The notes were prepared for use with an edition of Romeo and Juliet bound together with the book for West Side Story and in conjunction with a showing of Franco Zeffirelli's film version of the play, but they will be useful with any edition or production.
The introduction focuses primarily on comparisons with West Side Story, so it has relatively little to say about the play as such. As noted, this is often regarded as a lesser Shakespeare tragedy by scholars, but what should also be kept in mind is that audiences have made it one of the most beloved plays of all time from the Elizabethan Age to the present. Romeo and Juliet are often considered the archetypal lovers, and at one time "a romeo"--meaning a lover--was a common noun. Several operas and ballets have been based on the story. The play also contains some of Shakespeare's most-quoted lines, and some of the most beautiful.
Although Shakespeare's dialogue often reads beautifully enough on the page, please keep in mind that he never intended his words to be read. This is a script for performance, and our study of it will prepare us for a version of the real thing: the film version directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Like all productions, it is an interpretation, leaving some things out, putting others in, placing emphases differently than other productions. Your goal in this assignment should be to familiarize （or refamiliarize） yourself with exactly what Shakespeare wrote so that you can observe what it is Zeffirelli has done with it.
Shakespeare wrote almost
Italian cities were infamous for their long-lasting, deadly feuds between prominent families. Elizabeth, like most absolute monarchs, abhorred dueling and feuding and tried to suppress it. Shakespeare's play is in part his contribution to her "just say no" campaign against such conflicts.