“Civil blood makes civil hands unclean” (I, i)
Two wealthy families in Verona, Italy, the Capulets and the Montagues, have been enemies as long as anyone can remember. The play opens in the streets of Verona, with a fight between members of both houses. Verona’s Prince Escalus arrives to break up the fight, threatening death if the households disturb the peace again. Lady Montague discusses her son Romeo’s recent depression with her niece Benvolia, who then discovers that his melancholia is due to his love for the sworn virgin Rosaline. Benvolia advises Romeo to look elsewhere for love.
“One more, most welcome makes my number more” (I, ii)
Lord Capulet discusses his only daughter Juliet with a wealthy suitor, Paris. Capulet is somewhat reluctant to marry his daughter off so young – she’s only thirteen – but encourages Paris to woo her at the Capulet ball that evening anyways. He then gives his servant a list of guests and sends him out to go invite them. Unfortunately, the servant cannot read, so he asks the nearest gentleman, who happens to be Romeo Montague. Romeo discovers that Rosaline, the object of his affections, will be in attendance at the ball, and he and Benvolia decide to sneak in.
“What say you? Can you love the gentleman?” (I, iii)
Lady Capulet, Juliet, and her nurse discuss Paris’ desire to marry Juliet. Her mother and nurse are excited about the idea, but Juliet seems ambivalent. But, ever the dutiful daughter, she agrees to give him a chance.
“Being but heavy I will bear the light” (I, iv)
Romeo, Benvolia, and their friend Mercutio are making their way to the Capulet party. Romeo continues to wallow in his depression and love for Rosaline, despite Mercutio’s attempts to cheer him up. Because of a dream he had, Romeo has a bad feeling about where the night will lead, but they proceed to enter anyways.
“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!” (I, v)
In true Verona style, the party is raging and wine pours from the walls. Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, who is quick to anger, is furious that Romeo is at the party, but is forbidden to fight by his uncle Capulet. Romeo is stricken by Juliet’s radiant beauty. The two have a brief exchange and fall immediately, passionately in love. They discover each other’s identity from the nurse, and are distraught to learn that they belong to warring families.
“Can I go forward when my heart is here?” (II, i)
Romeo, deciding that he cannot leave without seeing Juliet again, hides until Mercutio and Benvolia leave.
“Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized” (II, ii)
The famous balcony scene. Under cover of night, Romeo sneaks into the Capulets’ garden. He and Juliet wax poetic about their love for each other and their dismay at their families’ hatred. They agree that the best course of action would be to marry secretly and immediately, so they decide to meet the next morning.
“Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here?” (II, iii)
Romeo goes to seek the counsel of Friar Laurence. He tells him that his love for Rosaline is past and now he has eyes for no one but Juliet. The friar promises to marry the two, hoping that it will lead to peace between their families.
“Shot through the ear with a love-song” (II, iv)
Mercutio and Benvolia tease Romeo in an effort to find out where he disappeared to the previous night, but get no information from him. It is revealed that Tybalt sent a letter of challenge to the Montague house. Juliet’s nurse enters and makes Romeo prove his faithfulness to her charge. He asks her to tell Juliet to come to confession that afternoon, where the Friar will marry them in secret.
“Love’s heralds should be thoughts” (II, v)
Juliet impatiently waits for her nurse to return. When she does come back, exhausted, she holds the information above Juliet’s head for quite some time. Eventually, though, she informs the infatuated girl that she will be married that afternoon at Friar Laurence’s cell.
“These violent delights have violent ends” (II, vi)
The Friar cautions Romeo to love moderately and calmly, so as not to burn out like gunpowder. Then he marries Romeo and Juliet.
“A plague on both your houses” (III, i)
Tybalt, still outraged that Romeo crashed the Capulet party, challenges him to a duel. Romeo attempts to keep the peace, as he now considers Tybalt a member of his own family. Mercutio will not stand for this, and chooses to fight in Romeo’s place – but Tybalt stabs and kills him. To avenge his dear friend’s death, Romeo then kills Tybalt. Prince Escalus arrives, interrogates Benvolia, and banishes Romeo from Verona.
“We are undone lady, we are undone” (III, ii)
The nurse arrives and tells Juliet of Tybalt’s death and Romeo’s banishment. Juliet questions her husband’s character, but decides it is better that he lived and Tybalt died instead of vice versa. The nurse agrees to summon Romeo to Juliet’s bedchamber to say farewell.
“There is no world without Verona walls” (III, iii)
Friar Laurence informs the devastated Romeo that he is banished, and the Nurse enters to give him Juliet’s summons. The Friar tells Romeo to go live in Mantua for the time being, and in the meanwhile he will do everything he can to earn the prince’s pardon so that Romeo can return and live as Juliet’s husband.
“My lord, I would that Thursday were tomorrow” (III, iv)
Lord and Lady Capulet tell Paris that Juliet is too upset about Tybalt’s death (and, unbeknownst to them, Romeo’s banishment) to consider his marriage proposal. Lord Capulet, however, decides that Juliet must marry Paris anyways, and arranges for the wedding to be three days from then.
“More light and light, more dark and dark our woes” (III, v)
After consummating their marriage, Romeo and Juliet bid each other a tearful goodbye. Lady Capulet believes that Juliet’s depression is due to Tybalt’s death and discusses revenge on Romeo, before attempting to cheer her up by telling her she is to marry Paris on Thursday. Juliet first refuses, angering her parents. Her nurse tells her it would be a wise decision to do as her parents say, and Juliet decides to go to Friar Laurence for advice.
“Thou hast the strength of will to slay thyself” (IV, i)
Paris, Friar Laurence, and Juliet discuss the imminent marriage. Juliet makes it clear that she does not love Paris. The Friar, sensing her desperation, concocts a plan. He gives her a potion that will make her appear dead for forty-two hours. When found by her parents, she will be borne to the ancient Capulet catacombs, where Romeo will come rescue her and spirit her away to Mantua.
“My heart is wondrous light” (IV, ii)
Juliet tells her father she will marry Paris.
“Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir” (IV, iii)
Juliet drinks the potion and falls into a deathlike slumber. Her nurse discovers her, and Lord and Lady Capulet grieve her ‘death’. Friar Laurence arranges for her to be moved to the underground vault.
“Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee to-night” (V, i)
Benvolia informs Romeo of Juliet’s death. Heartbroken, he decides it is better to die than to live in a world with no Juliet. He seeks out an apothecary and buys a vial of deadly poison, which he plans to take at Juliet’s graveside.
“I will write again to Mantua” (V, ii)
Friar Laurence discovers that his letter did not reach Romeo, and he therefore has not been informed that Juliet’s death was faked.
“Poor sacrifices for our enmity” (V, iii)
At the Capulet tomb, Romeo drinks the poison and dies. Friar Laurence meets Benvolia, who tells him Romeo is inside the tomb. The Friar rushes in just in time for Juliet to awake. She sees Romeo’s body, stabs herself with his dagger, and joins him in death. Prince Escalus, the Capulets, Lady Montague, and the Friar enter and see the tragic scene. Friar Laurence explains the circumstances that lead to Romeo and Juliet’s deaths. In light of this tragedy, the Capulets and Montagues agree to end their feud at last.