Everything to learn better...

Home

English

Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Select Lesson

Exam Board

Select an option

Explainer Video

Loading...
Tutor: Jasmine

Summary

Romeo and Juliet

​​In a nutshell

Romeo and Juliet is a story about fate, conflict and the titular "star-cross'd lovers". One of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, you have probably heard of this play already. Or maybe you haven’t paid much attention to it! Either way, in this lesson you’ll be able to review the plot, the main characters and their relationships, and what themes come into play.



Plot summary

Prologue

The Chorus introduces the setting, Verona, and the existing feud between two important families. They also warn us that a pair of star-crossed lovers will die, and with this bury their parents' strife.


Act I

The Montagues and the Capulets hate each other, a hatred which the Prince wants to put an end to. 


We meet Romeo, who is in unrequited love with a woman named Rosaline. His friends, Benvolio and Mercutio, listen to him and convince him to go to a ball with them to cheer up.


We meet Lord Capulet, who refuses to marry his daughter Juliet to a nobleman called Paris, at least for now. He is the one throwing that big masquerade ball, and invites Paris, so he can meet Juliet properly. 


When Romeo arrives at the ball, Tybalt, Juliet's cousin, is offended by Romeo’s presence at the ball for he is a Montague. But Lord Capulet allows Romeo to stay, which angers Tybalt even more. He vows revenge on Romeo. 


In the final scene, Scene 5, Juliet and Romeo meet for the first time and they fall in love. After that, they discover their families are sworn enemies. 


ACT II

Scene 2 is the famous balcony scene, where Romeo and Juliet speak. They confess their love and vow to set aside their family loyalty to get married in secret. Friar Laurence helps them with this, believing the marriage might help end the feud between the families. They get married in Scene 6. The only ones who know are the Nurse and the Friar.


Act III

Tybalt is looking for Romeo to duel him, but Romeo refuses to, for he is Juliet’s cousin. He ends up fighting Mercutio instead. Romeo gets in the way, allowing Tybalt to kill Mercutio. Romeo feels responsible and, in revenge, kills Tybalt himself (Scene 1). The Prince exiles Romeo as punishment.


Juliet grieves her cousin, but still loves her husband. Romeo goes to Mantua, away from Verona. Lord Capulet decides to accept Paris' proposal this time and gives him Juliet's hand in marriage, which she refuses completely, causing a rift in her relationship with her father (Scene 5).


Act IV

Juliet tells the Friar, who is to marry her to Paris, what is going on, and the Friar comes up with a plan: to give Juliet a potion that will make her appear dead, and allow Romeo to come and pick her up once she wakes. But the message he sends to Romeo never arrives, and so Romeo is unaware of the plan. Juliet takes the potion in Scene 3, and is discovered by the Nurse and believed to be dead by everybody in Scene 5


Act V

Romeo hears about Juliet's death and goes back to Verona with a poison to kill himself. When he arrives to the tomb (Scene 3) he sees Juliet's body, drinks the poison and dies. When Juliet wakes up, she realises what happened, takes Romeo's dagger and stabs herself, dying alongside him. The families arrive, the Friar explains what happened, and finally they make peace.



Characters

Romeo

Montague's son, uninterested in the family feud. He falls in love with Juliet. 

Juliet

Capulet's daughter. Strong-minded and loyal. She falls in love with Romeo. 

Nurse

She has taken care of Juliet her whole life and loves her very much. She is the one Juliet confides in. 

Tybalt

Lady Capulet's nephew, Juliet's cousin. He hates all Montagues. He kills Mercutio. 

Friar Laurence

Friend of Romeo. He is the one who marries Romeo and Juliet in secret and then comes up with the plan of faking Juliet's death. 

Lord Capulet

Juliet's father. He cares about her, but ends up being the one who forces her into a marriage with Paris against her will. He is the one who ends the feud with Lord Montague after the untimely death of their children.



Relationships​

​​Romeo \leftrightarrow Juliet

They love each other, and this love will mean their deaths. Romeo does not appear to care that Juliet is a Capulet, but Juliet does, at first, care about Romeo's family. 


When Romeo kills Tybalt in revenge for Mercutio's death, Juliet's first instinct is to hate him. But she immediately stops, for he is her husband, and even though she is grieving her cousin Tybalt's death, she stands by his side. 


When Romeo is exiled, he believes being away from Juliet is a fate worse than death. And so, when he believes she is dead, he doesn't doubt it, and runs back to Verona to die by her side.


Romeo \leftrightarrow Mercutio \leftrightarrow Benvolio

Romeo's friendship with both Benvolio, his cousin, and Mercutio, is an important part of the plot. They are the ones who accompany him to the Capulet's ball, who tease him about his new lover, and later who get in the way to save him from Tybalt.


Juliet \leftrightarrow Nurse

They have a loving relationship, similar to a mother and daughter. The Nurse does not approve of Juliet and Romeo's love, but she helps Juliet by being the messenger between them. However, when push comes to shove, she advises Juliet to marry Paris. Nonetheless, the Nurse defends Juliet and admonishes Lord Capulet on his behaviour. In the end, she doesn't realise Juliet is still alive, and is the one who finds her "dead" body.


Juliet \leftrightarrow Lord Capulet

Lord Capulet is very protective of Juliet, as he shows in the first act when he says that she is too young to be wed, and even later when he accepts her marriage to Paris as a way to ease her grief over Tybalt's death. But when he is refused by Juliet, he becomes furious and threatens to disown her.



Themes

Love​

From the beginning of the play, we are told this is a story about "lovers". We see love in different situations: 

  • Unrequited love: Romeo is in love with Rosaline, who does not love him back. 
  • Love at first sight: Romeo and Juliet fall for each other when they meet at the ball, without even knowing who the other is.
  • Friendship: Benvolio takes care of Romeo; Mercutio takes Romeo's place in the fight against Tybalt; Romeo chooses to avenge Mercutio and kills Tybalt.
  • Parental love: between Lord Capulet and Juliet, and also between the Nurse and Juliet.
  • Dangerous love: Juliet's love for Romeo leads her to defy her parents and, ultimately, leads them both to their deaths.


Fate

In the prologue, Romeo and Juliet are said to be "star-cross'd lovers" and "death-marked". As the audience, we know that they will die, and nothing they do will stop their deaths. This is foreshadowed all throughout the play:

  • Romeo talks about an ominous dream that makes him worried about the future in Act 1, Scene 4.
  • Mercutio curses them as he dies in Act 3, Scene 1: "A plague o' both your houses!".
  • Juliet says Romeo looks "As one dead in the bottom of a tomb" in Act 3, Scene 5 before tragedy strikes.

Fate is also intertwined with the use of time in this play. Everything happens in no more than five days. There is no time to fix miscommunications, things happen very quickly, and this creates momentum – an unstoppable series of events that leads to the destined tragedy. 


Conflict

First introduced in the prologue as well: the Montagues and the Capulets hate each other, even their servants do. The fights in the play drive this point home, as does Tybalt's hatred, in particular. 


But that is not the only conflict in Romeo and Juliet:

  • Inner character conflict: happens when Juliet realises Romeo is a Montague. 
  • Inner family conflict: happens when Juliet defies Lord Capulet and refuses to marry Paris. 



Key quotations

​​Act/Scene

Quotation

Theme

Prologue
CHORUS: "From ancient grudge break to new mutiny / Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean"
Conflict
Their feud is ancient, untouched. Juxtaposition with "ancient grudge" and "new mutiny", a backdrop of violence before play begins.
Act 1, Scene 1
TYBALT: "What, drawn and talk of peace? I hate the word, / As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee"
Conflict
Tybalt does not want peace, he would rather fight. 
Act 1, Scene 2
BENVOLIO: “Take thou some new infection to thy eye, / And the rank poison of the old will die”
Fate
"Infection" shows he is lovesick over Rosaline's rejection. "Poison" refers to Juliet's love and foreshadows Romeo's death.
Act 1, Scene 4
ROMEO: "I fear too early, for my mind misgives / Some consequence yet hanging in the stars" 
Fate
Romeo is talking to Mercutio and Benvolio before going to the Capulet ball. He had an ominous dream and feels like something bad, some "consequence", is going to happen and lead to his death.
Act 2, Scene 2
JULIET: "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"
Love
Juliet is apostrophising Romeo. "Wherefore" meaning "why" – why does Romeo have to be a Montague? Still, with this, she asks him to put their love above their family loyalty.
Act 1, 
Scene 1
ROMEO: "Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health"
Love
Romeo is talking about his unrequited love for Rosaline. This use of oxymorons shows his conflicting feelings: love is as heavy as lead but as soft as a feather, cold and hot...


Create an account to read the summary

Exercises

Create an account to complete the exercises

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

How do Romeo and Juliet die?

Why do Romeo and Juliet die?

Who is Paris in Romeo and Juliet?

Beta

I'm Vulpy, your AI study buddy! Let's study together.