As a five act play, Romeo and Juliet has a clear division of plot. Act I provides the exposition and Act II has the rising action. Here are some key features of these acts:
- The feud is introduced to the audience with the posturing of Sampson and Gregory, Capulet servants, and Balthasar and Abraham, Montague servant.
- That the feud is problematic is evident with the long speech of the Prince, who warns them that anyone who breaks the peace with be punished by death.
- Romeo's parents seek their son, who is morose over his unrequited love for Rosalind, who is going to a nunnery.
- Benvolio tries to cheer up Romeo, urging him to attend the party for Juliet that the servant who cannot read tells them about.
- Paris discusses his desire to marry Juliet with Lord Capulet, who suggests he wait "two more summers."
- However, Lady Capulet urges her daughter to consider Paris as a suitor, but Juliet reluctantly agrees to "look to like, if looking liking move."
- Mercutio playfully embarks upon a long-winded monologue about Queen Mab in order to entertain, but the serious Romeo impatiently tells him, "Thou talk'st of nothing."
- As they approach the Capulet party, Romeo senses fate, fearing "Some consequence."
- Romeo and the others arrive at the party and he sees Juliet across the room and is starstruck.
- After she talks with Romeo, Juliet, too, is smitten. When she learns who Romeo is, she exclaims, "My only love sprung from my only hate!"
- Totally infatuated with Juliet, Romeo runs from the others and scales the orchard walls to stand under Juliet's balcony where he secretly listens to her.
- When Juliet bemoans that he is a Montague, Romeo speaks aloud, startling her.
- Romeo declares his love for Juliet, swearing by the moon; Juliet cautions him that the moon is fickle, and that they me too rash.
- But Romeo persuades her to declare her "love's faithful vow" for his.
- Romeo departs as the Nurse calls to Juliet, and hurries to the cell of Friar Laurence
- Friar Laurence, in a soliloquy remarks on the herbs that he picks; his speech foreshadows what is to come in the play.
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,
And vice sometime's by action dignified.
- Romeo arrives in the friar's cell and tells him about Juliet; Friar Laurence urges caution: "Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast."
- Mercutios and Benvolio are on a street in Verona, discussing a letter of challenge that Tybalt has sent to the Montagues.
- In a humorous scene the Nurse is the object of Mercutio's ridicule. Providing comic relief, Mercutio call her a "sail," and she retorts with bawdy jokes.
- Impatiently, Juliet awaits the Nurse's return. Finally, when the Nurse arrives, she is yet garrulous, but does tell Juliet to go to Friar Laurence's cell where Romeo will marry her.
- Friar Laurence continues to urge caution, saying that "violent delights have violent ends." He tells Romeo to love moderately so it will last.
- The priest performs the marriage ceremony for Romeo and Juliet.