"Romeo & Juliet" by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during his lifetime and, along with Hamlet, is one of his most frequently performed plays. Today, the title characters are regarded as archetypal young lovers.

Romeo and Juliet belongs to a tradition of tragic romances stretching back to antiquity. Its plot is based on an Italian tale, translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562 and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1582. Shakespeare borrowed heavily from both but, to expand the plot, developed supporting characters, particularly Mercutio and Paris. Believed to have been written between 1591 and 1595, the play was first published in a quarto version in 1597. This text was of poor quality, and later editions corrected it, bringing it more in line with Shakespeare's original.

Synopsis

The play, set in Verona, begins with a street brawl between Montague and Capulet supporters who are sworn enemies. The Prince of Verona intervenes and declares that further breach of the peace will be punishable by death. Later, Count Paris talks to Capulet about marrying his daughter, but Capulet asks Paris to wait another two years (then he later orders Juliet to marry Paris) and invites him to attend a planned Capulet ball. Lady Capulet and Juliet's nurse try to persuade Juliet to accept Paris's courtship.

Meanwhile, Benvolio talks with his cousin Romeo, Montague's son, about Romeo's recent depression. Benvolio discovers that it stems from unrequited infatuation for a girl named Rosaline, one of Capulet's nieces. Persuaded by Benvolio and Mercutio, Romeo attends the ball at the Capulet house in hopes of meeting Rosaline. However, Romeo instead meets and falls in love with Juliet. After the ball, in what is now called the "balcony scene", Romeo sneaks into the Capulet orchard and overhears Juliet at her window vowing her love to him in spite of her family's hatred of the Montagues. Romeo makes himself known to her and they agree to be married. With the help of Friar Laurence, who hopes to reconcile the two families through their children's union, they are secretly married the next day.

Juliet's cousin Tybalt, incensed that Romeo had sneaked into the Capulet ball, challenges him to a duel. Romeo, now considering Tybalt his kinsman, refuses to fight. Mercutio is offended by Tybalt's insolence, as well as Romeo's "vile submission," and accepts the duel on Romeo's behalf. Mercutio is fatally wounded when Romeo attempts to break up the fight. Grief-stricken and wracked with guilt, Romeo confronts and slays Tybalt.

Montague argues that Romeo has justly executed Tybalt for the murder of Mercutio. The Prince, now having lost a kinsman in the warring families' feud, exiles Romeo from Verona, with threat of execution upon return. Romeo secretly spends the night in Juliet's chamber, where they consummate their marriage. Capulet, misinterpreting Juliet's grief, agrees to marry her to Count Paris and threatens to disown her when she refuses to become Paris's "joyful bride." When she then pleads for the marriage to be delayed, her mother rejects her.

Juliet visits Friar Laurence for help, and he offers her a drug that will put her into a deathlike coma for "two and forty hours." The Friar promises to send a messenger to inform Romeo of the plan, so that he can rejoin her when she awakens. On the night before the wedding, she takes the drug and, when discovered apparently dead, she is laid in the family crypt.

The messenger, however, does not reach Romeo and, instead, Romeo learns of Juliet's apparent death from his servant Balthasar. Heartbroken, Romeo buys poison from an apothecary and goes to the Capulet crypt. He encounters Paris who has come to mourn Juliet privately. Believing Romeo to be a vandal, Paris confronts him and, in the ensuing battle, Romeo kills Paris. Still believing Juliet to be dead, he drinks the poison. Juliet then awakens and, finding Romeo dead, stabs herself with his dagger. The feuding families and the Prince meet at the tomb to find all three dead. Friar Laurence recounts the story of the two "star-cross'd lovers". The families are reconciled by their children's deaths and agree to end their violent feud. The play ends with the Prince's elegy for the lovers: "For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

Characters

  • Prince Escalus
  • Count Paris
  • Mercutio
  • Capulet
  • Capulet's Wife
  • Juliet
  • Tybalt
  • The Nurse
  • Rosaline
  • Peter
  • Sampson
  • Gregory
  • Montague
  • Lady Montague
  • Romeo
  • Benvolio
  • Abram
  • Balthasar
  • Friar Laurence
  • Friar John
  • Apothecary

Production History

Date Venue Company
Jun 30, 2011 Gazebo Theatre
Feb 4, 2001 Ahmanson Theatre
Nov 12, 1986 Belasco Theatre
Mar 17, 1977 Circle in the Square Theatre
Feb 13, 1962 City Center
May 19, 1959 Festival Theatre
Nov 1, 1956 Music Box Theatre
Oct 24, 1956 Winter Garden Theatre
Apr 28, 1955 Metropolitan Opera House
Mar 10, 1951 Broadhurst Theatre
May 9, 1940 51st Street Theatre
Dec 23, 1935 Martin Beck Theatre
Dec 20, 1934 Martin Beck Theatre
Oct 6, 1930 Civic Repertory Theatre
Apr 21, 1930 Civic Repertory Theatre
Jan 24, 1923 Henry Miller's Theatre
Dec 27, 1922 Longacre Theatre
Jan 16, 1922 48th Street Theatre
Nov 4, 1918 44th Street Theatre
Apr 5, 1918 Criterion Theatre
Nov 22, 1915 44th Street Theatre
Feb 1, 1915 44th Street Theatre
Sep 22, 1913 Manhattan Opera House
Sep 30, 1912 Manhattan Opera House
Nov 20, 1911 Manhattan Opera House
Jul 3, 1911 Broadway Theatre
Apr 17, 1911 Daly's Theatre
Dec 5, 1910 Broadway Theatre
Feb 7, 1910 Academy of Music
Mar 8, 1909 New Amsterdam Theatre
Jun 10, 1907 Academy of Music
Jan 21, 1907 Lyric Theatre
Oct 16, 1905 Knickerbocker Theatre
Oct 17, 1904 Knickerbocker Theatre
May 25, 1903 Knickerbocker Theatre
Feb 16, 1903 Mrs. Osborn's Playhouse
May 8, 1899 Empire Theatre
Feb 3, 1869 Boothe's Theatre
1850 Bowery Theatre
1754, Jan 28 New Theatre
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License