Internet Shakespeare Editions


Is Romeo and Juliet a tragedy?

Of course it is. Young, innocent lovers die, through no fault of their own. But if it were not for the sombre Prologue, Romeo and Juliet would seem very much a comedy* until the unexpected, almost accidental death of Mercutio.

The play does not show the common pattern of tragedy, a person of high rank falling to death. Instead it shows the deaths of two protagonists, young and hasty, caught in a web only partly of their own making.

But Shakespeare himself was a young man, who possibly married in haste, and his play combines attributes of both classical and medieval tragedy. And much drama of the period deliberately combined conventions of comedy with those of tragedy.

The deaths of Pyramus and Thisbe*, a story that closely parallels Romeo and Juliet.


  1. Romeo and Juliet: the comedy?

    The play follows many of the conventions of Greek New Comedy; conventions which Shakespeare would have found in the work of the Roman playwright Plautus.

  2. More tragical mirth

    The tragic story of Pyramus and Thisbe is parodied in the last act of A Midsummer Night's Dream, where it is described as "very tragical mirth."