Summary of Romeo and Juliet

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Romeo and Juliet book summary

Literary Classic

  • Tragedy
  • Elizabethan Era

What It’s About

Star-Crossed Lovers

As one of William Shakespeare’s most enduring and successful plays during his lifetime and after, Romeo and Juliet is both a cautionary tale about the violent passion of young love and a love-poem to love itself – showing the beautiful and redemptive possibilities of the feelings Romeo and Juliet had for one another. Shakespeare perfectly interweaves the comic and the tragic, leaping from romance to playful punning to high tragedy and along the way evaluates people’s control over their own destinies. Are Romeo and Juliet indeed star-crossed? Or are they and the adults who force them to take drastic measures responsible for the play’s six tragic deaths? Though written early in Shakespeare’s career, the play’s stylistic complexity, characters’ psychological realism, and the exquisite poetry with which Romeo and Juliet express their love are a testament to the skill and humanity of a master playwright.

Take-Aways

  • As one of William Shakespeare’s most popular and enduring plays, Romeo and Juliet combines elegant poetry with timeless human emotion.
  • Romeo and Juliet fall in love and secretly marry despite their bitterly feuding families. Romeo is exiled after he kills Juliet’s cousin in an act of revenge. When Juliet’s parents plan her wedding to a count, she takes a potion to make herself appear dead until Romeo can return for her. Romeo, however, believing she is truly dead, takes poison at her side. When she awakes to find her love dead beside her, she commits suicide by stabbing herself.
  • The play calls into question the conflict between fate and free will, with audiences left to decide who or what is responsible for the young lovers’ deaths.
  • Shakespeare exploits the Elizabethan vogue for Petrarchan sonnets, opening the play with one and embedding sonnets and their high rhetorical style into the play’s dialogue.
  • Romeo and Juliet blends conventions of comedy and tragedy, with bawdy punning and wordplay and scenes shifting quickly in tone between the comic and the tragic.
  • Shakespeare adapted the story from a poem by Arthur Brooke, but redirected the story’s sympathy for the parents of the disobedient children to the doomed young lovers.
  • Five editions of the play were published before 1637, attesting to the play’s popularity in Shakespeare’s lifetime.
  • The play inspired the ballet musical West Side Story as well as more films than any of Shakespeare’s plays except Hamlet.
  • Shakespeare authored 154 sonnets, two narrative poems, and 38 known plays, of which Romeo and Juliet is among the most famous.
  • “For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
 

Summary

Prologue

The Chorus reveals that Romeo and Juliet will overlook the ancient grudge between their families and fall in love but warns that it will end in their suicides. Their deaths, however, will put an end to the long-standing family enmity.

Public and Private Unrest

Sampson and Gregory, servants of the house of Capulet, provoke a quarrel with servants of the rival house of Montague. They draw swords, despite Benvolio (nephew to Lord Montague) urging peace. However, hotter heads prevail when the fiery Capulet Tybalt engages Benvolio in battle. Soon members of both houses join the fray, and a full-on brawl erupts. Lord Capulet hobbles out in his dressing gown to participate, despite Lady Capulet’s admonition that at his age he is better suited for a crutch than a sword; similarly, Lady Montague tries to hold back her husband from the fray. The chaos ends only when Prince Escales of Verona intervenes, upbraiding the two lords for allowing the violence and issuing a warning: No Capulet or Montague may disturb the streets of Verona again, on pain of death.

As the crowd disperses, Lady Montague expresses her relief that her son Romeo was absent during the fight. Benvolio explains that he has seen Romeo skulking and sulking, and when Romeo enters, Benvolio offers to discover the cause of his cousin’s misery. Romeo is quick to wax poetic to his cousin on the reason for his sorro. He is in love with (or, perhaps more accurately, lusts for) Rosaline, but she refuses his advances and has sworn she will remain a virgin. Benvolio insists that if Romeo gets out and meets other girls, he quickly will forget Rosaline, but Romeo scoffs.

Cause for Celebration

Paris, a young count, approaches Capulet, expressing the desire to marry his only daughter, Juliet. Capulet is open to the man’s proposal but only if Juliet agrees to the match. He invites Paris to a party the Capulets are throwing that evening and tells him to woo his daughter there. Capulet assigns a Servant to deliver invitations for the event. The servant, however, is illiterate. Seeking help in his errand, he encounters Benvolio and Romeo and asks for their help. Romeo reads the invitation and, despite the feast being in the house of the family’s enemy, he and Benvolio decide to crash the party. Benvolio thinks Romeo needs the distraction from Rosaline, but Romeo agrees because Rosaline will be in attendance.

At the Capulet house, Lady Capulet visits her daughter, Juliet, for a serious conversation. She dismisses Juliet’s Nurse, only to realize how uncomfortable she is alone with her thirteen-year-old daughter and calls the Nurse back. Despite the Nurse’s digressions, Lady Capulet makes her purpose clear: she wants to know how Juliet feels about marriage and reveals that Paris has asked for her hand. Juliet remains noncommittal but agrees to look at him at that night’s feast and consider the offer.

“Well, think of marriage now. Younger than you,
 Here in Verona, ladies of esteem,
 Are made already mothers. By my count,
 I was your mother much upon these years
 That you are now a maid. Thus then in brief:
 The valiant Paris seeks you for his love.” (Lady Capulet to Juliet)

Romeo and Benvolio approach the party with their friend Mercutio, a kinsman of the Prince. With puns and innuendo, he tries to goad the mopey Romeo into cheering up, but Romeo instead dwells on an ominous dream he had the night before. Mercutio mocks Romeo, waxing lyrical about Queen Mab of the fairies, who visits men by night to play tricks. When Romeo insists that Mercutio stop his nonsense, Mercutio points out that it is no more nonsensical than Romeo’s dream. However, even as they drag him to the party, Romeo admits he fears that some terrible fate of “untimely death” will result from the night’s revels.

Love at First Sight

Capulet welcomes his guests, but Tybalt grows enraged when he notices that Romeo, a Montague, has sneaked into the party. The ever-unbending Capulet insists that Tybalt hold his temper and ignore Romeo. Nonetheless, Tybalt vows revenge on Romeo for the insult.

As soon as Romeo sees Juliet, he forgets Rosaline entirely. He approaches Juliet and speaks to her, comparing her to a holy shrine at which he worships and asks for a kiss. She says that saints don’t move, but she grants him a kiss. Romeo kisses her. She responds that his sin is now upon her lips, upon which he kisses her again to take back his sin.

The Nurse appears and sends Juliet away for a word with Lady Capulet. The Nurse tells Romeo that Juliet is a Capulet and that he should find another woman to marry. Benvolio whisks a devastated Romeo out of the party. Juliet returns and asks the Nurse who the young man was. She tells her that he is Romeo, a Montague and the son of her family’s enemy. The Nurse then takes a crushed Juliet away.

“My only love, sprung from my only hate!” (Juliet)

After the party, the love-struck Romeo gives his friends the slip and risks his life by scaling a wall to return to the Capulet house. He sees Juliet standing at her bedroom window and compares her beauty to the sun rising in the East. Eavesdropping, he hears her admit her own love for Romeo; he then reveals himself by accepting that proffered love, much to her embarrassment. She is horrified to think of the terrible fate that awaits him should her family find him there. However, despite her fears that their romance began “too rash” and will cease to be just as quickly, they exchange vows of love. They agree that Romeo will send her word the next day to arrange how they might marry in secret.

Holy Counsel, Messages and Vows

Friar Lawrence tends his garden, musing on the herbs’ abilities to both heal and poison, depending on how they are used. Romeo arrives, and the Friar expresses his concern that Romeo still wears the previous day’s clothing. Has he, the Friar asks, been sinning with Rosaline? The question shocks Romeo. He insists he has forgotten Rosaline and is now madly in love with Juliet. In fact, he wishes the Friar to perform their marriage. Though surprised that Romeo’s desperate love for Rosaline is so soon forgotten, the Friar agrees to perform the ceremony. The Friar hopes that by uniting the Capulets and Montagues in marriage,  the feud might finally end.

Mercutio and Benvolio search for Romeo; Tybalt has sent a letter to Romeo which they are sure is a challenge. Though Mercutio thinks Tybalt a showy, brash man with no real sword skills, Benvolio remains concerned. When Romeo arrives, Mercutio teases him for leaving them the night before. A transformed Romeo throws himself into the punning and wordplay. The Nurse arrives with a message from Juliet, and she too falls victim to Mercutio’s teasing. Eventually, Romeo persuades the Nurse to carry a message to Juliet: If Juliet goes to confession at Friar Lawrence’s cell that afternoon, they can marry.

  “In one respect I’ll thy assistant be;
 For this alliance may so happy prove
To turn your households’ rancour to pure love.” (Friar Lawrence to Romeo)

The Nurse returns to Juliet but won’t reveal her news until after extended complaining about her aching bones and head. Despite Juliet’s increasing frustration, all is forgiven when the Nurse relays Romeo’s plan and promises to fetch a ladder so Romeo can climb up to Juliet’s window on their wedding night. Romeo awaits Juliet’s arrival at the Friar’s cell, afire with anticipation even as the Friar counsels that ‘These violent delights have violent ends.” Juliet appears, and they exit to perform the wedding.

The Tragic Turn

That afternoon, in Verona’s streets, Benvolio grows increasingly anxious; in such heat, surely the Capulets will pick a fight. Mercutio remains blithe and taunts Benvolio, pointing out that his peace-loving nature usually lasts only as long as his sobriety.

Tybalt saunters up and demands to know Romeo’s whereabouts; when Romeo arrives, Tybalt challenges him. Romeo, now married to Juliet, knows himself to be Tybalt’s kinsman. He therefore tries to rebuff Tybalt’s insults with courtesy, insisting he loves the name of Capulet “as dearly as [his] own.” Ignorant of Romeo’s secret marriage, Mercutio is horrified by what he sees as his friend’s cowardice, and Mercutio challenges Tybalt in Romeo’s place. In the heat of the duel, Romeo leaps between them, desperate to prevent either coming to harm. However, Tybalt reaches beneath Romeo’s arm and stabs Mercutio, mortally wounding him. Mercutio dies, cursing Romeo and the houses of both the Montagues and the Capulets.

“A plague o’ both your houses!
They have made worms’ meat of me. I have it,
And soundly too. Your houses!” (Mercutio to Romeo)

Rage over the death of his dear friend blinds Romeo; he launches himself into the fight and kills Tybalt. However, the fracas hasn’t passed unnoticed. The people of Verona are stirring, and Benvolio urges Romeo to flee. Romeo curses fortune and runs, barely escaping before the Prince, the Montagues and the Capulets arrive. As Lady Capulet cries for justice for the slain Tybalt, Benvolio recounts what has happened. The Prince decides that, because Romeo avenged Mercutio, he will be exiled rather than killed – though if he is ever found in Verona again, he will be executed.

Grief and Love

Juliet, unaware of the tragic turn of events, eagerly wishes for night to come so Romeo might visit her and they can consummate their marriage. The Nurse arrives, wailing that someone has died; Juliet is terrified it might be Romeo. Eventually, the Nurse reveals all, and Juliet is torn between grief for her cousin and relief that Romeo lives. When she learns that Romeo is banished, she fears all is lost.

Hidden with the Friar, Romeo despairs, considering that his fate of banishment is worth than death since it separates him from Juliet. The Friar proposes a plan. Romeo will visit Juliet that night, as arranged, then flee to Mantua, where he can wait until they find a way out of their dilemma. Meanwhile, Paris speaks with Capulet. Though saddened by Tybalt’s death, Juliet’s father decides it would be best for Juliet and Paris to marry on Thursday (Wednesday being too soon, out of respect for the newly dead Tybalt).

A Wedding Night, A Wedding Planned

As dawn breaks, Juliet and Romeo have consummated their marriage, and Romeo prepares to sneak out and flee to Mantua. Seeking to prolong their time together, Juliet insists that he sees not daylight, but the light of a meteor. But when she realizes the danger he is in and the Nurse interrupts them with a warning that Lady Capulet is coming, the lovers bid farewell. Romeo escapes via the window – but not before Juliet has a terrible premonition, thinking Romeo looks to her as one already dead.

Lady Capulet arrives, mistaking Juliet’s tears as grief for her cousin Tybalt. She delivers what she believes to be happy news – that Juliet will marry Paris that week. Juliet refuses forcefully, and her appalled mother says she can tell her father herself. On her knees, Juliet pleads with her father, saying that she is too young to marry, but he is pure rage. He curses her and threatens to turn her out on the streets to beg or starve.

After her parents leave her sobbing and broken, a desperate Juliet turns to the Nurse for advice. The woman, however, offers no solace. She suggests that the banished Romeo can’t return to confront her with the charge of bigamy, and Paris is the better man, so Juliet should simply marry Paris. Juliet, bereft of those she felt she could count on, determines to go to the Friar for advice. Failing all else, she can take her own life rather than be forced into a second marriage.

Plans, Potions and Poisons

Juliet arrives at Friar Lawrence’s cell and encounters Paris. She responds enigmatically to his joy regarding their impending wedding. Once alone with the Friar, Juliet explains with quiet certainty that she intends to stab herself if no other solution presents itself. Friar Lawrence admits he has a plan which, although dangerous, is preferable to suicide.

“A plague o’ both your houses!” (Mercutio)

Juliet is to return home and tell her family that she agrees to the wedding. On Wednesday night, she will drink a potion the Friar concocts that will make her appear dead. Her seeming corpse will be moved to the Capulet tomb, and the Friar will write to Romeo to ensure he is waiting beside her when she awakes from this deathlike state. Together, the couple can elope to Mantua. Juliet readily agrees. She returns home and begs her father’s forgiveness, claiming she regrets her disobedience and will marry Paris as he commands, and Capulet celebrates his prodigal daughter.

On the night before the wedding, Juliet dismisses her mother and the Nurse and prepares to drink the Friar’s potion. She expresses her various fears: that the potion will not work; that the Friar has actually given her poison, seeking to hide his role in the illicit marriage; that she will wake early and will suffocate alone in the tomb; or that she will run mad among the corpses of her ancestors, including the recently dead Tybalt. Despite her fears, she toasts Romeo and swallows the potion.

The next morning, the Capulet household is abuzz with wedding preparations. The Nurse is sent to fetch Juliet but, unable to wake her, screams for help. Capulet, Lady Capulet, Paris and the Friar arrive and lament Juliet’s apparent death. After some debate, the musicians hired to play at Juliet’s wedding decide to stay and perform for the mourners instead – to recoup their losses.

Fatal Miscommunications

In Mantua, Romeo’s servant Balthasar arrives with news of his wife’s death. A heartbroken Romeo determines to return to Verona and die alongside his love. He visits an apothecary and demands poison. The apothecary is initially reluctant, since selling such substances is illegal. But Romeo observes the man’s clear poverty and suggests that he owes nothing to the laws of such a world that place him in such a state. Yielding to persuasion and bribery, the desperate apothecary sells Romeo the poison.

Back in Verona, Friar Lawrence welcomes the return of Friar John, who was sent to Mantua to explain the plan to Romeo and to ensure that Romeo came to collect Juliet from the tomb. Lawrence is alarmed to learn that John never delivered the message; John was caught in a quarantine, unable to depart Verona.

Friar Lawrence is justifiably concerned for poor Juliet and sends John to get a crowbar so that he might collect Juliet from the tomb himself. Unaware of the terrible false news delivered to Romeo, Lawrence worries only that Romeo won’t arrive on time and that the Friar must hide Juliet in his cell.

A Pair of Star-Crossed Lovers Take Their Lives

Outside the Capulet tomb, Paris arrives to lay flowers before the grave of his dead fiancée. When Romeo approaches, Paris hides. Romeo takes a crowbar from Balthasar, sending the man away with a letter to deliver to his parents. Romeo then begins to pry open the Capulet tomb. Paris assumes that Romeo, a Montague and the murderer of Tybalt, has come to desecrate the Capulet corpses. Paris tries to stage a citizen’s arrest of Romeo. Romeo scoffs at Paris, patronizingly assuring the other man that he comes to do only himself harm and telling Paris to leave him be. However, when Paris persists in trying to apprehend him, Romeo draws his sword and fights Paris. Paris’s Page runs for the Watch, but it’s too late. Romeo kills Paris, whose final request is to be lain beside Juliet in the tomb. Full of pity, Romeo agrees.

Romeo finally encounters what he thinks is the corpse of Juliet, his young wife. He marvels that even in death she remains so beautiful and claims a final kiss. Then, toasting his love, he drinks the poison and dies at her side.

Armed with a crowbar and spade, Friar Lawrence arrives to rescue Juliet. He encounters a bewildered Balthasar, the blood and weapons that remain from Romeo’s fight with Paris, and finally the dead Romeo. As the Friar curses fate for these terrible circumstances, Juliet wakes from her deathlike slumber. She demands to know where Romeo is, not yet having seen his corpse. Hearing noises from outside, a frightened Friar brusquely informs her that Romeo and Paris both lie dead beside her and that she must flee with him before the Watch arrives; the Frian then runs away without her.

Juliet sees the empty cup in Romeo’s hand and realizes that he has poisoned himself. Disappointed to see that he has left her none by which to join him, she kisses his lips, hoping a drop of poison remains upon them – but, hearing the Watch approach, decides she must meet a quicker end. She takes Romeo’s dagger from his sheath and stabs herself.

The Watch, the Prince, Lord and Lady Capulet, Lord Montague, and Friar Lawrence (caught by the Watch) arrive shortly thereafter. The Capulets express their shock and horror, and Montague reveals that Lady Montague died of grief because of Romeo’s banishment. The Friar relates the entire tale of what has transpired and submits himself to the Prince’s judgment for his part in it.

The Prince rounds on Montague and Capulet, showing them what their enmity has brought about: the death of both their children. Capulet and Montague reconcile, promising to build golden statues of their children. The Prince announces that they will discuss matters further and determine whom will be pardoned or punished, finally declaring “never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

About the Text

Structure and Style

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet follows the Greek and early modern five-act structure. It interleaves comedy and tragedy, offering moments of hope, humor and redemption – only to undercut them with tragic twists of fate. Shakespeare combines high poetry with bawdy, even crass humor throughout the play; Romeo and Juliet contains more than 175 instances of punning and wordplay.

Shakespeare exploited the contemporary vogue for Petrarchan sonnets – poems (traditionally about love) composed of 14 lines in iambic pentameter – which took Elizabethan England by storm. When Romeo and Juliet first meet at the Capulet ball, their exchange of lines forms a sonnet, hinting at their compatibility and the truth of their sudden, violent love.

The play makes use of both prose – that is, ordinary speech, usually employed by lower-class or comic characters – and verse. Shakespeare’s verse, generally spoken by characters of high status, lovers or characters speaking on serious topics, is in iambic pentameter – that is, poetic lines of 10 syllables in which every second syllable receives the accent or stress (“tis BUT | thy NAME | that IS | mine EN | e MY”).

Interpretation

  • By beginning the play with the prologue, Shakespeare highlights the questions of fate and free will that permeate the play. Before the play begins, we learn that the star-crossed or ill-fated lovers will die. Coupled with the references to ill omens and premonitions scattered throughout the play, there is a sense that they can’t escape their tragic end. However, the prologue’s insistence on the role of fate is belied by the speed of Romeo and Juliet’s romance and the choices made by the lovers and the adults who advise them, which arguably cause the play’s tragic outcome. Is it fate or family that dooms the lovers?
  • The play is rich with antithesis, oxymoron and opposition, for example, the warring Capulets and Montagues, the hate from which Romeo and Juliet’s love springs, and the images of light and darkness or healing and poison that pervade the play. Ultimately, love leads to death, and tragic loss leads to redemptive reconciliation.
  • Throughout the play, Shakespeare frequently intermingles the genres of comedy and tragedy. He inserts comic scenes at some of the play’s most serious moments, such as the musicians’ clowning after the Capulets discover Juliet’s body on the morning of her planned wedding to Paris. He also quickly transforms scenes from comic to tragic, such as when Mercutio and Benvolio’s playful banter is cut short by Tybalt’s arrival and the duel that will set off the play’s chain of deaths.
  • One of the play’s most remarkable features is Juliet’s character development. She begins as a girl who is largely passive and obedient, hardly speaking when she first appears with her mother and the Nurse, defined only by her youth.  She initially allows Romeo to take the lead in their relationship, but as events take a turn for the worse, she matures into one of the play’s most thoughtful and decisive characters. Though critics often dismiss Romeo as a fickle or temperamental character, they are near universal in their praise of Juliet. As she is abandoned by the adults in her life, she gains courage and quiet resolve and exemplifies the rich psychological realism that Shakespeare could create.

Historical Background

The Theatrical Landscape of Shakespeare’s England

William Shakespeare wrote at a time when there was an almost insatiable demand for new theater. People from all walks of life attended the public playhouses popular in Elizabethan England, with the gallery seats hosting wealthier patrons but others paying only a penny to stand in the yard. Patrons and nobles commanded private performances in halls, homes and even Queen Elizabeth’s court. Shakespeare’s plays therefore had to appeal to the full spectrum of English society.

Development

Shakespeare likely wrote Romeo and Juliet around 1595 to 1596. As with 34 of his 36 known plays, Shakespeare based Romeo and Juliet on an existing story. He adapted a series of known tales from the Italian Renaissance and, more directly, English poet Arthur Brooke’s The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet. However, Shakespeare greatly developed his source poem’s minor characters, in particular the Nurse, Tybalt and Mercutio. While Brooke largely sided with the parents of the disobedient young lovers, Shakespeare shifted the sympathies to Romeo and Juliet, with audiences likely to see them as victims of the older generation’s implacable enmity. Shakespeare also dramatically compressed the timeline of his source poem, with the play’s action taking place over the course of five days; in doing so, Shakespeare heightened the story’s tension and the violence of Romeo and Juliet’s love.

Reviews and Legacy

There is no record of a staging of Romeo and Juliet before 1662, but the play was first published in 1597, and the title page boasted that it had “been often (with great applause) played publicly.” The printing of a second edition (a more detailed and reliable script – suggesting that the first Quarto was printed from an earlier, rougher draft) in 1599, which was reprinted in 1609, 1623 and 1637, attests to the play’s contemporary popularity.

Although 17th-century English diarist Samuel Pepys wrote of Romeo and Juliet in 1662, “it is a play of itself the worst that I ever heard in my life,” generally critical reaction has been positive throughout the play’s history. The play was popular in Shakespeare’s lifetime, but it lost favor during the Restoration era (roughly 1660–1688) due to its perceived frivolity in its punning and bawdiness. In the 18th century, David Garrick’s famous theatrical productions removed all references to Rosaline to excise Romeo’s seemingly fickle change of heart, as well as deleting most of the play’s so-called inappropriate sexual jokes and references. Garrick’s version was the predominant one performed for the next century. However, 19th-century producers and critics rescued Shakespeare’s text.

In the early 21st century, the play remains a perennial favorite among Shakespeare fans of any medium. In 1957, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim transported the story to 1950s New York City against a backdrop of warring white and Puerto Rican street gangs for the musical West Wide Story. In 1965, the much beloved Romeo and Juliet ballet debuted in London, choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan with a score by Sergey Prokofiev. Romeo and Juliet has inspired more film adaptations than any Shakespeare play other than Hamlet. Notable versions include Franco Zeffierelli’s 1968 movie shot in Italy and Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes, the latter production presenting the Montagues and Capulets as rival Mafia families.

About the Author

William Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. While little documentary evidence survives about the life of the world’s most famous playwright, he was the son of alderman and glove maker Jon Shakespeare and probably studied at the local grammar school, the King’s New School. At age 18, William married Anne Hathaway, a woman six years his senior who was pregnant with their first child, Susanna. They had two additional children – twins Hamnet and Judith; Hamnet died at age 11 in 1596. No record of Shakespeare’s activity exists for the years between 1585 and 1592, which are known as the “lost years.” But by 1592, he was residing in London and writing for the stage; contemporary poet Robert Greene disparagingly described Shakespeare as an “upstart crowe.” As of 1594, Shakespeare was a member of and wrote for Richard Burbage’s theatrical company The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. When the theaters closed due to plague in 1593, he wrote the narrative poems “The Rape of Lucrece” and “Venus and Adonis,” which were commercial hits. In 1603, when James I ascended the throne, he granted Shakespeare’s theater company royal patronage, and they became known as the King’s Men. Scholars assume that Shakespeare also acted with the company. Later in his career, Shakespeare collaborated with several other playwrights, including Thomas Middleton, George Peele and John Fletcher. Shakespeare appears to have retired to Stratford-upon-Avon around 1613, where he died on April 23, 1616, of unknown causes at age 52. He was buried in Trinity Church in his hometown. After his death, the King’s Men collected all his surviving plays – along with elegiac verses and tributes – and published them in 1623 in what is now known as the First Folio. As the author of at least 38 comic, tragic and historical plays and 154 sonnets (which were collected and published in 1609), Shakespeare is remembered as England’s greatest poet and playwright. His plays are performed worldwide to this day.


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