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Romeo and Juliet Background

r jThese websites will help you explore the world of the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. This is just a place to get started. You will find a lot more websites online and books in the library about these topics, but make sure you are using reliable sources!




All Topics

Internet Public Library Shakespeare page

Annual Shakespeare Birthday Lectures

Elizabethan Era 


Queen Elizabeth I: 


Visual arts in the Elizabethan Era: 


Poverty in the Elizabethan Era (not everyone was a Prince or a Queen!): 



Shakespeare's Life

(Biographical information: When and where was he born? How was he educated? Did he have a wife and kids? How did he become famous? etc.)


Early life (PBS):


Shakespeare's hometown (PBS):


Encyclopedia Britannica:


Folger Shakespeare Library (click on the links to the left): 


Shakespeare's London (PBS):


Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway (PBS):


Important people in Shakespeare's life (PBS):


A podcast about what Shakespeare may have looked like: 


Folger Shakespeare Library (click on the links to the left):


Shakespeare's Other Plays

(What other plays did Shakespeare write? What were they about? How did he choose his subjects? Were his works inspired by anyone else? etc) 


Encyclopedia Britannica:


Important people in Shakespeare's life (PBS):



Shakespeare's Poetry

What is a sonnet? How are Shakespeare's different from other people's sonnets, notably the Petrarchan sonnet, which was the established form before Shakespeare? 


What is a sonnet? 


Iambic pentameter (normally is not a great research source, but this article's author is a theater expert): 


Background on the Sonnets, Washington University 


Shakespeare's Poetry: 


General Intro to Sonnets: 


Text of Sonnets:


Another site with text of sonnets:


Discussion of sonnets and love: 



Stagecraft in Shakespearean Theater (especially swordfighting!:)


Stage fencing in Elizabethan drama:


More about fencing:


Staging and performance, PBS:


Stage combat in Shakespeare's times




Theater in the Elizabethan Era 

(What did people think about the acting profession at that time? Why were all the women's roles played by men? Why did the London theaters get closed all the time? Did the Queen like the theater? etc.)


Entertainment at the time:


Encyclopedia Britannica:


Encyclopedia Britannica, another article:


Actors in Shakespeare's Day: 


The Audience in Shakespeare's time:




Shakespeare Online, Elizabethan Dress (NOTE: This is about what people who lived in Shakespeare's time wore, but not all the people in his plays would have worn these things, since he set many of his plays in other times): 


Speaking Shakespeare's Language 


Cal State LA: 


Words and Expressions that Shakespeare invented:


BBC again, influence of Shakespeare's language on today's English: 


Commonly used words in Shakespeare 


Royal Shakespeare Company: 


Iambic pentameter




From a "History of English" class at a European university: 


Concepts and Terms of Theater and Drama 


Stage Directions/Theater Terms: 


Tragedy--this is a long e-book but sections I and II are helpful:


Elements of Theater:


Glossary of Theater Terms:


Stage Directions 


A fun video dictionary about theater terms. If you have any trouble watching the videos at school, try it at home.



The Globe Theater

(history, architecture, and more about the most famous theater building in history!)


Encyclopedia Britannica:


Clemson Shakespeare Festival Virtual Tour of the Globe Theater:


This organization rebuilt a replica of the Globe:


From a Wake Forest University librarian's Shakespeare site, Globe page: (pictures) 


Topic 9: Poetry and the Sonnet. See "Shakespeare's Poetry" above. (Look for the links that describe poetry and sonnets as an art form, not just Shakespeare's).

The Authorship Debate: Did Shakespeare Really Write Shakespeare's Plays? 

(Some people throughout the years have argued that one man, especially one with only an average education, could not have written all of Shakespeare's amazing plays. Could it have been someone else? Whole groups have formed around this debate, like the Oxford Society, which supports the hypothesis that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, could be the "real" Shakespeare. Other scholars argue that there is a ton of evidence that Shakespeare wrote his own plays, and those who say he didn't are just conspiracy theorists looking for a more exciting story. What do you think?)


PBS Frontline: The Shakespeare Mystery


Oxford Society (pro-earl-of-Oxford side of the debate):


This article gives an overview of the whole debate but is pro-Shakespeare in the end:




This organization aims to give an evidence-based voice to the side of the debate that believes Shakespeare may not have written the plays: 



Love and Marriage in the Elizabethan Era


Encyclopedia Britannica: (scroll down, there are lots of topics on this page)




Religion and Spiritual Beliefs in the Elizabethan Era


Encyclopedia Britannica: (scroll down, there are lots of topics on this page)


Catholic Church (click on "Protestant" too)--from PBS:


Superstition and the supernatural in Shakespeare: