What Is the History Behind "Romeo and Juliet"?

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"Romeo and Juliet" is arguably the most well-known work of William Shakespeare. It has graced many stages, classrooms and movie sets, but despite its vast popularity, the original play was met with mixed reviews. Nonetheless, it has one of the most rich and interesting histories in literature as of 2015.

The exact date of "Romeo and Juliet"'s writing is unknown. It is estimated to be sometime between 1591 and 1595. This estimation is based on a statement made by Juliet's nurse concerning an earthquake that had happened 11 years prior; it is commonly assumed that she is speaking of the earthquake in Dover Straits, which occurred in 1580.

The play was met with a variety of reviews. Samuel Pepys, a well-known critic of the day, thought it was the worst play he had ever seen. Other reviewers praised Shakespeare, particularly for the masterful writing of the character Mercutio.

Despite the mixed reviews, "Romeo and Juliet" went on to become one of the most performed plays in history. It has graced stages since the 18th century as a theatrical performance, ballet and opera. It has spawned a variety of movies as well, spanning from traditional theatrical performances to Baz Luhrmann’s wildly updated reimagining.