And now we dive into one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays…
There are two families in Verona, where we lay our scene, that have been feuding for YEARS. But, two of the kids are about to fall in love and with their death end the conflict. That is what you are about to watch for the next two (three in modern English) hours, so pay attention!
Act I, Scene 1
Sampson and Gregory, two Capulets, are shooting the breeze about how much they hate the Montagues when, wouldn’t you know it, two Montagues walk by. They know that they will get in trouble if they start the fight, so instead they opt to just bite their thumbs (flipping them off). The Montague guy asks if he’s flipping them off and they say no they’re not flipping them off, but they have made an offensive gesture. Basically it turns into a “come at me bro” situation and a fight breaks out.
Benvolio, a Montague, tries to break up the fight, but Tybalt challenges him to fight. Obviously they start fighting because that’s how Capulets and Montagues do. That’s when the heads of the respective households enter and immediately try to fight each other, but their wives hold them back. This is when the Prince, who is completely sick of this nonsense puts his foot down and says the next one to start a fight gets put to death.
Everyone leaves except Lord and Lady Montague and Benvolio. Benvolio explains how the whole fight started and then tells Lady Montague about how Romeo is all troubled and broody. They ask Benvolio to figure out why as Romeo enters.
Romeo is sad because he’s in love, but his love doesn’t love him back. He, of course, takes much longer to say this because he is very melodramatic, but that is the gist of what is wrong. Benvolio tells him to forget her and look around at other, prettier girls. Romeo is having none of that and saunters off to go and brood some more.
Act I, Scene 2
Capulet talks to Paris, who is sort of betrothed to his daughter, Juliet. Paris is eager to get married and start making babies. Capulet thinks they should wait a year or two, she’s only fourteen after all.
Then, Capulet sends his servant to invite a bunch of people over for a party. Unfortunately, he picked the servant that can’t actually read.
Luckily, two nice gentlemen, Benvolio and Romeo, are walking by. He asks them to read the list to him. After reading the list of guests, the ask what the occasion is and he explains it’s for a party at the Capulets’ house and they should totally come.
Benvolio thinks they should go because Rosaline, Romeo’s love, will be there and Romeo can see that she isn’t all that great. He agrees to go because he wants to see her.
Act I, Scene 3
Lady Capulet asks the nurse to fetch her daughter and then they discuss how old she is. The Nurse remembers well that Juliet is not quite fourteen because she remembers the day Juliet was born and her whole childhood. She especially remembers the one time Juliet fell on her face in front of the Nurse’s husband. He laughed and said next time she’ll remember to fall backwards to which young Juliet agreed. The Nurse finds this story so hilarious she tells it twice despite both Lady Capulet and Juliet begging her to stop.
Lady Capulet moves on to the point that’s time for Juliet to get married, but Juliet doesn’t want to get married. Lady Capulet doesn’t seem to care much and tells Juliet to look over Paris and decide whether or not he’s pretty enough to marry.
Act I, Scene 4
Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio prepare to knock on Capulet’s door, but not before properly preparing for the party. Romeo, of course, is being a party pooper and says he won’t dance. Mercutio taunts him and says he should fly on Cupid’s wings since he is so in love. Romeo questions whether or not they should even go and mentions a dream. This is when Mercutio tells him all about his crazy, nonsensical fairy dream. Romeo points out that it’s nonsense and Mercutio explains that it’s nonsense because it’s a dream. Romeo still worries that some dark consequences will come of this night.
Act I, Scene 5
Capulet welcomes everyone to his home and gets the party started. He talks to a friend about how long it’s been since they’ve had a masked ball. It’s been twenty-five to thirty years.
Romeo asks a servant who that lovely lady is. The servant apparently doesn’t know.
Tybalt recognizes Romeo’s voice and prepares to fight him. Capulet tells him to cool his jets. It’s not that big of a deal. Tybalt thinks it is a big deal and swears to avenge this slight. (Tybalt is crazy pants)
Romeo comes up to put the moves on Juliet. He talks about kissing her, but uses the metaphor of religious pilgrims. This gives her the opportunity to play coy and talk about holding hands and praying. They still end up kissing because loooove.
The Nurse calls Juliet away. Romeo asks the Nurse about Juliet and she explains that Juliet is a Capulet. After he leaves, dismayed, Juliet asks the Nurse about him. She explains that he is a Montague. Cue sad face.
Act II, Prologue
Romeo and Juliet love each other, but may not be able to express it because their “foes.”
Act II, Scene 1
Romeo can’t leave because his love is right there, so he hops over the orchard wall.
Benvolio saw him jump over the orchard wall and asks Mercutio to call out to him. Mercutio proceeds to tease him about being in love. Benvolio doesn’t think Romeo will come out now because Mercutio probably made him mad. Benvolio spots him hiding in some trees. They decide to just go home because if Romeo is hopping garden walls and hiding in trees, he probably doesn’t want to be found.
Act II, Scene 2
This is the balcony scene. I could almost just leave it there. This is one of the most famous scenes in all of Shakespeare, but I’ll still summarize.
Romeo sees Juliet come out onto her balcony. She is so radiant, so beautiful that she shames the moon, the stars, and the day. He wishes he could hear and touch her.
She sighs and he compares her to an angel and begs her to speak again.
Juliet wonders aloud why Romeo has to be a Montague. If he were literally anyone else in the world, this wouldn’t be a problem. She is willing to give up the name Capulet, if it means Romeo would love her. She questions what a name even means.
Romeo comes out of hiding and declares his love, promising to abandon his name. Juliet, surprised a man is in her garden, asks who is there. Romeo doesn’t know how to answer because his name seems to be the problem. Juliet knows it’s Romeo and asks how he got into the garden. He says love’s wings carried him over the wall. Juliet is concerned her family will kill him. He’s more concerned with not being able to look at her beautiful face.
This is when Juliet shows a little bit of common sense. She asks Romeo to declare his love for her truthfully. She expresses fear that this is happening too quickly and that he will break her heart. He tries to swear by the moon, but she declares the moon is too inconsistent. She tells him not to swear or if he must, to swear by himself because that is what he worships. When he tries, she waves it off and says this is all going too fast. She tries to leave, but Romeo asks her if she will leave him so dissatisfied. He wants her to express her love. She points out that she already did.
The Nurse calls her away and Romeo wonders if this is but a dream. She comes out again and says that if his love is true, he will marry her tomorrow. The Nurse calls her back. She comes out again and calls Romeo back, to firm up their plans and kiss.
Act II, Scene 3
Friar Laurence strolls about his garden in the early morning hours remarking on the various plants. He draws special attention to one poisonous flower…that will definitely not be coming back into the play later.
When Romeo greets the Friar, he correctly guesses that Romeo has stayed up all night. The Friar asks if he was with Rosaline to which Romeo explains that he has found a new love. The Friar comments that he fell out of love rather quickly, but decides to help once Romeo explains he loves Juliet. As the Friar sees it, this could put an end to the family feud.
Act II, Scene 4
Benevolence talks to Mercutio about Romeo. He explains that Romeo hasn’t been home all night and he received a letter from Tybalt. Mercutio worries about Romeo because Tybalt is a fierce fighter.
Mercutio teases Romeo for ditching them and he apologizes. Then they go through a fun little battle of wits which Romeo eventually wins. Mercutio is just glad that Romeo is fun to be around again instead of moaning about love.
The Nurse comes to seek out Romeo. Mercutio gives her some sass, but she gives it right back. Once she figures out which one is Romeo she asks if they can speak alone.
Once they’re alone, she makes sure that he isn’t going to break Juliet’s heart. He swears he won’t and then he tells her to bring Juliet to Friar Laurence that afternoon and they can get married. He also lets the nurse know that one of his servants will be bringing a cord ladder, so that he can climb up into Juliet’s room that night. The Nurse decides that Romeo is alright, maybe even better than Paris.
Act II, Scene 5
Juliet paces the garden wondering what on earth could be taking the Nurse so long. The moment the Nurse arrives, Juliet starts pumping her for information. The Nurse is tired and out of breath, so she takes a minute to answer all her questions. This makes Juliet even more impatient.
The Nurse gives Romeo her stamp of approval and starts to explain the wedding plans, but asks after Juliet’s mother. Juliet doesn’t care where her mother is, she wants to know when this wedding is happening. The Nurse finally explains the whole plan and Juliet is thrilled.
Act II, Scene 5
Friar Laurence and Romeo talk about his upcoming nuptials and the possible consequences. Juliet enters and exchanges all sorts of confessions of love with Romeo. The Friar takes them into the chapel to be married.