William Shakespeare was inspired to write "Romeo and Juliet" by a poem titled "Romeus and Juliet" by Arthur Brooks. In fact, Shakespeare's play shares many of the details of Brooks' poem. The story, however, was a commonly told one throughout Europe and was not unique to Brooks either.
Although "Romeo and Juliet" is synonymous with William Shakespeare, in many regards, the play is merely an adaptation. In William Shakespeare's time, it was not unusual for playwrights to draw upon existing stories and legends to dramatize and bring to the stage. Although, in the case of "Romeo and Juliet," Shakespeare borrowed heavily from Arthur Brooks, he also revised the tale to make his version unique.
The four-day timeline of Shakespeare's play is condensed from that of Brooks' nine-month time period. Shakespeare correctly understood that a frenetic pace would intensify the drama. He also inserted characters, namely Mercutio, into the play so that he could add more depth to the plot as well as the characters. Of course, no mention of a Shakespearean work would be complete without reference to Shakespeare's gift of stringing together words in a way that, at times, seems magical and which earned him the nickname "the bard."