Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" Part 1: The Story


Children of families who are locked in a fatal feud, Romeo and Juliet risk community, identity, and life to pursue an all-consuming love. Today, Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous love stories in the world. But the play isn’t simply a celebration of love or an idealization of the lovers. This wild and dangerous play lays bare the link between desire and death, between love and loss. The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet isn’t that their love is thwarted or impossible. The tragedy is love. In this course, you’ll learn the story of Romeo and Juliet, hear the play’s key speeches performed and analyzed by world-class Shakespearean actors and literary scholars, and see how Shakespeare brings its characters to life with the brightness and briefness of lightning. In Part 1, you’ll be guided through a detailed account of the story with commentary by Simon Palfrey, Professor of English at the University of Oxford. Professor Palfrey explains how this play is Shakespeare’s experimentation with new possibilities in drama and a masterpiece of his own poetic powers. You’ll learn how Shakespeare characterizes Romeo and Juliet and how their relationship is reflected in their particular forms of poetry. This summary is told using the language of the play itself, placing key quotations in context to help you understand where these lines come from and what they mean.

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Zachary Davis is the host of Ministry of Ideas and Writ Large and the Editor-in-Chief of Radiant.

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