In his 1562 narrative poem The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet , Arthur Brooke translated Boaistuau faithfully but adjusted it to reflect parts of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde .  There was a trend among writers and playwrights to publish works based on Italian novelles —Italian tales were very popular among theatre-goers—and Shakespeare may well have been familiar with William Painter 's 1567 collection of Italian tales titled Palace of Pleasure .  This collection included a version in prose of the Romeo and Juliet story named "The goodly History of the true and constant love of Romeo and Juliett" . Shakespeare took advantage of this popularity: The Merchant of Venice , Much Ado About Nothing , All's Well That Ends Well , Measure for Measure , and Romeo and Juliet are all from Italian novelle . Romeo and Juliet is a dramatisation of Brooke's translation, and Shakespeare follows the poem closely but adds extra detail to both major and minor characters (in particular the Nurse and Mercutio).   
Estimated Reading Time
Because of the play form and the language of Shakespeare, an average student should spend about an hour per act in individual reading. Each act may be broken down into two or three scenes at a time to ensure understanding. The language might be difficult at first and will require careful examination of footnotes or help located in the text. After reading each scene, you should answer all study questions in relation to that scene to ensure understanding and comprehension. The essay questions may be used if needed. Since there are five acts in Romeo and Juliet , you should expect to spend approximately five hours divided in segments of eight to ten sessions.
In Act 1, scene 1, the buffoonish Samson begins a brawl between the Montagues and Capulets by flicking his thumbnail from behind his upper teeth, an insulting gesture known as biting the thumb. He engages in this juvenile and vulgar display because he wants to get into a fight with the Montagues but doesn’t want to be accused of starting the fight by making an explicit insult. Because of his timidity, he settles for being annoying rather than challenging. The thumb-biting, as an essentially meaningless gesture, represents the foolishness of the entire Capulet/Montague feud and the stupidity of violence in general.