Romeo and Juliet – Study Guide
In this post, we will discuss the act-by-act summary of Romeo and Juliet for class 12th students. Let’s get started…
The prologue of Romeo and Juliet refers to the title characters as “starcrossed lovers,” and the stars appear to conspire against these young lovers. Romeo is a Montague, and Juliet is a Capulet. Their families are feuding, but the instant they meet—when Romeo and his companions attend a disguised party at Juliet’s house—the two fall in love and resolve to marry. A friar secretly marries them in the hope of putting an end to the conflict. Romeo and his company are almost immediately confronted by Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, who challenges Romeo. When Romeo declines to fight, Romeo’s friend Mercutio accepts the challenge and is slain. Romeo is then exiled after murdering Tybalt. He spends the night with Juliet before departing for Mantua. Juliet’s father pushes her to marry Count Paris. To prevent this marriage, Juliet drinks a concoction supplied to her by the friar that makes her appear dead. When she awakens, the friar will send Romeo word to be at her family tomb. The scheme goes badly, and Romeo discovers that she is no longer alive. Romeo kills himself in the grave. Juliet awakens, sees his body, and commits suicide. Their deaths appear to have put an end to the dispute.
Act-by-Act Summary of Romeo and Juliet
It is a Sunday, and the streets of Verona are crowded. Sampson and Gregory, two Capulet slaves, are taunting one other pretty brutally and remark how much they despise a rival family, the Montagues, as early as the seventh line. When Abraham and Balthasar of the Montagues enter, a brawl ensues. Benvolio attempts to intervene, but Tybalt refuses to assist, and the brawl escalates into a riot, which is eventually broken up by the town guards. The Prince threatens to kill anyone who violates the peace once more. Romeo enters after the scene and explains his violence to his friend Benvolio, whom he wants nothing to do with because the woman he loves (Rosaline) does not. He also admits to being lovesick and wanting to get to know him.
Paris pays a visit to Lord Capulet and asks to marry his daughter, Juliet. Capulet encourages Paris to wait two more years because she is not quite 14 years old. Nonetheless, Capulet invites Paris to their home for a masked ball, or celebration. When Benvolio and Romeo learn about the party, Benvolio encourages Romeo to attend so he may forget about Rosaline.
Lady Capulet informs Juliet that Paris wishes to marry her. Juliet’s Nurse is overjoyed, but Juliet has not even considered marriage.
It is now Sunday evening, and various partygoers, including Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio, have gathered outside Capulet ‘ mansion. Mercutio’s lighthearted and smart banter contrasts with Romeo’s sombre attitude, however it is clear Mercutio has a dark side as well.
Preparations are being made for Capulet’s party, and the visitors arrive, followed by a lot of dancing and music. Romeo sees Juliet for the first time from a distance and is taken aback by her beauty. Despite his mask, Romeo (Montague) is discovered by Tybalt (Capulet), who intends to kill Romeo for creeping in uninvited – but Capulet prevents him. Tybalt is enraged by this and swears vengeance on Romeo. Romeo approaches Juliet. They talk before kissing. Much to Romeo’s chagrin, Nurse interrupts and informs him that Juliet is a Capulet.
Later, Juliet discovers that Romeo is a Montague, and she reacts in much the same way.
Despite Mercutio’s mocking, Romeo manages to flee his friends outside Capulet’s orchard and refuses to join them.
This is possibly the most famous moment in the history of English drama, known as “The Balcony Scene.” Romeo is in the orchard when he notices Juliet high on her balcony. Juliet, unaware that Romeo is present, speaks fondly of him while lamenting the fact that he is a Montague. Romeo informs her that he is present. Juliet is taken aback, but the two of them engage in a passionate discourse.
They frantically arrange to marry, only to be interrupted once more by the Nurse.
Romeo goes to see his friend, Friar Laurence, early on Monday morning. When Laurence last saw Romeo, he was in love with Rosaline, and Laurence is glad to see a change in him – until he finds Romeo wants to marry someone else. Friar Laurence offers to marry Romeo and Juliet in the hopes that the marriage will bring peace to the warring families.
This is a really pleasant scene, and it is the only one in the play where we see Romeo having fun with his friends. Mercutio makes fun of Benvolio and Romeo. When the Nurse arrives, Mercutio viciously teases her, inciting her rage. Romeo instructs the Nurse to inform Juliet that she is to be married at Friar Laurence’s cell that afternoon.
Juliet is anticipating the Nurse’s return with bated breath. When she finally return, she takes her time revealing the message, much to Juliet’s chagrin.
Friar Laurence joins Romeo as he waits for Juliet. She arrives, and the couple kisses. Romeo and Juliet marry, although the ceremony is not conducted on stage.
This is the important scene in the play. After the wedding, the audience (and, of course, Romeo!) will be on an emotional high, but it all comes tumbling down in this moment. It is barely one hour after the wedding. In the streets of Verona, Benvolio and Mercutio converse. Benvolio is attempting to persuade Mercutio to go inside because it is really hot outside and he fears a brawl if they come across the Capulets. Mercutio, as is customary, rejects this notion and teases Benvolio. Tybalt enters, and he and Mercutio have a furious argument. Romeo walks in. Tybalt insults Romeo, who refuses to take the bait. Mercutio, on the other hand, battles Tybalt and is slain; Tybalt strikes the final blow as Romeo rushes between them. Romeo murders Tybalt because he is bereaved, feels guilty, and seeks vengeance. He flees, and the Prince exiles him from Verona while Romeo is away.
Juliet has no idea what has happened and sits at home anticipating her wedding night with Romeo. The Nurse storms in, sobbing and yelling Romeo’s name and that someone has died. Juliet believes it is Romeo, but quickly realises it is Tybalt — and that Romeo murdered him. She criticises Romeo at first, then defends him to the Nurse. The Nurse agrees to find Romeo and invites him to bid Juliet goodnight.
We return to Friar Laurence’s cell, where Romeo is understandably upset by the events of the day. Laurence tries to persuade Romeo to see the light, but he is deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly The Nurse appears and informs Romeo that Juliet is often crying. Romeo pulls a knife and offers to stab himself in order to have his name removed. Friar Laurence confronts him and becomes enraged. Laurence tells Romeo to visit Juliet as planned, but warns him to leave Verona before daybreak and travel to nearby Mantua.
It is late Monday evening, and Paris has returned to Capulet to renew his proposal to marry Juliet. Capulet changes his mind since he believes it will cheer her up after the loss of her cousin, and sets the wedding date for Thursday.
Juliet’s bedroom is now quite early on Tuesday morning. Romeo and Juliet had spent the night together and neither wants to leave, despite the fact that Romeo must leave or face death if he is captured. Romeo departs. Lady Capulet walks in and informs Juliet that she will marry Paris on Thursday. Juliet declines. Lord Capulet is enraged and threatens her. Juliet seeks advice from the Nurse, who advises her to marry Paris. Juliet, recognising she has nowhere else to turn, intends to seek assistance from Friar Laurence.
Paris is with Friar Laurence, attempting to arrange his marriage to Juliet, when she enters. Paris departs, and Juliet threatens to commit suicide if Laurence is unable to assist her. He devises a strategy: she should return home and apologise to her father, announcing that she will marry Paris. Laurence gives Juliet a potion that renders her comatose and mimics the symptoms of death for 42 hours. She will subsequently be transported to the Capulet mausoleum and placed to rest. Meanwhile, the Friar will send a message to Romeo, instructing him to return discreetly from Mantua and take Juliet away soon she awakens.
It is now Tuesday afternoon, and the Capulets are getting ready for the wedding. Juliet enters and expresses her regret to her father. Capulet chooses to shift the wedding day forward to Wednesday (the very next day).
Juliet is in her bedroom with the Nurse and her mother, but she convinces them to leave because it is crucial for her plan to succeed. Juliet is concerned about the potential implications of drinking the potion, but she eventually does it.
Wednesday morning in the Capulet house, and wedding preparations are in full swing.
The Nurse enters Juliet’s room to wake her up but discovers she is “dead.” As the Nurse, Lord and Lady Capulet, and Paris all weep at the shocking tragedy, the scene is filled with enormous passion (and dramatic irony, given that the audience knows she is still alive). Friar Laurence appears and attempts to reassure everyone that she would be happy and calm now.
According to Capulet, all wedding preparations would now be changed to burial preparations.
The scene shifts to Romeo in exile in Mantua. Balthasar, his servant, has arrived on horseback to notify him that Juliet has died and that her body has been deposited in the Capulet family tomb. Romeo asks Balthasar if he has a message from the Friar, but he does not. Romeo intends to visit Juliet in Verona. He intends to commit suicide and lie with her in the vault. He makes a pit stop along the route and buys some extremely potent poison with which to murder himself.
Friar Laurence had already dispatched Friar John to deliver a letter to Romeo in Mantua. Friar John, on the other hand, returns, stating that he was unable to do so. The city’s health officers would not even let him leave Verona since he was suspected of harbouring an ailment. Laurence immediately begs Friar John to procure him a crow bar, anticipating the possibly fatal repercussions. Juliet is about to awaken, and the Friar plans to break into the grave to be with her. He intends to hold her in his cage until he can alert Romeo of what has occurred.
Paris has visited Juliet’s tomb to pay his respects. Romeo, too, approaches the tomb. Paris, not knowing anything about Romeo and Juliet’s connection, concludes that Romeo has come to do something heinous against the Capulets because he is a Montague. Paris challenges Romeo, who warns him not to. Paris refuses this counsel, the two fight, and Paris is slain. Romeo, unaware that Juliet will soon awaken, is taken aback by how her cheeks and lips have retained their colour. Overwhelmed by sadness, he drinks the poison, kisses Juliet goodbye, and dies. Friar Laurence enters the tomb, and Juliet awakens. Some noise from outside indicates that they are about to be disturbed, most likely by the Watch. Laurence flees, terrified of being apprehended. Juliet decides to stay. When she realises Romeo has murdered himself with poison, she tries to do the same, but there is not any left. She kisses Romeo and then stabs herself with his knife. The Watch and the Prince appear, as do Lord and Lady Capulet and Lord Montague. Lady Montague died earlier that night, crushed by Romeo’s exile. Friar Laurence and Balthasar are apprehended by the Watch. Laurence eventually tells the Prince the entire tale, and the Prince believes him, especially since he is reinforced by a letter written in Romeo’s own hand and handed to the Prince by Balthasar. A disappointed and outraged Prince laments the hostility between the two families. Capulet and Montague shake hands and declare that they will erect golden statues of Romeo and Juliet to remind the people of Verona of the power of genuine love and the necessity to live happily.