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Romeo and Juliet in Popular Culture

Writers and artists have been fascinated with Romeo and Juliet since long before Shakespeare was born.   Shakespeare got the story of his “star-crossed lovers” from the poems The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iuliet, written by an Arthur Brooke in 1562 and/or The Palace of Pleasure written by William Painter in 1566.  These two authors had adapted the story from an Italian work by Matteo Bandello, who in turn had adapted it from one of several other, older, sources.

The appeal of this story has endured through the centuries, for the “tale of Juliet and her Romeo” is still well-known and permeates American pop culture.   Musicians from Taylor Swift to Dire Straits and The Indigo Girls have recorded songs that reference the lovers.   The story has been retold in many films, from the musical West Side Story, which recasts the feuding families as rival gangs in New York, to Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, set in a modern Verona with pistol-wielding Capulets and Montagues, to the Japanese anime series Romeo x Juliet, set in Neo Verona.  Author Stephanie Meyer even claims that her novel Twilight:  New Moon is based upon the tale.  The story is so well-known that it is easily referenced in comedy, from the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s Complete Works of William Shakespeare to the Second City Network’s Sassy Gay Friend: Romeo and Juliet(WARNING:  some vulgar language).

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