Free Study Guide: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare - Free BookNotes|
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ROMEO AND JULIET: FREE BOOKNOTES
Romeo and Juliet ends in tragedy. Because they cannot profess their love
openly, fate intervenes and causes Romeo to kill himself, believing Juliet
is dead. When Juliet discovers the death of her husband, she kills herself,
wanting to be with her lover through eternity. Their deaths, however,
bring to a final close the age-old quarrel between the Capulets and Montagues.
Years ago there lived in the city of Verona in Italy two noble families, the Montagues and Capulets. Unfortunately, there existed much bad blood between them. Their animosity was so pronounced that they could not stand the sight of one another. Even the servants of the house carried on the animosity of their masters. The bloody feuds of the two families led the Prince to order all brawls to cease on pain of death.
Romeo, son of old Montague, is a handsome young man. He fancies he is in love
with Rosaline, who disdains his love. As a result, Romeo is depressed.
To cure him of his love, his friend Benvolio induces him to attend a masked
ball at the Capulets, where he could encounter other beauties and forget
Rosaline. At the ball, Romeo is attracted by a girl who he learns is Juliet,
daughter of the Capulets. They seal their love with a kiss. Juliet, on
learning Romeoís identity from a servant, confesses to herself that her
only love has sprung from her only hate. Meanwhile, the fiery Tybalt,
Julietís cousin, recognizes Romeo and challenges him. Old Capulet forbids
him to insult or harm any guest. Tybalt vows to settle the score with
That night Romeo lingers in Capuletís garden, standing in the orchard
beneath Julietís balcony. He sees Juliet leaning over the railing, hears
her calling out his name, and wishes that he were not a Montague. He reveals
his presence, and they resolve, after an ardent love scene, to be married
secretly. Next morning, Juliet sends her Nurse to make final arrangements
for the wedding to be performed at the cell of Friar Lawrence. The Friar,
who is a confessor to both the houses, feels that this union between a
Montague and a Capulet will dissolve the enmity between the two houses.
Meanwhile, Tybalt has been seeking Romeo to avenge the latterís intrusion
at the ball. He encounters Romeo returning from Friar Lawrenceís cell.
Romeo, softened by his newfound love and his marriage to Juliet, refuses
to be drawn into a quarrel with Tybalt, now his kinsman by marriage. Mercutio
grapples with Tybalt and is slain. Aroused to fury by the death of his
friend, Romeo fights with Tybalt and kills him and takes shelter in the
Friarís cell. The Prince, on hearing of the trouble, banishes Romeo. The
Friar advises Romeo to spend the night with Juliet and then flee to Mantua.
Meanwhile, Julietís parents, believing her grief to be due to her cousin
Tybaltís death, seek to alleviate her distress by planning her immediate
marriage to Paris, a kinsman of the Prince.
In despair, Juliet seeks Friar Lawrenceís advice. He gives her a sleeping
potion, which for a time will cause her to appear dead. Thus, on the day
of her supposed marriage to Paris, she will be carried to the family vault.
By the time she awakens, Romeo will be summoned to the vault and take
her away to Mantua.
The Friarís letter fails to reach Romeo. When he hears of Julietís death
through Balthazar, Romeo procures a deadly poison from an apothecary and
secretly returns to Verona to say his last farewell to his deceased wife
and die by her side. In the Capulet tomb, Romeo encounters Paris, who
has come to strew flowers on Julietís grave. Paris challenges Romeo, and
in the fight that ensues, Paris is killed. Then at Julietís side, Romeo
drinks the poison and dies. When Juliet awakens from her deep sleep, she
realizes Romeoís error and kills herself with his dagger. Summoned to
the tomb by the aroused watchman, Lord Capulet and Lord Montague ring
their hands in anguish. The Prince listens to Friar Lawrenceís story of
the unhappy fate of the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. He rebukes
the Capulets and Montagues for their bloody feud. The Capulets and Montague
decide to reconcile as a result of the deaths of their children.
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