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William Shakespeare: Fun Facts With The Bard On His Birthday!

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

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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!

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 ...

DAVID PIBWORTH


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More about David Pibworth ...

David is the owner of David Pibworth Productions (DPP) which provide corporate entertainment and also actors for corporate training and development.

Having worked in the Light Entertainment field for many years and produced shows for Al Murray & Joe Pasquale amongst others, David is in a position to advise on well-known comedy and musical acts. DPP also represent Ray Galton and Alan Simpson's scripts which include Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son.

He is the director of MK Theatre of Comedy who are very well known locally for their stage adaptations of classic comedy scripts such as Fawlty Towers, The Vicar of Dibley, Allo Allo and many others.

He is a long-standing member of Equity and the Directors Guild of Great Britain and has acted in, and directed, many productions over the years, mainly in Light Entertainment, but with occasional forays into Shakespeare etc. Every Christmas he is contracted as an Ugly Sister in Cinderella, currently with 'That's Entertainment' who also use him as a director.

He teaches eccentric magic for The Pauline Quirke Academy and MKTOC also run a youth drama school in Olney from the DPP offices.

David maintains his busy lifestyle is a surefire way to avoid being on any committees. He is married to Julie, and they have one daughter, Esther and live in Clifton Reynes, surrounded by dogs, cats and horses. They live so close to the church that David has instructed his daughter - when he dies and not before - to fire him over the wall from a circus cannon.