The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, set in Verona, Italy, revolves around
the love story between two star-crossed lovers – and the feud between
families that largely directs the course of their fate. For years, the
Capulets and Montagues (two of Verona's most important and influential
families) have been at odds. The fighting between the two families has
been extremely disruptive to life in Verona, and the Prince declares
that the next incident shall be punished by death.
At the start of the play, Romeo (a Montague) is heartbroken over a girl
called Rosaline. To cheer him up, his cousin Benvolio convinces him to
attend a party at the Capulets' – in disguise, of course. At the party,
Romeo meets Juliet (a Capulet), and the two fall instantly in love with
one another. Learning that each belongs to the opposing family is
devastating to the young pair, but they are not to be dissuaded. After
the party, Romeo steals into the Capulet orchard and overhears Juliet
speaking of her love for him. He addresses her at her balcony and the
two declare their love for one another. They agree to marry the next
The following day, Friar Lawrence marries the young couple, hoping that
their union will alleviate the discord between the Capulets and the
Montagues. Juliet's loyal nurse is a witness to the marriage, as well as
Balthasar, a Montague family servant.
Romeo meets with Benvolio and Mercutio (also a Montague), but is then
verbally provoked by Tybalt (a Capulet). Mercutio duels Tybalt and is
killed; Romeo then kills Tybalt to avenge Mercutio's death. The Prince
exiles Romeo from Verona, and warns that Romeo shall be killed if he
returns. Friar Lawrence tells Romeo to stay with Juliet for the night
and then make his way to Mantua in the morning. He does so.
Juliet's mother and father are unaware of her secret marriage to Romeo,
and plan for her to marry Paris (a Capulet) within a few days' time.
Juliet refuses, but her parents insist. Juliet appeals to Friar
Lawrence, intent on suicide if she truly must marry Paris. He gives her
a potion that will make her appear dead and instructs her to drink it
the night before the wedding. He says that he will send a letter to
Romeo explaining the plan, so that the couple can be reunited once
again, travel to Mantua and live there happily.
Juliet follows his instructions and drinks the potion, and everyone
assumes she is dead. She is entombed in the Capulet vault. Balthasar
does not know of Juliet's subterfuge and immediately tells Romeo that
Juliet is dead. Romeo does not receive the letter from Friar Lawrence
and, agonized, races to Juliet's tomb. There, he drinks a vial of poison
and dies. Shortly afterward, Juliet awakens and finds Romeo there. She
stabs herself with his dagger and dies.
When the Montagues and Capulets discover what has truly happened, they
realize what their feud has cost and finally make peace with one
Main Character Biographies:
Sampson and Gregory