Cover image for Understanding Romeo and Juliet : a student casebook to issues, sources, and historical documents
Understanding Romeo and Juliet : a student casebook to issues, sources, and historical documents
Hager, Alan, 1940-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xviii, 241 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Analysis of Romeo and Juliet -- Narrative backgrounds to Romeo and Juliet -- The narrative source of Romeo and Juliet -- The lyrical source of Romeo and Juliet: Sir Philip Sidney and the Elizabethan sonnet -- The performance history of Romeo and Juliet -- The historical context of Romeo and Juliet -- Romeo and Juliet in the 1990s.
Reading Level:
1380 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR2831 .H26 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet has touched the hearts of young and old for nearly four hundred years. In this work, Alan Hager has compiled a rich collection of primary materials and contemporary ranging from information about the earliest performances of Romeo and Juliet to discussions of suicide in the 1990s. Designed to help students of the play, Understanding Romeo and Juliet highlights many different aspects of the play's context. Such aspects include a discussion about religions of love in the East and West, and examination of vendetta and collective violence, and an analysis of the play in the context of classical and medieval thought. Hager relates the work to issues as recent as the so-called Werther Syndrome (copycat suicide based on fictional models) and as remote as the notion of reincarnated love such as that of Rama and Sita in the Sanskrit epic Ramayana .

Following a literary analysis of the play, the casebook provides commentary and primary documents on the narrative backgrounds and sources of the play and selections from those sources; a discussion of its performance history on stage, in opera and film; the historical context of the play as an exploration of the nature of love, with selections from poetry of the period; and selections on real-life parallels, such as present-day Bosnia, the recent Leonardo DiCaprio-Claire Danes film of the play, and teen suicide in the 1990s, all of which will help readers to relate to the play. Each section of the work closes with topics for class discussion and papers and suggested works for further reading.

Author Notes

Alan Hager is Professor of English at the State University of New York at Cortland

Reviews 1

School Library Journal Review

Gr 10 Up-Hager begins his analysis of the well-known play by touching on such concepts as love, vendetta, and contrariety (a juxtaposition of opposing ideas). He then explores the background of the play, narrative influences (such as the Greek story of Pyramus and Thisbe and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde), the primary narrative source (Arthur Brooke's The Tragedy of Romeus and Juliet), and lyrical sources such as the poetry of Philip Sidney. The second half of the book looks at the performance history of the play, its historical context, and 1990s interpretations and analogies. Each chapter ends with a section of study questions, discussion or research topics, and a bibliography. There is a substantial glossary. While the book contains many nuggets of useful information and a glimpse at several original sources, it is not easy to use and many discussions require previous knowledge of the subject. The prose is often rambling, the organization tends to be muddy, and some of the material is either arcane or irrelevant (the reprint of a puff piece on Claire Danes, who played Juliet in Baz Luhrmann's film William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, for example). As a tool for reports, Hager's book lacks the focus and clarity of Don Nardo's Readings on Romeo and Juliet (Greenhaven, 1997). An additional choice for larger collections.-Sally Margolis, Barton Public Library, VT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Jill L. LevensonHarley Granville-BarkerGay TaleseSteve MarshallMadelyn S. Gould, Ph.D., M.P.H. and David Shaffer, M.D.Barbara Lazear AscherAlan CowellBob HerbertRichard CorlissBelinda LuscombeLou Carlozo
Prefacep. xiii
1. Analysis of Romeo and Julietp. 1
2. Narrative Backgrounds to Romeo and Julietp. 33
from Ovid's Story of Pyramus and Thisbe in Metamorphoses (8 A.D.?)p. 39
from Xenophon of Esphesus' Ephesian Tale of Anthia and Habrocomes (second or third century A.D.)p. 43
from Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde (ca. 1390)p. 48
from Masuccio Salernitano's Thirty-Third Novel from il Novellino (1476)p. 58
3. The Narrative Source of Romeo and Julietp. 67
from Arthur Brooke's Romeus and Juliet (1562)p. 72
4. The Lyrical Source of Romeo and Juliet: Sir Philip Sidney and the Elizabethan Sonnetp. 93
5. The Performance History of Romeo and Julietp. 115
from Shakespeare Performance: Romeo and Juliet (1987)p. 127
from Prefaces to Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Love's Labour's Lost (1930)p. 131
6. The Historical Context of Romeo and Julietp. 147
from Plato's Symposium (385 B.C.?)p. 151
from Plotinus' Six Enneads (after 253 A.D.)p. 156
from Trobador Poets: Selections from the Poems of Eight Trobadors (ca. 1190)p. 159
from The "Tristan and Isolde" of Gottfried von Strassburg (1210)p. 162
from "Courtly Love: Troubadours and Cathars," in Denis de Rougemont's Love in the Western World (1940)p. 165
from Unto the Sons (1992)p. 170
from Paracelsus: Selected Writings (1493-1541)p. 173
from The Book of the Courtier by Baldassare Castiglione (1528)p. 174
from Giordano Bruno's The Heroic Frenzies (1585)p. 175
from "Ripeness Is All," in Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance (1958)p. 176
from "The Infant Rind," in Robert Grudin, Mighty Opposites: Shakespeare and Renaissance Contrariety (1980)p. 177
7. Romeo and Juliet in the 1990sp. 183
from The Poetics in Aristotle's Theory of Poetry and Fine Art (330 B.C.?)p. 187
from "Forbidden Love Leads to Suicide of 8th Graders" (1995)p. 188
from An unattributed Newsview on "Teenagers" (1989)p. 190
from "The Impact of Suicide in Television Movies: Evidence of Imitation" (1986)p. 192
from "Letters to the Editor," in The New England Journal of Medicine (1988)p. 193
from "Trying to Avoid Romeo and Juliet: In Verona for the Opera, a Visitor Finds There Is No Escaping the City's Most Famous Couple" (1996)p. 195
from "Dear Juliet: Let Me Tell You About My Problem" (1993)p. 201
from "Romeo and Juliet in Bosnia" (1994)p. 204
from "Suddenly Shakespeare: O.K., So He Isn't John Grisham. But More and More Films Are Betting the Bard Can Make Money at the Multiplex" (1996)p. 207
from "Her So-Called Big-Deal Film Career" (1996)p. 209
from "Shakespeare Rocks" (1996)p. 211
Glossary of Critical Terms and Namesp. 221
Indexp. 233