Places Discussed

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Capulets’ orchard

Capulets’ orchard. Walled orchard overlooked by Juliet’s window. A place where domestic comfort meets wild nature, the orchard is the place where the play’s star-crossed lovers pledge their troth, and through which Romeo enters Juliet’s chamber to consummate their secret marriage. There, too, the higher and lower aspects of love are contrasted: Juliet, above, representing true romance; and the lane by the wall, below, where Mercutio taunts Romeo with lewd jests.

Friar Laurence’s cell

Friar Laurence’s cell. Sacred place where the lovers repair from the cruel world to find solace and intimate counsel from their sympathetic priest. There the lovers privately confide in the friar their determination to commit suicide. There too the crucial elements of the tragedy’s plot are devised: plans for the secret marriage, the sleeping potion Juliet takes to avoid marrying Paris, and the miscarried letter to bring Romeo back from banishment in Mantua.

Capulets’ tomb

Capulets’ tomb. Place where love and death conjoin in a double suicide on holy ground. Seeming to be dead, Juliet is placed in the tomb, there to awake and find that Romeo has dealt Paris a bloody death and poisoned himself, thinking she is dead. When his lips afford her none of the poison, she plunges his dagger into her bosom. Significantly, the play ends there, not with their deaths, but with the families and townspeople crowding into the holy place to end their feud and honor the dead lovers.

Form and Content

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Romeo and Juliet is a five-act tragedy about the protagonists’ ill-fated love. By chance, Romeo, the son of Montague, learns of the annual Capulet party, and he allows his kinsman Benvolio to persuade him to attend, even though the Capulets are mortal enemies of the Montagues. Romeo hopes to see his disdainful love, Rosaline, while Benvolio hopes that Romeo will find another woman there.

At the party, Romeo indeed falls in love with another, Juliet, the only daughter of old Capulet. She also falls in love with him. After the ball, Romeo enters the Capulet garden, where he and Juliet converse in the famous balcony scene. She proposes to marry him, and, before they part, she tells him that in the morning she will send her nurse to learn his answer.

That morning, Romeo tells the nurse to instruct Juliet to meet him at Friar Lawrence’s monastery in the afternoon, and there they secretly marry. Before the lovers can consummate their marriage that night, however, Juliet’s cousin Tybalt meets Romeo and challenges him to a duel. Romeo, now related to Tybalt by marriage, refuses the challenge, but Romeo’s friend Mercutio accepts. As Romeo tries to separate the two combatants, Mercutio is slain. Romeo must now choose between the masculine code of revenge and the feminine code of love. He chooses the former and kills Tybalt in a fair fight. The Prince of Verona, who has ordered the Montagues and Capulets to avoid fighting on pain of death, banishes Romeo. After a night with Juliet, Romeo flees to Mantua.

Thinking that Juliet grieves for Tybalt’s death rather than Romeo’s banishment, old Capulet quickly arranges a marriage for his daughter with Paris, a nobleman. Desperate, Juliet consults Friar Lawrence, who gives her a sleeping potion that will make her appear dead; she will then be placed in the Capulet vault. Meanwhile, Friar Lawrence will send a message to Mantua to tell Romeo about the plot. Romeo will come to the vault, meet the reawakened Juliet, and together the couple will flee Verona.

The friar’s potion works, but the plague prevents his messenger from reaching Romeo. Instead, Romeo hears that Juliet has died. Buying a dose of poison, he hastens to Verona and Juliet’s tomb. When Paris confronts him there, Romeo kills him in a duel. He then drinks the poison just before Juliet awakens. Friar Lawrence has come to the crypt too late to save Romeo, but he tries to convince Juliet to leave. Instead, she takes Romeo’s dagger and stabs herself. At last, the feuding families abandon their quarrel and agree to build a statue to the two lovers above their single grave.

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