Americans are particularly susceptible to Shakespeare Worship. If you start reading around about the question of "who wrote Shakespeare's plays," you'll find anecdotes about Americans who spent years, fortunes, and even their sanity, in their quest to prove the truth of their theories. (I'll probably post about some of them soon. The stories are wonderful.)
So, it is very American of me to say that my encounters with Shakespeare, and my growing passion for him, began with the G.I. Bill. All of my grandparents were Italian immigrants. My mother never finished high school. But her oldest sister, my Aunt Mary, was ambitious. She had finished high school and gone to work. When World War II broke out, she joined the WAVES. And when the war was over, she went to college on the G.I. Bill. One of the things she studied at Syracuse University was Shakespeare. After she graduated and moved on with her life, she left her copy of The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare in a sturdy brown bookcase in my grandmother's livingroom, which is where I first read "Romeo and Juliet." I think I was twelve.
I had no idea anything like this existed. It was so strange and beautiful and romantic. Especially romantic. I couldn't BELIEVE Romeo and Juliet were going to die, despite the Prologue. Maybe I skipped the Prologue, or didn't understand it. But I'm sure I read the whole play hoping for a happy ending, and was, instead, found in tears in the livingroom. I was hooked.