“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief that thou, her maid, art far more
fair than she.”
“O Romeo, Romeo,
Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name,
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”
“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life,
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.”
These are famous quotations throughout the literary world and are to be
found in Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
Shakespeare adopted this story from a previous older tale producing a work
rich in poetry, drama and tension. It concerns a feud between two noble families in the city of Verona, being the Capulets and Montague’s.
From the start, Shakespeare ensures that the audience knows that they are watching a tragedy, and that the lovers Romeo and Juliet will meet their death at the climax of the play.
The play commences with the feuding families being warned by the Prince of
Verona that both sides must try and keep the peace on pain of death.
Benvolio counsels his lovesick friend, Romeo, son of Montague, to abandon
his hopeless love for Rosaline and seek another love. They manage to obtain an invitation for a masked ball being held by the Capulet family where Romeo falls in love immediately on seeing Juliet Capulet.
At the end of the ball Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, who is affronted by Romeo’s audacity, discovers their identities. Romeo and Benvolio leave the feast, but Romeo climbs into the Capulet’s orchard with the hope of glimpsing Juliet again. She appears and Romeo and Juliet exchange vows of love and agree to marry the next day.
This is a fast-moving play, the entire action-taking place over five days.
Romeo persuades Friar Laurence to conduct the marriage ceremony to which he
agrees, his motive being to reconcile the feuding families.
Tybalt sends Romeo a challenge resulting from his gate crashing of the
Capulet feast, but Romeo refuses to fight because they will soon be related.
Romeo and Juliet are secretly married and later on Tybalt confronts Romeo
who still refuses to fight. Mercutio intervenes accepting the challenge and when Romeo tries to separate the parties, Mercutio is fatally wounded. In response, Romeo kills Tybalt and then flees.
The Prince announces that Romeo is to be banished for the death of Tybalt,
and Romeo hides with Friar Laurence and is distraught at being separated from his love.
Romeo and Juliet are able to spend their wedding night together, but he has
to leave Juliet’s room before dawn, and he goes to Mantua.
Paris, a close friend of the Prince, seeks Juliet’s hand in marriage and
Capulet sees this as a way for his family to obtain more power and is intent on forcing Juliet to wed.
Juliet seeks advice from Friar Laurence regarding this awkward situation and
he devises a plan whereby she is to take a sleeping potion that will make her to appear as dead. The Friar will send a message to Romeo so that he can return to Verona in order to be there when she awakes in
the Capulet tomb.
Capulet has arranged for Juliet to marry Paris in two days time, but this is
then brought forward by a day which forces Juliet to take the potion a day earlier, thus reducing the time available for the message to reach Romeo.
The next morning, Juliet’s lifeless body is discovered and is placed in the
At the same time there is an outbreak of the plague, which means that the Friar’s messenger is quarantined, and Romeo does not receive the message, but learns of Juliet’s death from another source. He vows to lie with Juliet in the tomb, taking his own life, and for this purpose he obtains some poison.
When Romeo enters the Capulet tomb Paris confronts him. Romeo and
Paris fight and Paris is killed. Unaware that Juliet is alive, Romeo takes the poison and dies at her side.
The Friar arrives too late to save Romeo, but discovers the waking Juliet.
He is unable to persuade Juliet to come away with him and she kills herself using Romeo’s dagger.
The Prince and the two families, who then vow to bring an end to their feud,
and pay tribute to the tragic lovers Romeo and Juliet, discover the final scene.