William Shakespeare: Fun Facts With The Bard On His Birthday!
O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
POSTED BY DAVID PIBWORTH ON 23/04/2019 @ 8:00AM
It's William Shakespeare birthday today! So, to celebrate the Bard's 455th birthday, I thought I'd give you some interesting and fun facts about one of his most loved plays, Romeo and Juliet ...
Some fun facts from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet!
copyright: 20th century fox
This is one of my favourite of his. It's a timeless tragedy, famous for its mix of disaster, comedy, conflict and romance. Even though Shakespeare's plays were written 400 years ago, they are full of characters, dilemmas and stories that we all still recognise today.
Facts about Romeo and Juliet:
The original title for the play was 'The Most Excellent and lamentable tragedy of Romeo and Juliet'!
It was the first play of its time about romantic love.
The source for the story was Arthur Brooke's 'The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet' written in 1562. This was the English translation of the Italian tale, which was first printed as 'Mariotto and Gianozza' in 1476.
Juliet in Arthur Brooke's story is 16 years of age, the same as Romeo. However, in Shakespeare's version, she is only 13, but Romeo remains 16 years old.
A man played Juliet in the very first performances, as women were not allowed to act!
The famous 'balcony' scene - as we know and love it today - probably never included a balcony. In the stage directions to Act 2 Scene 2, it says that Juliet appears at a window. Back in 1595 when the play was written, balconies hadn't been invented in England. Plus, theatres back then were quite small, had no curtains and used little or no scenery.
It is thought that the balcony was a later creation by Thomas Otway in 1679 who, at this time, took his version of Romeo and Juliet - The History and Fall of Caius Marius - to Rome and included the idea of the balcony scene.
There is a 13th Century house in Verona where Juliet is said to have lived. Tourists flock to see Juliet's balcony every year to stick love notes on the wall beneath it. Sadly, chewing gum is used to do this and the Verona city council have banned the sticking of notes on the walls and have now imposed a 500 Euro fine.
It is highly likely that Shakespeare never visited Verona, as its descriptions in the play bears little resemblance to the actual city.
The Montagues and Capulets didn't come from Shakespeare. They were first referenced in the poetry of early 14th century Italian, Dante Alighieri, the poet of the Divine Comedy.
One of the play's most famous lines, 'O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?', is very often misinterpreted. 'Wherefore' doesn't mean 'where', like many believe, it means 'why'. Juliet here is asking 'Why are you Romeo?', or rather 'Why are you a Montague?'.
Shakespeare's love for astrology is evident in the play through lines such as, 'a pair of star-crossed lovers' and, 'some consequence yet hanging in the stars'. This also ties in with one of the main themes - fate - which played a large part in Elizabethan society as they thought fate was written in the stars.
The first documented performance of Romeo and Juliet is in 1662 in London. It was seen by diarist Samuel Pepys who critiqued the play and wrote: "Romeo and Juliet, the first time it was ever acted, but it is a play of itself the worst that ever I heard in my life, and the worst acted that ever I saw these people do."
Some interesting facts there. Tell me how many you knew and why not add any other ones to the comments?
As you may know, we have The Wet Mariners coming back this year to perform Romeo and Juliet at The Arches on August 10th. The evening performance sold out extremely quickly, but there are tickets still available for the matinee at 3pm.
You probably have seen images of our gorgeous outdoor theatre, or you may have seen it in person; either way, how do you think they'll do the balcony scene?
Until next time ...
More about David Pibworth ...
David is the owner and Artistic Director of The Arches Theatre in Clifton Reynes near Milton Keynes. Productions are underneath some flood arches on the disused Midland railway line (Bedford to Northampton). It is equidistant from Bedford, Northampton and Milton Keynes. You bring your food, drink and chairs and enjoy the varied shows that are produced. This year - 2022 - there are 12 productions on throughout the season, from Shakespeare to Ripping Yarns plus a music weekend.
David has been involved in 'Light Ent' for many years, working with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson adapting the scripts of 'Steptoe and Son' and those of Tony Hancock to the stage. He has produced shows for Norman Wisdom (which makes him feel old), Al Murray, and Joe Pasquale amongst others, and also worked in the music business promoting and producing shows with Chas and Dave, Neil Inness, Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk and others of that ilk.
He is also the director of a film school for young people in his home town of Olney as well as supporting many local events.
He recently negotiated permission from Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais to stage a short run of 'Porridge' on stage which proved a success.
This year the annual charity performance at The Arches Theatre will be the last of 'Ripping Yarns' by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, with the profits being donated to The National Brain Appeal' for research into dementia as David's father and uncle died of it, as did Michael Palin's friend and writing partner Terry Jones. Last year they raised an astonishing Ã‚Â£10,000 and are hoping to get somewhere close again with the support of audiences and sponsors.
David also has a stage hire company and his wife Julie runs a livery yard, so they are surrounded by horses, dogs, light entertainment and and a 17 year old daughter.
He plays in a comedy jazz band and collects strange props such as the Spitting Image puppets of Denis Thatcher and Alan Bennett, the child catchers bike from the stage show of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and various other 'things' all of which he sells to raise money for the Arches Theatre, although he always finds it hard to part from these props. However as the theatre receives no funding at all, he is always devising ways to keep it going! Sponsors are always welcome!
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