Romeo and Juliet Summary

Romeo and Juliet is a tragic play by William Shakespeare about two star-crossed lovers who fall hopelessly in love despite the bloody feud between their families, the Montagues and the Capulets. 

  • Romeo meets Juliet at a ball. The two fall in love instantly and are married in secret by Friar Laurence.
  • When Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, he is banished from Verona.
  • To escape an arranged marriage to her suitor, Paris, Juliet fakes her own death with the help of Friar Laurence. Romeo believes she has truly died and kills himself with poison. Upon finding Romeo dead, Juliet stabs herself with his dagger.

Summary

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Act 1

The play opens on the streets of Verona, Italy, as a fight breaks out between the servants of two powerful rival families: the Capulets and the Montagues. Benvolio Montague attempts to break up the fight but is thwarted by the hotheaded Tybalt Capulet, who attacks Benvolio. Finally, Prince Escalus appears and breaks up the brawl, condemning the families for allowing their long-standing feud to incite violence yet again. The Prince warns that if anyone from either family disturbs the peace again, they will be killed.

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In the next scene, the head of the Capulet household discusses marriage with Paris, who desires his daughter. Juliet’s father invites him to a masquerade ball, where Paris will have the opportunity to romance her. A Capulet servant comes across Romeo and Benvolio and invites them to the ball, not realizing that they are Montagues. Romeo only agrees to attend the ball because he knows Rosaline will be there. In a separate scene, Lady Capulet discusses the potential for Juliet to marry Paris. Juliet has no choice but to consider the option, as her mother assures her it is an ideal match and reminds her that she must marry eventually.

Romeo and Benvolio attend the masquerade ball with their lively friend Mercutio. Romeo’s melancholy persists, and he refuses to dance. He claims to have had an ominous dream about death, but Mercutio ridicules him. At the ball, Romeo meets Juliet Capulet, and unaware that they belong to rival families, they immediately fall in love. Tybalt recognizes Romeo’s voice and is prepared to fight him in front of the party guests. Lord Capulet forbids this, claiming it would ruin the party, and Tybalt exits angrily. Romeo and Juliet flirt, and she permits him to kiss her. Juliet leaves, and Romeo learns that she is a Capulet. Juliet similarly learns he is a Montague, and both are dismayed to learn that they are enemies.

Act 2

Romeo exits the Capulet house, yearning for Juliet. He is incapable of leaving without seeing her again and approaches her house again. Mercutio and Benvolio believe he is pursuing Rosaline and joke about this as they leave. Romeo hangs around the house, just wanting to be near Juliet. He looks up to see her emerge from her upstairs balcony. Juliet thinks she is alone and expresses her love for Romeo and deep sadness over his family name. He makes himself known and they exchange promises of love and devotion. Juliet is called inside by her nurse, but before she leaves, Romeo promises to come up with a plan so that they can be married.

Romeo visits Friar Laurence and confides in him about Juliet and their intention to defy their families and marry. The Friar expresses concern over his young friend’s abrupt change of heart, as Romeo had been lovestruck over Rosaline only days before. Romeo persuades Friar Laurence of his love for Juliet, and though the Friar has misgivings, he agrees to perform a secret wedding ceremony in the hope that their marriage may bring about the end of the feud. In the next scene, Mercutio and Benvolio learn that Tybalt has left a note for Romeo at the Montague house, challenging him to a duel for his earlier trespass at the Capulet ball. Romeo meets his friends with elevated spirits, buoyed by his excitement about Juliet. They...

(The entire section contains 1575 words.)

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