Romeo and Juliet

“Two households, both alike in dignity,/ In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,/ From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,/ Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.” So opens Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy. The play is about two “star-cross’d lovers” and it was popular from the moment it was first performed. The tragic story of the love between two members of feuding families has remained a hit, weaving an unforgettable romance with searing questions about fate, loyalty, and untimely death.


Fuelled by fierce loyalty and littered with violent deaths, the feud between Verona’s two principal families is frequently compared to gang warfare in the modern age.


Romeo and Juliet is often called the “greatest love story ever told”. In fact, it has been retold and modernised countless times since. From West Side Story to High School Musical, heroes falling in love across bitter social divides is now a common theme of romantic dramas and comedies. Why are we so in love with romance?


“I defy you, stars,” says Romeo in Act 5. The tragedy of the play’s heroes lies in their seemingly inescapable fate. Today, we tend to think that we have the freedom to mould our own lives. Can we still believe in destiny?


The sticky end to Romeo and Juliet’s love story is one of the many reasons it remains popular. The death of its heroes is made all the more heart-wrenching by the love they feel for one another. What makes tragedy so powerful?


“My only love sprung from my only hate!” Juliet declares when she discovers Romeo’s true identity. The results are not always so dramatic – but 500 years later, families and romantic partners are often still at odds.