Romeo and Juliet: by Shakespeare - Summary

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      Romeo and Juliet, a tragedy by William Shakespeare, first performed in 1595 and published in a corrupt Quarto in 1597 and an authentic at one in 1599 as well as in the First Folio of 1623. The source was a poem by Arthur Brooke, The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet but the story was, in its main outlines, a well known. The enmity of two great families, the it Capulets and the Montagues, is a blight on the city of Verona. After a street brawl, the Prince if orders the families to keep the peace on pain of death. Capulet, partly to demonstrate his willingness for Count Paris to marry his daughter Juliet, plans a masqued ball. Romeo, the love sick son of Montague, decides to attend, effect livelily masked, in pursuit of his beloved Rosalind. At the ball, he and Juliet meet and immediately fall in love, but Tybalt, recognizing Romeo as a Montague, has to be restrained from fighting him. Romeo waits under Juliet’s balcony, and they arrange a secret marriage, with the collusion of their mutual confessor, Friar Lawrence, and Juliet’s Nurse.

      The marriage takes place, and is immediately followed by disaster, when Romeo tries to prevent a duel between his mercurial friend Mercutio and the angry Tybalt. Mercutio is fatally wounded as a result of Romeo’s intervention, and Romeo kills Tybalt as a reprisal. Banished from Verona, he leaves for Mantua after a single night with his new wife. Before Friar Lawrence can find a way of making the marriage public, Capulet decides that Juliet must marry Paris immediately. Friar Lawrence advises Juliet to acquiesce, but gives her a potion to take on the eve of the bigamous wedding. He explains that the potion will give her the appearance of death for 42 hours. She will be taken to the family vault, where the friar will arrange for Romeo to greet her when she wakes.

      In plague-torn Mantua, Friar Lawrence’s message fails to reach Romeo. Desperate at the news of Juliet’s death, Romeo buys poison, goes to the Capulet vault for a last sight of Juliet and, encountering Paris there, kills him and drinks the fatal draught. Juliet wakes, finds Romeo dead and stabs herself with his dagger. The sequence of events, related by Friar Lawrence, serves to reconcile the two warring families.

      The achievements of Romeo and Juliet have been so long recognized as to threaten the play with over-familiarity. Theatrical popularity has been assured by its dear plotting and the lyrical heights of its love poetry, together with the vivid creation of its minor characters, particularly Mercutio and the Nurse. That Shakespeare could write a tragedy of ‘star-crossed’ love at much the same time as he was parodying one in the Pyramus and This be play of A Midsummer Sight’s Dream is an indication of his extraordinary range as a writer.

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