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 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 the friar. Romeo believes she has truly died and kills himself with poison. Upon finding Romeo dead, Juliet stabs herself with his dagger.

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Summary

Act 1

The play begins with a fight between servants of the Montague and Capulet families on the streets of Verona. Romeo’s cousin, Benvolio, attempts to stop the fight and engages with Tybalt, a Capulet. The fight escalates until Prince Escalus stops it, outlawing any further fighting between the families by punishment of death. Benvolio comforts Romeo, who is depressed over his unrequited love for Rosaline.

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 that she must marry eventually.

Romeo and Benvolio attend the masquerade ball with their friend Mercutio. Romeo’s melancholy persists, and he refuses to dance. He claims to have had an ominous dream about death, and Mercutio ridicules him. In the next scene, Romeo comes across Juliet while searching for Rosaline and experiences love at first sight. 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 grieved by the news.

Act 2

Romeo exits the Capulet house, yearning for Juliet. He is incapable of leaving without seeing her again and approaches the 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, and before she leaves, Romeo promises to come up with a plan so that they can be married.

Romeo visits Friar Laurence and tells him about Juliet and their plans to get married. The friar expresses concern over his friend’s abrupt change of heart, as Romeo had been lovestruck over Rosaline days before. Romeo persuades Friar Laurence of his love for Juliet and the man agrees to help him. 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. Romeo meets his friends with elevated spirits, gushing about Juliet. They come upon Juliet’s nurse, and she and Romeo have a private conversation. Romeo urges the nurse to tell Juliet of the plan he has devised for their union. The nurse agrees and Romeo instructs her to tell Juliet that he will leave a rope ladder at her window to enable her escape.

Romeo and Friar Laurence wait for Juliet to arrive. The friar, quite pointlessly, cautions Romeo against reckless love. Juliet arrives, and the wedding is conducted.

Act 3

Mercutio and Benvolio are in the streets of Verona....

(The entire section is 2,419 words.)