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William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet
Summary by Michael McGoodwin, prepared 1999

Dicksee (Sir Frank), Romeo and Juliet (detail, date unknown)
Sir Frank Dicksee, Romeo and Juliet (detail, date unknown)

Acknowledgement: This work has been summarized using The Complete Works of Shakespeare Updated Fourth Ed., Longman Addison-Wesley, ed. David Bevington, 1997.  Quotations are for the most part taken from that work, as are paraphrases of his commentary, except as otherwise noted.

Overall Impression: This is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, timeless, deeply moving in its tragic elements despite its bawdy moments, with great language and passion, not diminished (in my view) by its being fairly early WS and the current critical opinion that it is somewhat uncertain in its construction.

Per Bevington:  Sources include the Greek romance Ephesiaca 5th Century C.E.; Masuccio of Salerno "Il Novellino" 1476; Luigi da Porto "Novella" c. 1530; Matteo Bandello "Novelle" 1554, translated into French by Boaistuau 1559. This latter French version became the inspiration for Arthur Brook's long narrative poem in English "The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet" 1562 which was the immediate source.

Romeo & Juliet is lyrical in style like the sonnets, MSND, and Richard II—more comparable to the romantic comedies than to the later tragedies. One of the subjects is the exquisite brief joy of youthful passion and ecstasy. The play is often funny and very bawdy. Good intentions are often undermined by lack of knowledge, bad luck, misunderstanding. Chance and accident play a major role. In the end, order is restored to Verona but at a high price...

Per William R. Streitberger:  He emphasizes the haste with which the characters all act, the impulsiveness and impatience, the urgency to procreate and mate, the readiness and ease with which people lose control, using images of suddeness like a flash or explosion, the need for instant gratification, emphasis on sexuality. There is often contrasting of death and life. It uses highly artificial and self-conscious language. The comic characters such as Samson are there to distance the audience from the tragic characters (and perhaps to help intensify the tragedy). Word play is rampant and helps to destabilize the play. There is an emphasis on polar opposites and oxymorons. Romeo uses Rosaline as a poetic love object and tries to love even Juliet by the book, but she is more down to earth...


The chorus announces [in English sonnet form] that the lovers are destined to die in order to bury their parent's strife ("A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life; / Whole misadventured piteous overthrows / Doth with their death bury their parents' strife."

Act I

Act I Scene 1

Verona Italy, a public place. Samson and Gregory are servants in the household of the merchant family Capulet and speak with punning comic and crudely bawdy wordplay. Samson boasts that he will not endure insults from the Montagues, that women are the weaker vessel, etc. Two servants, Abraham and another, belonging to the Montague household (the opposing merchant family) appear. Samson makes taunting gestures and provokes a fight. Benvolio (Montague's nephew and Romeo's friend, "Benvolio") arrives and tries to stop it, but Tybalt (nephew of Lady Capulet, Capulet's wife) enters with sword drawn and forces Benvolio to fight. Citizens join in the fray, as does old Capulet and Montague. Finally, Prince Escalus of Verona [who functions as a governor or mayor] arrives and stops the fighting. He condemns the three public disturbances that the feuding families have caused to date, and declares that future offenders will be executed. He takes Capulet away to hear more of his intentions and leaves Montague behind.

Montague wants to know who started the fight, which Benvolio recounts. Montague's wife asks where Romeo is, and Benvolio tells of seeing him walking early in the morning and ducking into a grove of sycamores. Montague comments he has seen him weeping there many times, and that he spends his days brooding in his room. Neither his father nor Benvolio seem to know the cause.

Romeo [who Streitberger suggests is about 16] arrives and talks alone with Benvolio. He is sad, in love but out of favor with his beloved. He speaks of his frustration in oxymorons of "O brawling love! O loving hate, / O anything of nothing first create, / O heavy lightness, serious vanity, / Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms, / Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, / Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is! / This love feel I, that feel no love in this." Benvolio is sympathetic and wants to know who the woman is. She is fair, Romeo says, with Diana's wisdom, but pledged to chastity, unwilling to be seduced even by gold [Romeo speaks of the waste resulting from lack of procreatl also expressed in the early sonnets]. Benvolio advises he open his eyes to other women, but Romeo says none can compare to her.

Act I Scene 2

Verona, a street. Capulet speaks with County Paris [i.e., Count Paris] about his interest in marrying Juliet. Juliet is 13 ("she hath not seen the change of fourteen years"), and Capulet initially suggests they wait. She is Capulet's only child still living. Paris seems to be in a hurry to marry her. He agrees to the suit provided Juliet is willing. He is having a feast that night. He gives the invitation list to his illiterate servingman and they walk away.

Benvolio is still counseling Romeo to find another woman. The servingman asks Romeo and Benvolio to read to him the names on the list. Romeo plays with him initially, then agrees to read the list aloud—it includes Mercutio [a kinsman to the Prince and Romeo's friend], Rosaline [whom Benvolio already seems now to know is Romeo's love object], and Tybalt. He suggests that Romeo go to this party to see "all the admired beauties of Verona" and compare Rosaline to the others. Romeo is sure none could match Rosaline, but will go along to rejoice in the sight of Rosaline. 

Act I Scene 3

Capulet's house. Juliet's nurse talks to Juliet's mother Lady Capulet (Juliet is also present). The nurse is bawdy and earthy in her speech and preoccupied with sex. Juliet will be fourteen on Lammas Eve (i.e., c. Aug 1) and it is now mid-July. Her own daughter Susan is dead, and she fondly recalls nursing and weaning Juliet (whom she calls ladybird) and her now deceased husband's joking remark that Juliet would someday fall backwards (i.e., for sex) rather than forwards as she had just done. Lady Capulet asks Juliet how predisposed she is to marrying Paris. Juliet has not dreamed of such an honor, but agrees to assess him at the upcoming feast. The guests are arriving.

Act I Scene 4

Verona, near Capulet's house. Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio assemble with several other masquers. Benvolio suggests they forego the traditional announcement of their arrival. Romeo is "heavy" and has a soul of lead and volunteers to bear the light. He wonders at the difficulty of love and Mercutio has a bawdy response. They apply their masks. Romeo plans to be a passive bystander.  Romeo says he has had a dream, and Mercutio responds he has had one also. He describes how Queen Mab [the Fairy Queen, a ?Celtic name] gallops through lover's brains to cause them to dream of love, causes other kinds of dreams in other types of persons, teaches maids "first to bear, making them women of good carriage", and in some instances produces cruel consequences [hers is a darker vision of a Fairy Queen than Titania]. Romeo dismisses Mercutio's fanciful speech and fears some ominous consequence from the evening's activity, but leaves his fate in God.

Act I Scene 5

Capulet's house. Four servingmen converse humorously and prepare for the feast. Capulet, Lady Capulet, the guests, and the masquers enter. Capulet welcomes the masquers and jokes that any ladies not dancing have corns. Dancing begins. Capulet speaks to a second Capulet [possibly his uncle] about their own long-past masked dancing days. Romeo inquires of a servant who Juliet is and says out loud "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! / ... / Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! / For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night." Tybalt recognizes his voice and calls for his rapier. Capulet stops him from fighting and tells him to leave Romeo alone, commenting hospitably "Content thee, gentle coz, let him alone; / 'A bears him like a portly gentleman, / And, to say truth, Verona brags of him / To be a virtuous and well-governed youth". Tybalt is angry but Capulet insists he endure Romeo's presence and Tybalt withdraws in anger. Romeo addresses Juliet, taking her hand and wishing to kiss it. They speak in sonnet form and in the metaphor of pilgrims and saints, Juliet is encouraging, and Romeo kisses her, a "trespass sweetly urged". But Juliet comments he kisses "by the book" [i.e., he speaks as in the Petrachan sonnets rather than more down to earth]. Nurse calls Juliet to her mother, and speaks to Romeo, telling him Juliet is the daughter of Lady Capulet, causing Romeo to despair. Benvolio says it is time to go. Capulet hospitably invites them to stay but relents after someone whispers something to him.
Juliet is left with Nurse, and asks the names of the departing men: son of Tiberio, Petruchio. Then she asks Nurse to find out the name of the man who would not dance, and she returns to say he is Romeo. She laments "My only love sprung from my only hate! / Too early seen unknown, and known too late! / Prodigious birth of love it is to me / That I must love a loathed enemy."

Act II

Act II Scene 0

Chorus tells in sonnet form how Rosaline is forgotten, now that Romeo has a new love, and that the lovers will overcome the obstacles preventing their meeting.

Act II Scene 1

Verona, outside Capulet's walled orchard. Romeo has disappeared from Benvolio and Mercutio. Benvolio has seen Romeo leap the Capulet's orchard wall and Mercutio speaks in humorously poetic images of conjuring up Romeo, invoking Rosaline's eyes and speaking bawdily of her, assuring Mercutio that Romeo would not be angry to hear his joking remarks (e.g., "I conjure thee by Rosaline's bright eyes, / By her high forehead and her scarlet lip, / By her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh / And the demesnes that there adjacent lie...") and continues on with joking about how Romeo wishes Rosaline were like an medlar fruit [also called "open-arse", eaten when partially rotten, resembling vulva], and he a poppering pear [phallic in shape].

Act II Scene 2

Inside the Capulet orchard. Romeo is now left alone after hiding from his friends. He sees a light in Juliet's window, and compares her to the sun: "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. / Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, / Who is already sick and pale with grief / That thou her maid art far more fair than she. / Be not her maid, since she is envious; / Her vestal livery is but sick and green / And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off." Here he seems to suggest she not be a votary to the chaste Diana, since Juliet is fairer than Diana and Diana is envious of Juliet; also their uniforms are so pale and anemic like moonlight. He compares her eyes to stars and her to an angel [again using speech more typical of Petrachan sonnets than teen romance]. She speaks out, not knowing he is there, asking why he is named Romeo and a Montague, wants him to change his name, confessing her love. When he appears to her, she warns him that he will be killed if discovered there, but he is fearless and poetic in response. She asks if he loves her and worries if she seems too readily yielding to him. He tries to swear by the moon, but Juliet [is impatient with his flowery language and] does not want him to swear by the inconstant moon but only by himself if at all. Juliet notes how rash this has all been but says "This bud of love, by summer's ripening breath, / May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet." He pledges to marry her and she agrees to send word to him tomorrow to pursue this. Nurse calls to Juliet. She compares him to a wanton's bird kept on a short thread and bids Romeo goodbye: "Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow / That I shall say good night till it be morrow."

Act II Scene 3

Near Friar Laurence's cell, perhaps in the monastery garden. Friar Laurence ("FL") gathers herbs and flowers and reflects on the opposed grace and rude will found in men, as in his poisonous herbs. Romeo enters. He wants the friar to marry him and Juliet. FL is amazed that Romeo has so rapidly dropped his love for Rosaline. He sees that the marriage may turn the feuding families rancor to love. 

Act II Scene 4

Verona, street. Mercutio tells Benvolio that Romeo did not come home last night and they wonder where he is. Tybalt has sent a challenging letter to Romeo's father. Mercutio refers to Tybalt as a Prince of Cats [Tybalt was the name of same in Reynard the Fox]. Mercutio makes much word play, joking about fencing, etc. Romeo enters, and the bawdy banter continues as Mercutio questions him where he has been, etc. (e.g., "this driveling love is like a great natural that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole"). 

Nurse appears with servant Peter, and Mercutio aims his bawdy comments at her. Mercutio and Benvolio leave. Nurse is incensed at Mercutio, says she "will take him down", and is irritated that Peter did not stand up for her. The bawdy continues. She questions whether Romeo is dishonorable and plans merely to seduce Juliet. He tells her to arrange for Juliet to meet him at FL's that afternoon when she comes to be shrived (confessed and absolved) and they will be married. Romeo also says his man will bring a rope ladder to her for him to use to get to Juliet's room. Nurse informs Romeo that Paris is a contender who "fain would lay knife aboard".

Act II Scene 5

Outside Capulet's house, perhaps the garden or orchard. Juliet waits impatiently for the coming of the night. Nurse and Peter arrive. She complains of her aching back and bones, shortness of breath, etc. and greatly delays responding to Juliet's urgent entreaty for her news. Finally she tells Juliet to go to FL to make shrift and meet Romeo there to wed, saying "But you shall bear the burden soon at night"

Act II Scene 6

Friar Laurence's cell. Romeo awaits Juliet eagerly, but FL cautions against violent delights and counsels moderation. Juliet arrives and Romeo greets her lovingly. FL proceeds to "incorporate two in one".


Act III Scene 1

Verona, a public place. Benvolio advises Mercutio they should leave to avoid the Capels. Mercutio makes more witty comments but will not retire. Tybalt, Petruchio, and others of the Capulet factions enter. Tybalt wishes a word with them, and Mercutio is provocative and insulting. Benvolio tries to get him to leave the public place but Mercutio refuses. Romeo arrives, and Tybalt calls Romeo a villain. But Romeo says he loves him for reasons he cannot then explain. Mercutio is incensed at Romeo's apparent submissiveness and draws his rapier on Tybalt. Romeo tries to get him to put it up, Mercutio and Tybalt fight, Romeo steps between them, and Tybalt stabs Mercutio under Romeo's arm. Tybalt is mortally wounded and ends his life with final wit: "A plague o' both your houses! ...A scratch, a scratch; marry, 'tis enough", etc. He exits carried away by Benvolio. Romeo laments that Mercutio was slain defending against Tybalt's slander of Romeo. Benvolio. returns and tells Romeo that Mercutio is dead, and Romeo knows that the days to follow will bring further woe. Tybalt returns, Romeo discards lenity and demands Tybalt take back his accusation of villainy. They fight, Romeo slays Tybalt, then flees. Citizens and the Prince arrive along with Capulet, Lady Capulet. Benvolio recounts the fight. Lady Capulet calls for vengeance against Romeo. Prince tells how Romeo tried to stop the fighting, etc. Lady Capulet thinks his testimony cannot be trusted as he is a Montague kinsman. Prince laments the death of his kinsman, Mercutio, and pronounces the banishment of Romeo.

Act III Scene 2

Capulet's house. Juliet eagerly awaits the night and consummation of her marriage. Nurse arrives with the cords from Romeo, says he is dead, and only after a delay clarifies it is Tybalt she speaks of and that Romeo is banished. Juliet calls Romeo a beautiful tyrant, a serpent heart, then regrets that she has chided he that is her husband. She knows Tybalt would have killed Romeo. She despairs the banishment and assumes she will not see him. But Nurse reassures Juliet that Nurse will find him. He is hiding at FL's cell. Juliet gives a ring to Nurse to give to Romeo and asks that he come to her.

Act III Scene 3

Verona, FL's cell. Romeo laments his fate. FL reassures him that it will be a temporary banishment and is philosophical. Romeo pitifully envisions that even carrion flies have the advantage of being able to steal blessings from her lips that are denied to him. Nurse arrives and views the weeping Romeo, speaks in bawdy double meanings. She tells him Juliet has not abandoned him despite the killing. Romeo thinks of killing himself but is restrained. FL advises him to be reasonable and not so womanish and shameful in his behavior. He tells Romeo to go to Juliet and then leave for Mantua until FL can arrange to announce the marriage, beg pardon of the Prince, and call him back. Nurse gives Romeo the ring and departs to ready Juliet for his coming.

Act III Scene 4

Capulet house, Monday. Capulet tells Paris he has been distracted by the death from pursuing Paris' suit. Paris is understanding. Capulet asks Lady Capulet to make an entreaty to Juliet for Paris before she goes to bed. It is Monday and he wants her to wed Thursday [an extraordinary hastiness]. He wants a modest wedding ceremony in view of Tybalt's recent death.

Act III Scene 5

Capulet's orchard and Juliet's chamber, dawn Tuesday. Juliet and Romeo appear aloft at the bedroom window. Dawn is approaching, but she tries to pretend it is still night, that it is the nightingale and not the lark they have heard singing. But Romeo is more realistic and knows he must leave for Mantua—the light brings darker woes for him.

Nurse enters and tells them to be wary, and Romeo departs, saying "I doubt it not, and all these woes shall serve / For sweet discourses in our time to come." But Juliet has a vision that she will see him "as one dead in the bottom of a tomb. / Either my eyesight fails, or thou look'st pale." 

Her mother enters [apparently she did not come the night before after all] and Juliet says she is not well, which Lady Capulet assumes to be due to her continued and excessive grief at the death of Tybalt. Lady Capulet calls Romeo a villain and wants vengeance on him. Juliet, speaking in intentional double meanings, talks of tempering poison for Romeo that would give him quiet sleep. Lady Capulet tells her that Capulet has arranged for her to marry Paris next Thursday. Juliet refuses, and wonders at the hastiness in marrying Paris even before has been there to woo her, cleverly saying she will swear at Romeo rather than Paris. 

Capulet enters with Nurse. He belittles her continued weeping. Lady Capulet tells him Juliet refuses to marry. Capulet accuses Juliet of "chopped logic" and angrily demands she consent to the marriage for Thursday or he will disown her [again with extraordinary haste and pressure]. He tells his wife he is glad to have only one such child. Nurse chides Capulet for so berating Juliet, but he silences her. Capulet speaks of how he has provided her with an ideal match, and mocks her attitude, saying she will be a beggar and die in the streets if she does not obey. Juliet asks if he has no pity for her grief, and begs her mother not to cast her out, but she is done with her. After they have left, Juliet is in despair and asks the Nurse why "heaven should practise stratagems / Upon so soft a subject as myself!" Nurse tries to talk her into the wisdom of the new match, describing Romeo as a dishrag compared to Paris, but Juliet will not hear of it. Juliet decides to go to FL "to make confession and to be absolved" and to herself resolves that she can no longer confide in the Nurse.

Act IV

Act IV Scene 1

Friar Laurence's cell, Tuesday. Friar Laurence expresses surprise to Paris that the wedding is planned so hastily for the next Thursday, but Paris explains that her father believes it is unhealthy for her to mourn so long for Tybalt and that this will be the right course for her. Laurence wishes it could be slowed. Juliet arrives and is ambiguous in speaking to Paris, though he speaks as if he already possesses her. She wants to meet alone with Laurence and he leaves. Juliet is in despair and does not know what to do. She displays a knife and is considering killing herself. Laurence offers a desperate solution to her desperate circumstance, and she is fearless to proceed. He gives her a vial of potion which will make her appear dead, telling her to take it Wednesday night before the Thursday wedding. He will send a friar to Romeo in Mantua to tell him of the plan.

Act IV Scene 2

Capulet's house. Capulet instructs his servant to hire cooks for the wedding party. Juliet enters and says Laurence has helped her to repent her sin of disobedience to her father, and kneels to ask his forgiveness. Capulet responds by calling for Paris and to proceed [with even greater haste] with the wedding the next day, on Wednesday. His wife wants to stay with the original plan but he insists on Wednesday, even though she says they will be short on provisions. He reassures her all will be well and plans to stay up all night [he seems euphoric with his girl "so reclaimed", oblivious to Juliet's true thoughts].

Act IV Scene 3

Capulet house, view includes Juliet's bed. Lady Capulet offers Juliet help but she declines and her mother leaves. Juliet says "Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again. / I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins / That almost freezes up the heat of life." She considers calling back her Nurse but decides against it [her isolation now virtually complete]. She wonders if the vial may contain poison? Will she awake before Romeo comes and die of suffocation near the festering body of Tybalt or go mad and play with her ancestors bones? She thinks she sees Tybalt's ghost seeking Romeo. At the height of these fearful concerns, she drinks the vial.

Act IV Scene 4

Same, the following (Wednesday) morning 3 AM. Wife enters with Nurse and tells Capulet to come to bed and not be a cotquean (house husband), but he wants to stay up. He has stayed up so before, and she reminds him that it was when he was a women chaser ("mouse-hunt"). Servingmen enter with logs and make word play jokes about logs. They hear Paris coming and send Nurse to awaken Juliet.

Act IV Scene 5

Same, still with Juliet's bed visible. Nurse tries to awaken Juliet and finds her still dressed, and appearing to be dead. Lady Capulet laments her only child. Capulet enters blustering and unbelieving but finally concludes "Death lies on her like an untimely frost / Upon the sweetest flower of all the field".

Friar Laurence enters with Paris. Capulet says to Paris "O son, the night before thy wedding-day / Hath Death lain with thy wife. There she lies, / Flower as she was, deflowered by him. / Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir; / My daughter he hath wedded. I will die, / And leave him all; life, living, all is Death's." All lament. Paris says "Beguiled, divorced, wronged, spited, slain! / Most detestable Death, by thee beguiled, / By cruel, cruel thee quite overthrown! / O love! O life! Not life, but love in death!" Capulet rages against Death. Friar gives reassurances about the afterlife, and asks them to bear her to church, cautioning "The heavens do lour upon you for some ill; / Move them no more by crossing their high will." Peter the servant wants the musicians to play the ballad "Heart's ease" and carries on an absurdly comical dialog with them.

Act V

Act V Scene 1

Mantua, street. Romeo has dreamed that joyful news is at hand—he dreamed his lady came to him and found him dead and revived him with kisses. Balthasar, Romeo's man, enters with news from Verona. He informs him that Juliet has died and "sleeps" in the Capulet monument. Romeo defies the stars, calls for paper and pen and horses. He wonders if there are letters from the Friar, but there are none. He concludes "Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight". He meets with the nearby poor apothecary and buys a dram of poison that will hastily dispatch himself: "A dram of poison, / such soon-speeding gear / As will disperse itself through all the veins / That the life-weary taker may fall dead, / And that the trunk may be discharged of breath / As violently as hasty powder fired / Doth hurry from the fatal cannon's womb." The apothecary is concerned that he violates the law but Romeo talks the reluctant man into selling the "cordial", arguing "There is thy gold—worse poison to men's souls, / Doing more murders in this loathsome world / Than these poor compounds that thou mayst not sell."

Act V Scene 2

Verona, Friar Laurence's cell. Laurence had sent Friar John to inform Romeo of the plan, but John was confined in Verona by health officials fearing he had been in house "where the infectious pestilence [plague] did reign" and was therefore unable to deliver it. Laurence knows the disaster this spells and makes plans to hasten to the monument where Juliet will awaken in three hours. He will write to Romeo again and keep Juliet in his cell.

Act V Scene 3

Verona, churchyard containing the Capulet tomb or vault, night. Paris brings flowers and is accompanied by his page. He does not want to be seen and has his page lay nearby. He strews flowers and perfumed water on the tomb ("thy bridal bed"). He hears Romeo coming and retires.

Romeo arrives with Balthasar with a pickaxe and crowbar. He gives a letter to B. to be given to his father in the morning. He claims to be there to take a ring from her, and savagely threatens to tear B. apart if he interferes with his actions: "I will tear thee joint by joint / And strew this hungry churchyard with thy limbs. / The time and my intents are savage-wild, / More fierce and more inexorable far / Than empty tigers or the roaring sea." Balthasar departs but decides to hide nearby, fearing Romeo's intentions.

Romeo addresses the "detestable maw" of the tomb and tries to open it. Paris appears, says Juliet died mourning the cousin Romeo killed, and tries to apprehend him to die. Romeo asks him not to tempt a desperate man and tries to prevent the fight, saying "I come hither armed against myself", referring to himself as a madman (and Paris as "youth" and "boy" [is he much younger?]). But Paris insists on apprehending him, they fight, and Paris is slain. Paris' page goes for help. Paris asks to be lain in Juliet's tomb, and Romeo agrees to. He recalls his man told him that Paris was to marry Juliet, wonders if he has gone mad or is dreaming. 

He opens the tomb and compares it to a lighted turret room: "A grave? O, no! A lantern, slaughtered youth, / For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes / This vault a feasting presence full of light." He lays Paris in the tomb. He feels euphoric at the sight of Juliet: "How oft when men are at the point of death / Have they been merry, which their keepers call / A lightening before death. O, how may I / Call this a lightening? O my love, my wife!" and marvels that "Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath, / Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty." He wonders "Shall I believe / That unsubstantial Death is amorous, / And that the lean abhorred monster keeps / Thee here in dark to be his paramour?" He declares he will stay there and "shake the yoke of inauspicious stars / From this world-wearied flesh", kisses her, and takes the fast-acting poison.

Friar Laurence enters with tools with which to open the tomb. Balthasar approaches him and tells him it is Romeo in the distant tomb, present for 1/2 hour. Balthasar slept and wondered if he heard Romeo fighting. Laurence finds blood at the tomb and sees Romeo and Paris within. Juliet awakens and asks for Romeo. They hear a noise [not inside the tomb] and Laurence tries to get Juliet to leave, saying "A greater power than we can contradict / Hath thwarted our intents. / Come, come away. / Thy husband in thy bosom there lies dead, / And Paris too." He says he will station her in a convent and wants to get away before the watch discovers them, finally going by himself. 

Juliet kisses his lips to get the poison remaining but there is not enough. Paris' page enters in the distance with the First Watch. Juliet takes Romeo's dagger and kills herself.

The First Watch discovers the bodies of Paris and Juliet, warm and newly dead, and tells Page to fetch the parents and the Prince. Balthasar enters captured by the Second Watch, and the Third Watch has captured the Friar with his tools. 

Prince Escalus arrives as do the Capulets and Montagues. Capulet sees the knife has come from the dead Romeo's sheath. Montague says his wife has died that night and laments his son's death has preceded his own. Prince wants to learn who is responsible for all this, saying "Forbear, / And let mischance be slave to patience." Friar tells the story: that Romeo was married to Juliet, her grief from his banishment, her taking the potion, his failed letter to Romeo, his failure to reach the tomb ahead of Romeo, her refusal to leave the tomb with him, her apparent suicide. The Nurse can corroborate his story. Prince seems convinced, and Balthasar gives Romeo's letter to his father. The Page tells why Paris had come, to strew flowers. The letter is convincing. 

Prince concludes: "Capulet, Montague, / See what a scourge is laid upon your hate, / That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love. / And I for winking at your discords, too / Have lost a brace of kinsmen. All are punished."

Capulet takes Montague's hand: "O brother Montague, give me thy hand. / This is my daughter's jointure, for no more / Can I demand." Montague replies "But I can give thee more, / For I will raise her statue in pure gold..."

Prince concludes: "A glooming peace this morning with it brings; / The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head. / Go hence to have more talk of these sad things. / Some shall be pardoned, and some punished; / For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo." 


Leighton (Lord Frederic), The Reconciliation of the Montagues and Capulets Over the Dead Bodies of Romeo and Juliet, 1853-55 (detail)
Lord Leighton Frederic, The Reconciliation of the Montagues and Capulets
Over the Dead Bodies of Romeo and Juliet, 1853-55 (detail)