Inc., 1992.

Ogburn, Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn. This Star of England. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Pub., 1952. Esp. 385-414.

Roe, Richard Paul. The Shakespeare Guide to Italy. NY: Harper, 2011. Chapter 1: 6-33.

And Other General Resources

Goddard, Harold C. The Meaning of Shakespeare. Vol. 1. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1951. 117-139.

Smidt, Kristian. Unconformities in Shakespeare’s Tragedies. NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. 27-44. Smidt finds numerous time discrepancies suggesting significant revision, compression, and rearrangement of scenes.

Shakespeare Authorship Organizations

The Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship. Browse, get hooked, become a member.

The De Vere Society. Our Oxfordian friends and collaborators across the pond.

The Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable. We consider all possible authors behind the “Shakespeare” name.