Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare between 1591-1595, and it remains one of his most popular and frequently performed plays. The romance between Romeo and Juliet has become the foundation for many derivative romantic works and established the title characters as the best known of any young lovers in literature. Shakespeare borrowed from other famous tales written earlier in the sixteenth century but expanded upon the plot and characters to create his own version of the famous story.

The play is set in Verona, Italy, and begins with a scuffle between members the rival families Montague and Capulet. The two families are sworn enemies. The beginning scuffle is between servants of those two houses, and shows that the ill will and animosity of the families runs through the families from the primary members of the family down to their servants.

Capulet, the head of the house of Capulet, has begun receiving interested suitors for his young daughter Juliet. Though her father asks Count Paris, a kinsman of Prince Escalus of Verona, to wait two years for their betrothal, he invites him to attend a Capulet ball. Juliet's mother and nurse try to convince Juliet that a match with Paris would be a good one.

On the Montague side of the family, young Romeo, Montague's son, is explaining his recent depression to cousin Benvolio. Romeo feels heartbroken from his unreturned affection towards a Capulet niece named Rosaline. Despite the danger of sneaking into a Capulet ball, Romeo attends, hoping to woo Rosaline. Instead he sees Juliet and falls in love with her instead. When Juliet's cousin Tybalt finds out Romeo has been at the ball, he has murderous intentions. Juliet's father discourages the violence, not wanting blood spilt at his home.

After their initial meeting, Juliet secretly professes her love for Romeo who is listening at the bottom of her balcony. As he makes his presence known to her, they imagine their futures together and agree to be married the next day by the Friar Laurence. The Friar hopes their union may reconcile the two feuding families.

Tybalt, still enraged, seeks out Romeo and challenges him to a duel, but Romeo declines the fight, believing Tybalt should be his new kinsman. Romeo's friend Mercutio takes on the duel on Romeo's behalf and is mortally wounded. Romeo is wracked with guilt and grief and finally confronts and kills Tybalt. Though Montague argues on his son's behalf, the Prince exiles Romeo from Verona under penalty of death. Romeo hides in Juliet's chamber for the night where the consummate their marriage.

Capulet attempts to marry Juliet to Paris and is dismayed when she refuses. Her pleas to her mother to delay the marriage fall upon deaf ears. Going again to the Friar Laurence for help, she obtains a potion that will make her appear to be in a deathlike coma. The Friar tells Juliet he will send a messenger to inform Romeo and that after she is laid in the family crypt she can run away with Romeo.

The message is tragically not relayed to Romeo and he hears instead of her death from his servant. He buys his own poison and goes to her body, running into Paris at the crypt. In the ensuing battle Romeo kills Paris and then drinks the poison to end his own life.

When Juliet awakens to find her lover dead beside her, she ends her own life by stabbing herself with a dagger. The two rival families meet at the tomb to find the lovers and Paris all death. In their grief they are finally guided towards reconciliation by the Friar Laurence.