"Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean."
These lines begin the prologue of the ever so famous Romeo and Juliet. The Capulets and the Montagues (two households
both alike in dignity) have been fighting with each other for years (from ancient grudge). The play opens in Verona, Italy with a
new riot between the families (new mutiny). It starts as an argument between servants of opposing households and grows to
involve more people, including Tybalt (Capulet- Juliet’s cousin) and Benvolio (Montague- Romeo’s cousin). The two families
throw insults at each other, including the famous "Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?" remark. Eventually, the Prince breaks up
the fight, leaving both households with a warning: if another disturbance breaks out, the punishment will be death.
Enter Romeo (Montague). Romeo, who was off feeling sorry for himself, is made aware of the fight by Benvolio. Romeo
expresses his hopeless love for a girl (Rosaline) to Benvolio, who tells him that there are plenty of other beauties. Benvolio has
a solution to Romeo’s depression: they should attend the Capulet party so that Romeo will realize that there are many other
girls prettier than Rosaline. Romeo agrees to attend the party with the hope that Rosaline might be there.
Enter Juliet (Capulet). Juliet is at the age where she should be married (almost fourteen- that was customary at the time). Juliet’s
nurse and mother tell her this and suggest the valiant Paris as a husband. The Nurse, a funny character, adds, "Go, girl, seek
happy nights to happy days" as she leaves Juliet.
Enter problem number one. This is a Capulet ball. Romeo is a Montague. They sneak into the party and hide under masks.
Tybalt spots Romeo and is angered, but his father refuses to let him cause chaos at his party. Then Romeo sees Juliet
(Capulet). They fall in love with each other and sneak to the back and kiss. Enter problem number two. Only after the party is
over do the two lovers realize that they are from opposing families. Juliet laments, "My only love sprung from my only hate!"
because she is in love with Romeo but the Montagues are her mortal enemies.
Romeo, unwilling to leave Juliet, sneaks into the Capulet orchid to watch her. This is when the famous balcony scene takes
place. Juliet is talking to herself and delivers the line, "O Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore art thou Romeo?" This means why is your
name Romeo, as in why does Romeo have to be a Montague. She expresses her love for Romeo, unaware that he is watching
her. After she talks for a while, he climbs up the balcony and tells of his love for her. They exchange vows and promise to
marry the next day at Friar Laurence’s cell.
Romeo, who hasn’t slept, arrives at Friar Laurence’s cell the next morning to ask the Friar to marry them. At first the Friar
disagrees, but then he thinks that their marriage may end the feud between the Montagues and Capulets. He agrees to marry
them, but cautions Romeo that it is not wise to rush into things.
Tybalt delivers a challenge to fight Romeo through Mercutio and Benvolio.
After Mercutio teases Juliet’s Nurse, Romeo tells her that he will marry Juliet that afternoon. The Nurse returns home to an
impatient Juliet and reveals to her that Romeo still wants to marry her. Romeo and Juliet are secretly married by Friar Laurence.
Tybalt challenges Romeo once again, but Romeo refuses to fight (since Tybalt is now his cousin). However, Mercutio fights
Tybalt and is fatally stabbed. With Mercutio’s death, Romeo demands revenge and kills Tybalt. This is the climax of the play.
Romeo hides in the Friar’s cell and learns his punishment: exile. In those days, the punishment of exile seemed worse than death
because it was a banishment from everything one knew. To top it off, Romeo would not be able to see his love, Juliet. Romeo,
distressed, attempts suicide. The Friar scolds him and explains to Romeo that everything will be all right. Romeo should go see
Juliet and then leave for Mantua, the next town. Friar Laurence will explain the situation to both families and then Romeo can
return safely. Romeo cheers up and visits his new wife.
However, another problem soon arises. The fine young Paris wishes to take Juliet’s hand in marriage. Her father, assuming that
Juliet will be pleased, sets the wedding date for Thursday (3 days later). After Juliet refuses to marry Paris (she is already
married to Romeo), her father becomes very upset. He hits her and promises to disown her if she does not marry Paris. Her
mother and even her loving Nurse are of no help, so Juliet runs off to the Friar.
Juliet, like Romeo, believes that the only solution is suicide, but the Friar talks her out of it. He has a drug that will make Juliet
appear dead for 42 hours. The Friar tells Juliet to take it the night before her wedding. Meanwhile, he will send a notice to
Romeo to return from Mantua. When Juliet awakes from her "nap," Romeo will be there waiting for her. The plan sounds like it
will work and Juliet takes the drug.
Juliet pretends to consent to her father’s wishes and acts as if she is delighted to be married. Her father is so happy that the
wedding is moved up one day. Tuesday night, Juliet becomes afraid that the plan will not work, becoming suspicious of the
Friar. She takes a dagger to kill herself in case the drug fails. Finally, Juliet overcomes her fears and because of her love for
Romeo; she drinks the liquid.
Wednesday morning, the Nurse finds her dead and a funeral is planned. Juliet’s and the Friar’s plot should work, but the
message sent to Romeo about the plan never reaches him. Instead, Romeo’s messenger Balthasar tells Romeo that Juliet is
dead. Romeo, determined not to believe that his love is dead until he has seen it with his own eyes, rides off to Verona. But
before arriving there, he stops by an apothecary to buy poison. If the news is true, he will commit suicide.
Romeo enters the burial vault of the Capulets to take one last look at Juliet. Upon entering, he confronts Paris, who thinks that
Romeo has come to desecrate the tombs. Paris is killed and lain next to Juliet, as is his last wish. After Romeo delivers a
monologue on the infinite beauty of Juliet, he drinks his poison and dies. The Friar arrives just a minute too late, finding both
Romeo and Paris dead. Juliet awakens, looking for her Romeo. Seeing him dead on the ground, she tries to drink some of his
poison but the vial is empty. Juliet takes out her dagger and stabs herself.
The two star-crossed lovers had to give their life in order for their families to end their fighting. Romeo and Juliet ends with
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.