The Basic Situation
Who: Romeo Montague and Juliet
Capulet (and others)
What: These two young people fall in love but end up dead. See
The Prologue. Go to the
Where: Verona, Italy (& Mantua, Italy)
Why: This is certainly the question, isn't it?
How: By circumstance? By fate? By poor judgment? Literally by
poison and by dagger.
Why do the Montagues and the Capulets hate
each other? These two families are probably political enemies. The conflict
was part of the ongoing battle between the Ghibellines
and the Guelfs. The Ghibellines were supporters of the Holy Roman
emperor and the Guelfs supporters of the Pope in an old power struggle
between the Germans and Italians.
▲ Back to top
Shakespeare lived in the time of Queen
Elizabeth the first, so the language of the time is called Elizabethan
English. Here are what some of the words mean.
||with, with that
||At once! Coming!
||private thoughts, secret
||favor, good will
||well behaved, courteous
||to rob, plunder
||fragrant herb, symbol of
|cry you mercy
||beg your pardon
||flag or banner
||a small piece
||a small bed or mattress
▲ Back to top
Lit Terms to Know
- dramatic irony
- situational irony
- conflict (internal and external)
- turning point
- iambic pentameter
▲ Back to top
- Their parents, Lord and Lady Montague (Romeo's
parents), Lord and Lady
Capulet (Juliet's parents)
- Mercutio: Romeo's friend
- Benvolio: Romeo's friend (cousin)
- The Nurse: Juliet's nurse, the one who raised her,
her only friend
- The Prince: Ruler of Verona
- Paris: The Count to whom Juliet is engaged after her
father makes the deal
- Friar Lawrence: the clergyman who gets involved with Romeo
and Juliet's plans
- Tybalt: Juliet's cousin and sworn enemy of the
Montagues. Tybalt is hot headed and rash.
▲ Back to top
When the first scene begins, the chorus
enters the stage and gives the audience a summary of the plot in the
prologue. Audiences knew this story, so they weren't there to be surprised
or held in suspense. The audiences were pulled into the drama primarily
through dramatic irony and the ability of the actors to portray the
emotions and turmoil of the plot.
Elizabethan Version (Bryant Translation)
|Two households, both
alike in dignity,
||Two families, both rich
and well respected
|In fair Verona, where we
lay our scene
||In Verona where the
story takes place
|From ancient grudge
break to new mutiny
||Start feuding again
after many years of not getting along
|Where civil blood makes
civil hands unclean.
||Where the blood of their
"good intentions" makes them to blame.
|From forth the the fatal
loins of of these two foes
||From these enemies were
|A pair of star-crossed
lovers take their life
||Two ill-fated lovers who
||Whose luckless, piteous
|Doth with their death
bury their parents' strife.
||Do, by their deaths, end
their parents' feud.
|The fearful passage of
their death-marked love,
||The story of their love
that was not meant to be
|And the continuance of
their parents' rage,
||And their parents'
failure to end their anger
|Which, but their
children's end, naught could remove,
||which was only ended
upon the death of the children
|Is now the two hours'
traffic of our stage;
||Is now the story on our
stage for the next two hours
|The which if you with
patient ears attend,
||And if you listen
|What here shall miss,
our toil shall strive to mend.
||We will try to do our
best to tell the story.
▲ Back to top
||There are these two rich
families that live in Verona, Italy in the 1400s: the Montagues and
the Capulets, and they hate each other.
Their servants even fight each other on the street, but the Prince tells them to knock it
off, or the next time they'll pay with their lives.
wants to know why Romeo's been depressed. (Romeo is in love with
this girl, Rosaline, but she's not paying any attention to him (she
says she'd rather be a nun than be involved with him: (ouch), and
he's really depressed, moping about just bringing down his friends, Mercutio and Benvolio. They can't stand it.
||Lady Capulet wants to
know if Juliet will consider marrying Count Paris, whom she and the
nurse both agree is a great catch, but Juliet's not quite fourteen
years old, so she's not sure. But, she doesn't say no.
Out on the
street, Mercutio and Benvolio are trying to tell Romeo that there
are "other fish in the sea," and so they plan to crash this big
party at Lord Capulet's house, which is kind of risky since Romeo's
family hates the Capulets and vice versa. But the party is a masked ball, so
they'll be in disguise and will feel fairly safe.
||Mercutio gives his
famous Queen Mab speech to Romeo about dreams. Queen Mab is a fairy
who "dances" on your face as you dream making you dream what she
"invents." Mercutio feels that dreams have no substance and are
inconstant. Romeo believes something big is about to happen.
Then they go to the party. At the
party, Juliet's eyes meet Romeo's and they fall in love. They
connect briefly, but the arrow (Cupid's) has wounded them both.
Also, at this party, Juliet's cousin
Tybalt recognizes Romeo's voice and he is outraged that a Montague
would come to their party. Tybalt tells Lord Capulet about it, but
Lord C. doesn't want to spoil the evening, so he tells Tybalt to
leave it alone; he's heard that Romeo's not a bad young man anyway.
Hot headed Tybalt cannot leave it alone, though.
Soon, Romeo finds out Juliet, his
love, is a Capulet.
makes fun of Romeo being in love, but he still thinks Romeo is in
love with Rosaline.
Romeo stands under Juliet's balcony
and tells her how much he loves her. She tells him the same.
She says she'll send her nurse
tomorrow to ask him if he will marry her. They have a hard time
||Very early Monday, Romeo
finds Friar Lawrence out gathering herbs, and confesses he hasn't
been to bed yet. Lawrence tells him he is foolish and that those who
act in haste end up badly.
Benvolio and Mercutio wonder where
their friend has been. They hear that Tybalt has challenged Romeo to
The nurse comes to see Romeo to find
out his intentions, and he says he will marry Juliet. When the nurse
gets back to Juliet, she teases her, not letting her know what Romeo
said right away.
||Friar Lawrence marries
Romeo and Juliet in secret.
||It's really hot outside.
Mercutio and Benvolio are out and Tybalt comes on the scene.
Mercutio and Tybalt fight.
Romeo arrives and tries to stop it, but
he gets between Mercutio and Tybalt and makes it easy for Tybalt to
stab Mercutio. Mercutio dies as a result of his wounds. Then, in
rage, Romeo fights Tybalt over the death of his friend, and he kills
The Prince, who has warned about violence before, banishes
Romeo after Benvolio tells the story, revealing that it wasn't
really Romeo's fault. The nurse tells Juliet that Tybalt is dead and
that Romeo killed him. Juliet is in agony.
Romeo visits Friar Lawrence,
complaining that being banished is worse than being dead because he
won't get to be with Juliet. Friar Lawrence tries to convince him
that he's lucky. The nurse comes to Friar Lawrence with word from
Juliet; she wants to see Romeo.
|Monday Late Afternoon
||Lord Capulet decides
that Juliet will marry Paris immediately.
|Monday Late at Night
||Romeo and Juliet spend
the night together.
|Tuesday at Dawn
||Romeo doesn't want to
||Lady Capulet tells
Juliet about having to marry Paris, but Juliet refuses. Lord Capulet
finds out and screams at Juliet, telling her she will be disowned if
she doesn't marry him. Juliet asks the nurse's opinion and the nurse
says that Juliet should forget about Romeo, that he's a bad person
||Paris comes to Friar
Lawrence to arrange his wedding with Juliet. Juliet visits Friar
Lawrence, and they plan to have her fake her death so she won't have
to marry Paris. Lawrence plans to send word to Romeo about the plan,
but Friar John gets held up and doesn't get the letter there in
||Juliet tells her father
that she will marry Paris.
||Juliet asks to be alone
in her room, and she contemplates the wisdom of this plan, worried
that she might really die. She also worries that she'll be afraid of
waking up in the tomb with all the dead bodies around. She takes the
||They discover Juliet is
"dead" and plan her funeral.
|Thursday Late Night
||Romeo finds out from his
servant Balthasar that Juliet is dead. In agony, Romeo goes to an
apothecary to get himself a poison. He doesn't want to live if
Juliet is dead. Romeo heads to Verona to see Juliet before he kills
Paris arrives at the Capulet's burial
tomb. Romeo has arrived before him and is breaking into the tomb.
Paris challenges Romeo, but Romeo tries to explain that he doesn't
want to fight. They fight, though and Paris dies.
In the tomb, Romeo sees Juliet. He
goes to her and speaks his last speech. He is amazed that she is
still warm, his clue that she may not be dead, but he is too hasty,
and he swallows the poison. Romeo dies.
Friar Lawrence arrives, alarmed that
Romeo got there first. He goes in and finds Romeo dead and fears
what will happen to him when people find out what he did. Juliet
wakes up. She sees Romeo and realizes he's dead. Friar Lawrence
tries to get her to leave, but she's inconsolable. She takes Romeo's
dagger and kills herself.
The parents arrive and find Romeo
dead and Juliet dead "again." The Friar tells the entire story, of
how they were married. The Prince tells them that this tragedy is
everyone's fault, even himself because he didn't punish the feuding
families more harshly.
Lord Montague and Lord Capulet
realize, finally, that their long-standing hatred for each other's
family must end.
▲ Back to top