Romeo and Juliet Plot Synopsis
By Shane Valenzi
Act I opens with a pair of Capulet supporters (servants, in the original text) who instigate a fight with a pair of rival Montague supporters. Capulet’s nephew, Benvolio, tries to break up the brawl, but is provoked by Montague’s nephew, Tybalt, and the two join the fight. The fight is finally broken up by the Prince, who Capulets and Montagues alike must obey (although, in this production, both Montague and Capulet are running against one another in an election for the chance to take his place!). Following the fight Benvolio attempts to console Romeo, Montague’s son, who he believes is lovesick for a girl named Rosaline. After getting an invitation to a Capulet political fundraiser (a ball in the original text) by reading an invitation list to an illiterate Capulet servant, Romeo and Benvolio decide to attend the party in disguise (so they will not be recognized as Montagues); Romeo hopes to find Rosaline there, while Benvolio hopes that the beautiful women at the fundraiser will help Romeo move on from his crush.
Meanwhile, Capulet advises Paris, a young suitor of his daughter, Juliet, to woo Juliet at the upcoming party so she will be open to marriage; Juliet’s mother attempts to plant a similar idea in her daughter’s head. At the party with Benvolio and his friend Mercutio, Romeo is recognized by Capulet’s nephew Tybalt, but Capulet forbids Tybalt from making a scene at his party. Oblivious, Romeo is captivated by Juliet, and she with him, as they share a brief moment of tender love at first sight before the party ends. While Benvolio and Mercutio search the streets for Romeo after the party, Romeo appears beneath Juliet’s balcony, having climbed the walls of the Capulet residence. The two lovers share a long profession of love and Romeo promises to get word to Juliet the next day about their plans to marry. He quickly meets with Friar Lawrence, who agrees to marry them in secret. The next day, Benvolio and Mercutio finally find Romeo, but before Romeo can tell them about his love for Juliet their conversation is interrupted by Juliet’s Nurse, who has agreed to pass messages between the lovers.
Once the nurse delivers the time and place of their meeting to Juliet, Juliet meets Romeo at Friar Lawrence’s cell and the two are wed in secret. The next day, Benvolio and Mercutio run into Tybalt and his Capulet supporters in the street, angry words are exchanged, and, though Romeo enters and attempts to make peace with Tybalt, Mercutio and Tybalt fight and Mercutio is killed. Devastated by the death of his friend, Romeo kills Tybalt in a fit of vengeance, then flees the streets in despair as the Prince banishes him from the city.
The Nurse tells Juliet that Tybalt died because of Romeo, and after an anguished inner debate Juliet determines that she would rather die than never see Romeo again, and asks her Nurse to find Romeo and bring him to her. The Nurse finds Romeo with Friar Lawrence, and the two convince Romeo to let go of his grief and the Nurse takes him to Juliet. After consummating their marriage, Romeo escapes in the dead of night, shortly before Juliet’s mother informs her that her father has agreed to wed her to Paris the next morning. After a desperate argument with her father, Juliet goes to Friar Lawrence, who gives her a potion that will mimic death for 42 hours; the Friar agrees to send word to Romeo so that he can meet her when she awakes in her family crypt. Juliet returns home, apologizes to her parents, then drinks the potion. Romeo, now in Mantua, learns of Juliet’s death before Friar Laurence’s letter (explaining that Juliet’s death is just an illusion) can reach him. After purchasing a vial of poison from an apothecary, Romeo returns to Verona, to commit suicide next to Juliet’s body. He arrives at Juliet’s tomb at the same time as Paris, however, and is forced to kill Paris in order to gain entrance to the tomb. Upon finding Juliet’s body, Romeo drinks the vial of poison and dies. Juliet awakes shortly after, and kills herself with her dagger after finding Romeo dead. Montague, Capulet, their guards and supporters, and the Prince all arrive at the tomb, having been signaled by Paris’s page. Seeing their children dead, Montague and Capulet make peace at last.