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Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is a tragic love story about 'a pair of star-crossed lovers' from rival families.

You need to know the basic plot, what the characters are like, and how they get along. You should also think about how actors should perform the play to an audience, and the main 'big' topics that it deals with.


This Revision Bite covers:

The opening

The play starts by telling us what will happen at the end. A girl and a boy from two warring families will die. Their deaths will put an end to the violence. The action is set in Verona in Italy.

These equally rich and powerful families are:

The Montagues

  • Romeo
  • His father, Montague
  • His mother, Lady Montague
  • Benvolio, his cousin

The Capulets

  • Juliet
  • Her father, Capulet
  • Her mother, Lady Capulet
  • Tybalt, her cousin
Prince Escalus stops the fight between Tybalt and Benvolio

Prince Escalus stops the riot

Two of Capulet's servants pick a fight in the market place with one of Montague's servants. Benvolio tries to stop the fight. Tybalt attacks Benvolio. A riot starts. Prince Escalus stops the riot and warns that if the Montagues and the Capulets are involved in any more violence the punishment will be death.

Luckily, Romeo wasn't involved, but his mother and father wonder where he is. Benvolio has seen him moodily wandering about by himself. He says he will try to find out what is wrong with Romeo.

Romeo tells Benvolio that he is in love with a girl called Rosaline. He is in agony because she doesn't love him back. Benvolio's advice is to look at other attractive girls. Romeo says that no other girl could ever live up to Rosaline.

The proposal

Meanwhile, a nobleman called Paris visits Capulet to ask him if he can marry Juliet. Capulet asks him to wait two more summers, but suggest he romances his daughter and invites Paris to a party that evening. He gives his servant a list of names of people to invite.

The servant can't read. He bumps into Benvolio and Romeo and asks them to read the list for him. Rosaline's name, amongst others, is on the list. The servant doesn't know that Benvolio and Romeo are Montagues and invites them to the party, too.

Lady Capulet is sent to tell Juliet about Paris's proposal. They aren't very close so she asks Juliet's Nurse to stay and listen. Juliet will be fourteen on Lammas-eve, 31st July. Juliet tells her mother that she has never thought about marriage, but promises to take a look at Paris.

The party

Romeo and his friends decide to gate-crash the party. Romeo has a bad feeling about the outcome of this evening, but decides to let fate take its course.

Capulet is having a great time at his party. People are dancing. Romeo and his friends arrive wearing masks. Romeo spots Juliet. He thinks to himself that he didn't really know what true beauty was until he saw her. He doesn't know that she is a Capulet. Tybalt recognises Romeo from his voice and threatens to kill him because he is a Montague, but Capulet stops him. Romeo and Juliet flirt and finally kiss. The Nurse tells Romeo that Juliet is a Capulet and he is dismayed. He leaves with Benvolio. Juliet is distraught when the Nurse tells her who Romeo is.

The Chorus recaps events for us: Romeo has forgotten Rosaline and is now in love with Juliet. Juliet feels the same way.

Romeo runs away from his friends. Mercutio shouts rude things because he thinks Romeo has gone off to find Rosaline.

Romeo watches Juliet on her balcony, where she says she's in love with him

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo hides in the Capulets' garden and watches Juliet who is on a balcony outside her bedroom. Juliet doesn't know that he is there at first and, talking to herself, declares her love for him. She is shocked and embarrassed when he replies. They have only met that evening, but they know that they love each other. Juliet promises to send a messenger to him in the morning to find out where and what time their wedding will be! They find it difficult to part.

Romeo goes to see Friar Lawrence, the priest, who is worried that he has spent the night with Rosaline. When Romeo says that he wants to marry Juliet, Friar Lawrence tells him off for falling in love so easily, but agrees to the wedding because he thinks that it might be a solution to the rift between the Capulets and the Montagues.

Marriage & murder

Meanwhile, Benvolio tells Mercutio that Tybalt has sent a letter to Montague's house challenging Romeo to a duel. Mercutio jokes about how good a swordsman Tybalt is, comparing him to a dancer. He calls him Prince of Cats. When Romeo turns up, Mercutio makes lots of rude jokes, and Romeo, who is now in a good mood joins in.

The Nurse warns Romeo not to mess Juliet around. He tells her that the wedding will be that afternoon at Friar Lawrence's place. The Nurse is really excited.

When the Nurse arrives back at the Capulet's house, Juliet is beside herself with impatience. The Nurse teases her and makes her wait for the good news.

Romeo and Juliet are secretly married by Friar Lawrence

Romeo and Juliet get married secretly

Juliet meets Romeo at Friar Lawrence's and they go off to get secretly married.

Meanwhile, Mercutio squabbles with Benvolio. Benvolio is worried that the Capulets might turn up looking for a fight. Tybalt appears looking for Romeo. Mercutio teases him. Romeo arrives and refuses to fight Tybalt. Romeo tells him he loves him! (It's because Tybalt is now his relation through marriage, but he can't tell anyone that because the wedding is still a secret!) Mercutio fights Tybalt in Romeo's place. Romeo gets between them and, as a result, Mercutio is fatally wounded. He dies cursing both families. Romeo's grief at his friend's death quickly turns to rage. He kills Tybalt. Remembering Prince Escalus's warnings, Benvolio begs Romeo to run away.

Lady Capulet wants Romeo to be put to death for murdering Tybalt, but Prince Escalus points out that Tybalt killed Mercutio. He orders that Romeo should be sent away from Verona and not allowed back.

The wedding night

Juliet can't wait for her wedding night. But when the Nurse tells her what happened to Tybalt, Juliet doesn't know whether to love or hate Romeo. She can't believe that he is being sent away and threatens to kill herself, so the Nurse promises to find Romeo and bring him to Juliet's bedroom.

Friar Lawrence is hiding Romeo. When he tells Romeo what Prince Escalus has decided, Romeo says that he would rather die than be sent away. The Nurse arrives. Romeo tries to stab himself, but the Nurse and the Friar stop him. The Friar gives Romeo a good telling off for being so ungrateful and for behaving like a girl! He and the Nurse arrange for Romeo to spend his last night in Verona with Juliet as long as he promises to leave for Mantua first thing in the morning.

The Capulets are grieving for Tybalt. Paris comes to see Juliet but she won't come down from her bedroom. Capulet tells Paris that he will sort things out between them because he is sure his daughter will do what he tells her to do. He suggests that Paris marries her on Thursday…It is now Monday.

Romeo and Juliet have spent the night together. Juliet hears a lark (larks sing at dawn), but tries to persuade Romeo that it was a nightingale (nightingales sing at night) because she doesn't want the night to end. When Romeo says that he will stay and face death for her, Juliet changes her mind and makes him hurry to get up and leave. Juliet has a premonition of him dead in a grave.

The plan

Juliet's mother tells her to cheer up because her father has arranged for her to marry Paris. Juliet loses her temper and refuses. Her father comes in and can't believe how ungrateful she is being. He threatens to throw her out and disown her. He says he wants to hit her. She asks her mother to stand up for her, but she refuses.

The Nurse tells Juliet to forget Romeo and marry Paris

The Nurse tells Juliet to forget Romeo and marry Paris

When Juliet's mother and father have left, Juliet asks the Nurse what she should do. The Nurse says to forget Romeo and just marry Paris without owning up. In those days, that would have been a sin, and to marry two people at once would mean that she would be sent to hell. Juliet says that she will do what the Nurse suggests, but when she leaves the room, Juliet says to herself that the Nurse is two-faced. She decides to see if Friar Lawrence will help her. If not, she thinks she will have to commit suicide.

Paris goes to visit Friar Lawrence to arrange his wedding to Juliet. The Friar tries to stall for more time. When Juliet arrives, she gives Paris 'the cold shoulder' until he leaves. She begs the Friar to help her, threatening to kill herself. The Friar has a plan if Juliet has the guts to carry it through. He knows of a drug that will make her seem as though she is dead for forty-two hours. This will mean that she will be put in the family tomb along with Tybalt. Then the Friar will let Romeo know the truth, so that he can come and take her away when she wakes up and they can go off together to Mantua. Juliet isn't scared. She takes the drug home with her.

Everyone is busy with wedding preparations at the Capulets' house. Capulet is in a good mood. Juliet tells her father that she has been to see the Friar to confess her sins and asks for her dad's forgiveness. Even the Nurse believes her.

Juliet says good night to her mum then starts to panic about what she is about to do. She might die. She might go mad when she wakes up in a tomb full of dead people. There might be ghosts. She imagines that she sees Tybalt's ghost. She takes the poison and falls unconscious on her bed.

The Nurse finds Juliet and thinks she is dead. She is beside herself with grief. The family comes running and her mother and father can't believe it. Friar Lawrence arrives pretending that he has come to take Juliet to church to marry Paris. Paris comes and is shocked at the news.

The end

Meanwhile, in Mantua, Romeo waits for news. A servant called Balthasar arrives and tells Romeo that he has heard that Juliet has died. Romeo decides to buy some poison. He plans to go to see Juliet's body where he will take the poison and die next to her.

Meanwhile, Friar John explains to Friar Lawrence that the letter he wanted him to take to Romeo explaining the truth about Juliet didn't get delivered. Friar Lawrence decides to go to the tomb and wait for Juliet to wake up while he sends another letter to Romeo.

That same evening, Paris goes to Juliet's tomb with some flowers. He hears a noise and decides to investigate.

Romeo pays Balthasar off and breaks into the Capulet tomb. Paris tries to stop him. Romeo begs him to leave him alone, but Paris thinks he is vandalising the tomb. They fight. Romeo kills Paris. Just before Paris dies he asks Romeo to place him next to Juliet's body. Romeo is sad that he had to kill Paris and takes him into the tomb to be near Juliet.

When Romeo sees Juliet lying in the tomb, he can't believe that she is dead because she looks so beautiful. He hugs her and kisses her. He takes the poison then kisses her again and dies.

Friar Lawrence finds the bodies of Paris and Romeo just as Juliet is about to wake up. Juliet wakes up and asks the Friar where Romeo is. He hears a noise and begs Juliet to come away with him, but when she finds out that Romeo is dead, she refuses to go with him. Friar Lawrence runs away.

Juliet tries to kiss the poison off Romeo's lips. His lips are still warm, but there is not enough poison left on them to kill her. She takes his dagger and stabs herself.

Some watchmen discover the bodies outside the tomb. They also find the Friar who is crying and shaking. Prince Escalus and Juliet's mother and father arrive with Romeo's father. Friar Lawrence tells them all the truth about the wedding and their children's deaths. He feels so guilty that he asks the Prince to punish him, but Prince Escalus won't because the Friar is a holy man. Prince Escalus blames Montague and Capulet, but he also blames himself for not doing enough to stop the violence. Capulet and Montague decide to end their rift. Montague offers to have a statue of Juliet made. The play ends as the Prince says that this is the saddest story ever told.

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