Romeo and Juliet Background

William Shakespeare author of the play Romeo and Juliet; born April 1564; died April 1616; arguably the greatest playwright in the history of the world
Shakespearean Tragedy a classification for some of Shakespeare’s plays which involve a protagonist who is in some way flawed and then put in a very difficult situation where the ending is always fatal (death).
Famous examples of Shakespeare’s Tragedies Romeo and Juliet, MacBeth, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Julius Caesar
Romeo and Juliet Perhaps the most famous of Shakespeare’s tragedies, composed 1594-1595
Shakespeare’s religion unclear, but likely Roman Catholic; Roman Catholicism was outlawed in England at the time but his mother was a devout Catholic. Shakespeare’s children were baptized by the Church of England, however.
Shakespeare’s education King’s New School in Stratford; a free grammar school; his education was classical in nature, meaning it was centered on the study of Latin and classical Latin and Greek authors, such as Vergil and Homer.
Anne Hathaway Shakespeare’s wife
Stratford-upon-Avon Shakespeare’s hometown in England
Susanna, Hamnet, and Judith Shakespeare’s three children
The English Renaissance a cultural movement in England that dated from the late 15th century to the early 17th century. Shakespeare is the greatest literary figure from this era.
The Elizabethan Age this age in the history of England lasted from 1558-1603 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. This is when Shakespeare became popular. It is also a time of brutal repression for Catholics whose religion was outlawed in England.
eros the Greek word used to express erotic love; this level of love is depicted in many of the characters of RJ
philos the Greek word used to express brotherly or filial love; this is symbolized by the friendships between Romeo and his friends
agape the Greek word used to express complete or total self-giving love; love without any conditions; the main characters, Romeo and Juliet are searching for this; it is also embodied by the “unseen” Rosalina
three degrees of love in Greek thought, there were three kinds of love: eros, philos, and agape. Among these, agape is considered the greatest and most complete expression, surpassing the others.
love perhaps the central theme of RJ; Shakespeare contrasts the various levels of love through his characters and puts Romeo and Juliet in the position of searching for love’s true meaning.
vulgarity the end result of focusing only on the “eros” level of love; this is embodied by the crude behavior and language of Mercutio and also the Nurse
chastity the Christian virtue of purity by which one not only exercises self-control in sexual matters but also is able to “see” the image of God in all humans. The character Rosalina embodies this virtue, while Romeo and Juliet are searching for pure love in their youth.
hedonism a lifestyle in which people see the only purpose of life is physical pleasure and self-indulgence. Shakespeare surrounds Romeo and Juliet with many characters who live this lifestyle, and R/J are torn between hedonism and the ideals of Rosalina (virtue).
virtue A good habit formed by performing good deeds repeatedly. Traditionally there are four “cardinal” virtues which were identified since the time of the ancient Greeks: wisdom, courage, temperance (self-control) and justice.
vice a bad habit formed by performing evil deeds repeatedly; traditionally such acts weaken the will and prevent a person from making good decisions.

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