Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Shakespeare's versatility is nowhere more apparent than in his early romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet (c.1595), and his later sombre comedy, Troilus Cressida (c.1601). Both are love stories set against a background of strife--the Trojan war in Troilus Cressida, and a feud between two noble houses of Verona in Romeo and Juliet. Each play reaches a tragic end through the separation of the lovers resulting from the basic conflict forming the background for the love story. Each play has as its protagonist an idealistic young man whose life is greatly affected by an overwhelming passion. The heroine of each play, though not at all similar in character to the other, is more mature in outlook and in greater control of her emotions than her lover.

Various critical opinions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are presented throughout the paper in order to indicate the broad areas of interpretation which must be considered in arriving at an intelligent appraisal of the levels of meaning to be found in each play. The diversity of critical opinion to be found on each point testifies to the complexity and universality of Shakespeare. To give historical depth to these critical discussions, the Restoration adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, The History and Fall of Caius Marius (c. 1679) by Thomas Otway, and of Troilus and Cressida, Troilus and Cressida; or Truth Found Too Late (1679) by John Dryden, are considered as a form of critical comment.