Romeo and Juliet Summary
Romeo and Juliet is a tragic story about a pair of star-crossed lovers from the two feuding families of Verona, the Capulets and the Montagues.
The feud between the two families had grown to such an extent that a servant of the Montague household couldn’t meet with a servant of the Capulet household, and if they encountered, even accidentally, angry words and sometimes bloodshed ensued, which disturbed the harmony of Verona streets.
Two of the Capulet servants, Sampson and Gregory pick up a fight with two of the Montague servants, Abraham and Balthazar. Benvolio, Lord Montague’s nephew, tries to stop them, but to no good. Soon, members from both the households join the fray. All hell which had been bursting at the seams up till now, breaks loose. As every good brawl ends when an authority figure shows up, in this case, it’s the prince of Verona, Prince Escalus. He orders both the families to desist and adds that anyone disturbing the harmony of the Verona streets will punished with death.
Luckily, Romeo, Lord Montague’s son, wasn’t involved, but his parents wonder where he is. Benvolio replies that Romeo has been shunning the company of his friends and has been wandering all by himself. He adds that he’ll try to find out the cause.
Romeo tells Benvolio that he’s infatuated with a girl called Rosaline. He is in pain because she doesn’t reciprocate and has vowed for celibacy. Benvolio asks him to take a look at other attractive girls but Romeo insists that no girl is more beautiful than Rosaline.
Meanwhile, Lord Capulet is hanging out with a kinsman of the prince, Count Paris. He says that Lord Montague and he are getting too old for this family feud. This is pretty important as a proof that the whole Montague-Capulet feud isn’t as big a deal to the older generation than it is to the younger generation. Paris asks Capulet if he can marry his 13 year old daughter Juliet. Capulet asks him to wait two years until Juliet’s 15 and invites Paris to a masquerade he’s organizing that evening. He gives his servant, Peter, a list of names of people to invite.
Peter cannot read. He bumps into Romeo and Benvolio and asks them to read the list for him. He doesn’t know them to be Montagues and invites them to the party.
Lady Capulet is sent to inform Juliet of Paris’s proposal. Juliet says she’s never thought of marriage but promises to take a look at Paris.
Romeo and his friends decide to gate-crash the masquerade. Romeo wants to see his unrequited love, Rosaline and Benvolio wants to convince him that she isn’t so special.
Capulet is having a merry time at his party with people dancing around. Romeo and his friends arrive wearing masks. Romeo spots Juliet and falls in love with her instantly, unaware that she’s a Capulet. He thinks to himself that he didn’t really know what true beauty was until he saw her.
While he muttered these praises for her to himself, Tybalt, Juliet’s pugilist cousin who thinks more with sword than his brain, recognizes Romeo by his voice to be a Montague. He informs his uncle and expresses his desire to teach him a lesson for crashing the Capulet masquerade. But Lord Capulet stops him because he thinks open brawls spoil a party and Romeo isn’t a bad guy. Why he’s never chipped in in the family brawls and after all, the whole Verona brags of him to be virtuous and well-governed boy. Tybalt is forced to keep his peace against his will.
Romeo takes Juliet by her hand. They exchange a few words and finally kiss. The Nurse calls her away. Romeo asks the Nurse who she is and she replies that she’s Juliet Capulet. The Nurse informs Juliet that the boy she just kissed was Romeo Montague. Juliet is distraught to know that her only love sprang from her only hate. Romeo has now forgotten Rosaline and is in love with Juliet, who feels the same way. He runs away from his friends to go and find Juliet. Mercutio thinks he’s gone away to see Rosaline, and shouts rude things about her to make him come back.
Romeo hides in the Capulet’s garden and watches Juliet appear above a window. To him it’s like the light of the Sun which kills the green moon. Juliet doesn’t know of his presence at first and goes on talking to herself, confessing her love for him. She asks him to “doff” his name. Romeo, no longer able to keep his mouth shut, asks her to call him whatever name she likes. She is both surprised and embarrassed when he replies. She recognizes him immediately the next time he speaks. Together, they exchange vows of their love for each other. They decide to get married the next day. Juliet promises to send him a messenger in the morning to find where and at what time they’re getting married. They find it difficult to part.
Romeo runs off to see Friar Lawrence, his friend and confidante, who notices he hasn’t been in his bed that night. When Romeo reveals to him that he’s in love with Juliet and wants to marry her, the friar is totally flabbergasted. He gives Romeo a good telling-off for switching girls so frequently and falling in love so easily. Why, just the other day he’d been pining for Rosaline. But the Friar agrees to solemnize the wedding, not because he’s a romantic but just because he thinks it might end the old feud.
Meanwhile, Benvolio tells Mercutio that Tybalt has sent letter to Montague’s house, challenging Romeo to a duel. Mercutio calls him “Prince of Cats” and jokes how good a swordsman he is comparing him to a dancer. When Romeo turns up in a cheerful mood, his friends are surprised that he’s dropped his “Rosaline-doesn’t- love-me act” and is back to his old energetic self. The three friends enjoy making lots of rude jokes.
The Nurse arrives and warns Romeo not to mess Juliet around. Romeo tells her that the wedding will take place that afternoon at Friar Lawrence’s cell. The Nurse is really excited. She returns back to the Capulet’ house and finds Juliet who’s beside herself with impatience. She teases her and makes her wait for the good news.
Romeo and Juliet meet at Friar Lawrence’s and go off to get secretly married.
Meanwhile, Mercutio is bickering with Benvolio, who’s vexed because he thinks that the Capulets might turn up looking for a scuffle. Tybalt appears looking for Romeo. Mercutio mocks him and Tybalt in turn, tries to lure him to fight. Romeo arrives and refuses to duel Tybalt. He turns the other cheek because Tybalt is his relation through marriage but that’s a secret. Mercutio misunderstands it as Romeo’s cowardice and fights with Tybalt instead of Romeo. Romeo intervenes; Tybalt stabs Mercutio under Romeo’s arm and flees. Then Mercutio starts joking so the friends assume it to be a tiny scratch. A minute later Mercutio dies, cursing both the families. Romeo’s grief over his friend’s death quickly turns to fury. When Tybalt reappears,he challenges him to a duel and kills him. Recalling Prince Escalus’s warning, Benvolio begs Romeo to run away.
Members of both the families show up on the scene and a little later Prince Escalus arrives. He orders Benvolio to narrate the fray. Lady Capulet wants Romeo to be put to death but the Prince points out that it was Tybalt who had started the skirmish and had killed Mercutio. He orders Romeo’s banishment from Verona.
Juliet is impatient for her wedding night but when the Nurse tells her about Tybalt’s demise, she’s confused whether to love or hate Romeo. She and her Nurse call him a lot of contradictory names. But when she gets back to her senses, she asks her Nurse to stop. On being questioned about how can she speak good of the man who had slain her cousin by the Nurse, Juliet asks her about how can she speak ill of her husband.. Juliet sheds tears over her cousin’s death, but they soon turn into tears of joy that her husband survived, and then finally came fresh tears of anguish over Romeo’s banishment. Seeing her despair, the Nurse promises to find Romeo so that she can have one last night with him.
Romeo has taken refuge in Friar Lawrence’s cell. When the Friar informs him of the Prince’s decision, he like a lunatic tears his hair and claims that banishment is worse than death. He just can’t stand the thought of being away from Juliet. Then the Nurse comes and she and the Friar try to deal with Romeo who’s in such a chaotic state. He threatens to stab himself out guilt for hurting Juliet but the Nurse and friar stop him. The Friar gives him a good telling-off for being so ungrateful and displaying such an effeminate behavior. He and the Nurse arrange for Romeo to spend his last night in Verona with Juliet, as long as he promises to leave for Mantua the following morning.
The Capulets are lamenting over Tybalt’s death. Paris comes to meet Juliet but she won’t come out of her bedroom. Capulet thinks the grief over Tybalt’s death is taking its toll on Juliet, making her shun meeting Paris in favour of some solitary weeping. He says that he’s changed his mind over waiting a few years for Juliet’s marriage and has decided to marry Juliet off to Paris that Thursday. He asks Paris and he agrees.
Romeo and Juliet have spent the night together. Juliet hears a lark but tries to convince Romeo that it was a nightingale because she doesn’t want the night to end. They don’t want to part but they know Romeo will be killed if seen in Verona. Juliet makes him hurry to get ready and leave for Mantua. She has a hunch of him dead in a grave.
Lady Capulet comes to Juliet’s room and asks her to cheer- up because her father has arranged for her to marry Paris. Juliet loses her temper and refuses to marry Paris under any circumstances. His father comes in and can’t believe how obstinate and ungrateful she’s being. He threatens her that he’ll throw her out and disown her and she can go out on the streets and beg for food if she’s not marrying the County. She asks her mum to support her but she declines. Her inability to tell her parents the truth about her clandestine wedding to Romeo, and instead just saying a blunt “NO” to marry Paris, gets Juliet at loggerheads with her parents. She turns to her Nurse for help but she tells her to forget Romeo and marry Paris without owning up. In those days, bigamy would have been a sin and would mean that she’d be sent to hell. Juliet lies to the Nurse that she’ll do as suggested by her, but when she leaves the room, Juliet calls her a hypocrite. She has only one ally left: Friar Lawrence. If he can’t help her ,then she will be in a dilemma where she either has to marry Paris without owning up and forget Romeo or commit suicide.
Paris has stopped by Friar Lawrence’s church to make arrangements for his wedding. The Friar is quietly freaking out because he isn’t a fan of bigamy. When Juliet arrives, she gives Paris “the cold shoulder” until he leaves. She begs the Friar to help her, and threatens to kill herself. Confronted with his second suicidal teen in under a day, he remains calm. He’s got a better plan than suicide. He tells Juliet of his idea. He knows of a drug that would make her appear dead for forty-two hours, and that would mean she’d be put in the family monument with Tybalt. Then the Friar will inform Romeo of his plan by means of a messenger and he can come and take to Mantua after she wakes up from the deep slumber. She takes the potion; thanks the friar and heads home.
She comes home; apologizes to her father and says that she’ll abide by him and marry Paris. Capulet is so happy that he decides to move the wedding date from that Thursday to Wednesday. Lady Capulet grumbles, but Capulet in his euphoria, overlooks her. Juliet asks her mum and Nurse to leave her alone. She then takes out the potion and drinks it all, after being a trifle worried for a split second that it might be real poison and she might die. Love gave young Juliet the nerve to undertake this awful adventure.
The Nurse finds her as still as a log and presumes her to be dead. Her parents and Nurse are beside themselves with grief. Friar Lawrence comes pretending that he’s come to take Juliet to the church to tie the knot with Paris. Paris comes and he’s appalled at the news.
Bad news had by now reached Romeo in Mantua. Balthazar tells him that he’s heard of Juliet’s death. Romeo thinks the only way out is to commit suicide in Juliet’s grave, so that he can be buried by her side. He goes to a poor apothecary and buys a dram of poison. He then heads off to Verona.
Friar John, Friar Lawrence’s messenger doesn’t find Romeo in Mantua and comes back to Friar Lawrence to tell him of the bad news- Romeo is unaware of the plan because he’d already left for Verona when Friar John reached Mantua. Friar Lawrence decides to go to the tomb and wait for Juliet to wake up from her trance while he sends another letter for Romeo.
That same evening Paris goes to Juliet’s tomb with some flowers. He hears a voice and decides to examine. Romeo pays Balthasar off and breaks into the Capulet monument. Paris tries to stop him; Romeo begs him to leave him alone. They fight and Paris falls. Just before he dies, he requests Romeo to place him next to Juliet’s corpse. Romeo feels guilty for having slain yet another of Juliet’s associates and takes him into the tomb to be next to Juliet.
He opens her tomb, and there was his Juliet in her matchless beauty, which makes it hard for Romeo to believe that she’s dead. He takes his last leave of her, chugs the poison and dies.
Friar Lawrence finds the breathless bodies of Romeo and Paris. Juliet wakes up at that moment and asks the Friar about Romeo’s whereabouts. He begs her to leave with him but she refuses. The Friar runs away.
Juliet sees a cup clutched in Romeo’s hands and figures out poison was the cause behind his death. There weren’t any dregs left for her to swallow, so she takes Romeo’s dagger and stabs herself to die by his side, an act which required a lot more nerve to carry out than just swallowing poison.
Some watchmen discover the bodies outside the tomb. They also find the Friar who’s weeping and trembling. Prince Escalus arrives with Juliet’s parents and Lord Montague. Friar Lawrence tells them about the wedding and their children’s deaths. He feels so guilty that he asks the Prince to punish him but the Prince won’t because he’s a holy man. The Prince rebukes Capulet and Montague for being so irrational in their feud, but he also blames himself for not doing enough to put an end the violence. Capulet and Montague decide to end their feud and Montague offers to have a golden statue of Juliet made. The play ends as the Prince says that this is the saddest love story ever told….