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Romeo and Juliet

It is believed that Romeo and Juliet was first performed on January 29, 1596, but nothing is certain, not even the year, which has been referenced to an earthquake in Britain. Since at least three earthquakes shook Britain, in 1580, 1583 and 1585, the date's uncertain. (John E. Hankins, Penguin Books)

What I think is certain is that the play has remained popular for more than 400 years because it appeals to the longing for a romantic love. Hankins says that "In former centuries the Library of Oxford University kept its folio copy of Shakespeare's works chained to a desk at which students could stand and read. The well-thumbed pages of the balcony scene and of the parting scene in Act III give mute evidence that for the young . . .these utterances of love were the most popular passages in all of Shakespeare's works.” Really, it’s hard to resist them even when one is no longer young:

See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

Those are other memorable lines in the play, since Shakespeare has a way of cutting to the quick:

My man’s as true as steel.
ACT II Scene 4

These violent delights have violent ends.
ACT II Scene 6

A plague o’ both your houses!
ACT III Scene 1

Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace!
ACT V Scene 3

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