Apart from the first quarto, there is little firm evidence to date the play. It must have been written before the end of 1596. Its style, compared with other plays, has led scholars to estimate it was written around 1594–1596.
The play was first printed as a quarto early in 1597, probably based on a group of actors’ memory of performing a shortened adaptation. A second quarto was printed in 1599: it is longer, and was probably typeset using Shakespeare’s draft manuscripts. A third quarto in 1609 was typeset from the second, and a fourth quarto in 1622 was based on the third and first quartos. The First Folio version was based mainly on the third quarto, and partly the fourth.
‘Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.’
Romeo and Juliet, II ii
Brief synopsis of the play
The enmity of their families – the Montagues and the Capulets – is the backdrop to Romeo’s first meeting with Juliet. A love is born between them, but Juliet has been promised to another man in marriage, and renewed violence between their families dash their hopes for a happy union. They turn to Friar Laurence in search of a way out, but a heartbreaking tragedy of errors unfolds for the ill-fated lovers in this iconic, tense and passionate play.