This book is what it says it is--a translation. It provides modern text opposite the page featuring the original text. For mere translational purposes, this book can't be beat.
It claims to include "plenty of helpful commentary," but I found such comments to be lacking! Act 1 has sixteen comments and Act 2 has twenty-three, but from here on out, the numbers dwindle. There are no comments in all of Act 5, only two in all of Act 3, and only three in Act 4. That's only forty-four comments for a book some two hundred pages long!
Perhaps there wasn't much cause for commentary, or some Acts (such as 3) were pretty short, but I would have liked some and felt it would have helped--plus SparkNotes made me expect a comment to be on every page! Naturally, I was disappointed by this, especially considering the book highlights this feature on its cover. Plenty of things my teacher clued my classmates and me in on weren't in the book.
For example, when Romeo buys the poison from the poor apothecary in Mantua, he gives the apothecary a "ducat." My teacher said a ducat is a gold coin; from the text I couldn't infer this, and there was no note from SparkNotes to explain for me.
The book also advertises its character analysis, which is in fact quite shallow and brief, providing little if any real insight.
I wasn't expecting some college-level examination of Romeo and Juliet, but I was expecting to receive what was promised on the book cover--and I didn't expect what was promised to be skimpy!
In addition, I swear some of the translations aren't correct. Just inferring from the text, I came up with more probable translations than the book did at times. For example, take these lines from the play and the translation provided:
Original text: "By heaven, I will tear thee joint by joint/And strew this hungry churchyard with thy limbs."
Translation: "I swear I'll tear you apart limb by limb and spread your body parts around to feed the hungry animals in the graveyard."
Animals? The original text in absolutely NO way suggests there are animals living in the churchyard. SparkNotes needs to think beyond what can literally be hungry--humans, animals, living things--and think about literary devices. This was, to me, personification; the churchyard itself is hungry, hungry for fresh blood, new bodies, that those who are buried there are so ancient the churchyard needs to be added to. Perhaps I'm wrong, but even if I am, I'm convinced SparkNotes is equally wrong.
So, my advice to potential buyers: Know that this book is just what it sounds like--a great translation (though, if you ask me, questionable at times) and not much more. If you want more, like considerably in-depth character analysis or plentiful explanations of Shakespearean language, I suggest you look elsewhere.