Romeo and Juliet Summary

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

     This infamous love story by William Shakespeare falls into the category of tragedy due to its many deaths. It begins with a prologue spoken by the chorus, which takes the form of a sonnet. This introduction to the play sets up the rivalry between the Capulets and the Montagues as well as foreshadowing the suicides of the young lovers, Romeo and Juliet. The first scene features a fight between the two feuding families, mostly involving servants although Tybalt, Juliet's cousin, and Benvolio, Romeo's cousin, join in toward the end. The Prince then arrives to announce the new law that anyone caught fighting will be killed. Lord and Lady Montague are happy that Romeo was not involved in the fight, and they ask Benvolio if he knows where Romeo might be. They all agree that Romeo has been acting depressed lately and often hangs out in the forest. They notice Romeo walking by and Benvolio agrees to talk to Romeo to find out what's making him so sad. Benvolio talks to Romeo and finds out that Romeo is in love with a girl who doesn't love him back. They receive an offer from a Capulet servant to attend the party that evening, so Romeo agrees to go to see the girl he loves, Rosaline, while Benvolio says he'll go with him so that he can find him a better girl. The scene then jumps to the Capulet house. Paris, a young count, is interested in marrying Juliet. Capulet, Juliet's father, tells Paris to wait until Juliet is a bit older, since she's not quite fourteen, but he should come to the party to get to know her and see if she is interested in him. Juliet tells her mother that she will check out Paris at the party but no more than she would any other gentleman there. Romeo meets up with Benvolio and his friend Mercutio before the party. Romeo has a bad feeling about attending the party and doesn't feel like he should go. Finally, his friends convince him, and he goes despite his misgivings. At the party Romeo spots Juliet and instantly falls in love. He approaches her and after a brief conversation, he kisses her several times. When she is called away, he finds out she is Juliet Capulet. She makes a similar realization that she has fallen in love with Romeo Montague, who is supposed to be her arch enemy.

     In act two Romeo is leaving the party with his friends when he decides to turn back and run off into the woods. His friends have no idea he has fallen in love with Juliet, so they think he is still upset about Rosaline and leave him behind. Romeo is then able to return to the Capulet property. He spies Juliet up on her balcony. He watches her without her knowing and hears her mention his name. After a few minutes, he reveals himself, and they profess their love to one another. They decide to get married. Juliet tells Romeo that she will send a messenger to him the next morning at nine o'clock to find out when and where the wedding will take place. Romeo races off to see Friar Laurence, someone he often goes to for advice. Even though they have known each other for less than twenty-four hours, Friar Laurence agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet because he thinks it may stop the fighting between their families. Romeo is thrilled. He runs off and meets up with his friends. While they are harassing him for ditching them last night, the Nurse approaches Romeo for the message. He sends his friends away and tells the Nurse to have Juliet say she is going to confession this afternoon, and Friar Laurence will marry them. The Nurse relays the message back to Juliet after stalling for a bit to torture her a bit, and Juliet is overjoyed. She meets Romeo at the church, and they are married.

     Act three opens with Romeo's friends hanging out again. Tybalt shows up looking for Romeo and a response to his challenge. Mercutio is willing to fight Tybalt when Romeo appears. Romeo does not want to fight Tybalt because he just married his cousin. He tries to tell Tybalt no, and Mercutio decides to step in on his behalf. When Mercutio and Tybalt are fighting, Romeo steps between them and tries to break it up. At that point Tybalt stabs Mercutio in the stomach under Romeo's arm. Mercutio curses both families before he dies. Enraged, Romeo goes after Tybalt and kills him as revenge for the loss of his friend. Romeo then flees the scene. The Prince arrives and decides that Romeo's punishment will be exile from Verona. Juliet has been unaware of these events until the Nurse comes in and explains that Romeo has killed Tybalt, so Romeo has been banished. Juliet wants to see Romeo, so the Nurse agrees to seek him out to let him know. Romeo, meanwhile, has been hiding out at Friar Laurence's cell. Friar Laurence tells Romeo that he has been banished, and Romeo doesn't know what to do. The Nurse shows up and sees how upset he is. Friar Laurence advises Romeo to visit Juliet and then live in Mantua until he can talk the Prince into letting him return. Capulet talks to Paris about the death of Tybalt and decides the best way to cheer up the family is to have a wedding for Paris and Juliet. Paris happily agrees to marry Juliet on Thursday. The next morning Juliet is watching Romeo climb out her window after spending the night with her, and she has a bad feeling that she will never see him again. Her mother enters and tells Juliet that she is supposed to marry Paris on Thursday. Juliet can't believe it. She is upset at this rash decision and looks to her mother and the Nurse for advice, but they don't help her. Juliet decides she will visit Friar Laurence, and if he can't help her escape this marriage, she will kill herself.

     In act four Juliet sees Friar Laurence who offers her a potion that will allow her to fake her own death. She takes it home with her and apologizes to her father for her bad behavior. She asks to be left alone that night then worries about all the things that could go wrong with the potion before she drinks it. The next morning the Nurse finds her and believes she is dead. Her family is shocked, and Friar Laurence urges them to quickly bury her, knowing the effects of the potion only last forty-two hours.

     Act five starts with Romeo in Mantua. Her servant Balthasar brings him the news that he saw Juliet being put in the Capulet tomb. Romeo decides he wants to die next to her. He visits an apothecary and buys poison then continues on to Verona. Meanwhile, Friar Laurence talks to Friar John, who was supposed to deliver the letter to Romeo explaining how he needed to break Juliet out of the tomb, and Friar John tells him he was unable to deliver the letter due to the outbreak of a disease. Friar Laurence decides he will need to rescue Juliet himself and write a new letter to Romeo telling him to pick Juliet up at the church instead. Romeo arrives at the tomb and finds Paris grieving, so he has to kill him. He goes in and sees Juliet and drinks the poison. Juliet wakes up, finds Romeo next to her, and stabs herself. The Prince arrives and finds out the whole story from Friar Laurence who explains it to the two feuding families. The families agree to stop their feuding and be friends due to the loss of their two children.

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