Poet and playwright, William Shakespeare lived between 1564 and 1616. He is still recognised as the world’s best dramatist and the finest writer in English history, with his 37 plays that were written over 20 years capturing the full range of human emotions and conflict.
The works and characters are enduring – you probably quote Shakespearean expressions every day without even realising you are doing it! Shakespeare isn’t always easy to understand but in many ways, the challenges are the whole point of studying him.
While much of his life (especially earlier on) is still a mystery, we know he was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. He married Anne Hathaway in 1582 and later fathered a daughter, Susanna and twins.
It is widely believed that Shakespeare came to London towards the end of the 1580s and by 1592 he was earning his living as a playwright and actor there. He was a managing partner in a theatrical company that became the King’s Men in 1603.
While earlier works tended to be comedies such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream or histories like Richard II, Shakespeare’s later period (post-1600) incorporated the great tragedies – among them Hamlet and Macbeth.
The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was an unusual early work, in that it was neither a comedy nor a history. For many of us, it’s an introduction to the Bard and it’s still one of the most frequently produced Shakespearean works.
Romeo and Juliet
Written in 1595-6, it’s set in the Italian city of Verona, where a long-running feud between two of the town’s noble families, the Montagues and the Capulets, often erupts into street brawls. Romeo Montague meets the Capulets’ only daughter, Juliet and the two become ill-fated lovers whose tragic end is known to us all.
The second scene of the second act is the famous balcony encounter, in which the pair declare their love for each other and Juliet suggests that the two get married. It contains some of Shakespeare’s most memorable passages.
Central to the storyline, of course, is the balcony where Juliet professes in a soliloquy how much she loves Romeo, as he lingers below in the shadows. It’s somewhere she thinks she’s alone, away from the rest of the household and the ever-present Nurse. It’s a halfway spot between being indoors and outside in the natural world, inspiring Romeo’s famous lines when Juliet appears: “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun!”
In Verona, there is an actual Juliet’s balcony made of stone. In popular imagination, however, it will always be a beautiful wrought-iron affair!
Expert metal product manufacturers and fabricators, Pipecraft completed work on a multi-million-pound project at a private home near Manchester. We replaced a Victorian wrought-iron balustrade with a gorgeous balcony of mirror-polished steel – which suited the Art Deco-themed interior – to create a striking centrepiece. “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?”