Romeo and Juliet abbreviated

Centuries ago, the Montagues and Capulets were Verona’s dominant families, the two being serious enemies, something like an earlier version of the Hatfields and McCoys.  This is how it was in Verona sometime before Romeo and Juliet was first performed, sometime before 1595.  Romeo was a Montague and Juliet a Capulet. 

The play opens on a street corner with members of the Montague and Capulet households squabbling with each other over minor issues.  Romeo’s cousin, Benvolio, enters and tries to break-up the argument.  Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, enters and makes more mischief.  The Prince of Verona, the city’s political leader, enters and demands the men end their fight and depart, their duel having created a scene.  As peace returns to the streets of Verona, all exit but Benvolio and Romeo’s parents.  Worried about her son, Romeo’s mother asks Benvolio “O, where is Romeo?  Saw you him today?”  Benvolio lets her know that he thinks her son is acting a little strange.  As Romeo is about to enter and the Montagues are about to exit, Benvolio says to his mother “see where he comes.  I’ll know his grievance or be much denied.” 

Benvolio asks Romeo “Tell me in sadness, who is that you love?”  Romeo responds “A sick man in sadness makes his will.  In sadness, cousin, I do love a woman.”  We learn that Romeo’s girlfriend Rosaline has just dropped him. (Insight, Act 1, Scene 1) Benvolio suggests he “forget to think of her” and that he “examine other beauties.”  Stressed-out Romeo says to his cousin “Farewell, thou canst not teach me to forget.”  Benvolio makes a pledge to himself to help Romeo get through this, or to die trying, saying “I’ll pay that doctrine or else die in debt.” 

We soon learn that Capulet, the patriarch of the Capulet family, plans that very night to have a masquerade dinner party.  Capulet instructs one of his servants to invite those named on his guest list, the servant obliging.  But the servant doesn’t know how to read; therefore doesn’t know who’s on the list.  Innocently, the servant happens to ask Romeo and Benvolio (both of whom can read) to let him know the names on the list.  Benvolio notes that there are a number of young, attractive, single women invited, Rosaline being one of them.  Sensing this dinner party represents a stroke of good fortune, Benvolio persuades Romeo to plan along with him to attend Capulet’s dinner party as masked, uninvited guests.  Benvolio gets Mercutio to agree to go along, Mercutio being one of Romeo’s good friends. 

As a side issue, the ambitious-for-her-daughter Lady Capulet is eager to see her daughter married.  But Juliet, about a month from her fourteenth birthday, is not much thinking about marriage.  A young man known as the County Paris, the Prince of Verona’s nephew, has recently been showing some interest in Juliet, and her mother thinks he’d make a good husband for her daughter. (Mother to Daughter, Act 1, Scene 3)

Romeo, Benvolio and Mercutio prepare their disguises and get ready for the Capulet party.  Romeo continues to sulk and fret over his romantic break-up.  The dinner party begins. Capulet welcomes the masked Romeo, Benvolio and Mercutio into his home, not knowing who they are.  Romeo spots Juliet and instantly falls for her, the moment that improves his spirits over the break-up with Rosaline. (Infatuation, Act 1, Scene 5) Tybalt (Capulet’s nephew) hears Romeo speak and knows by his voice that he’s a Montague.  He proudly tells Capulet of the subterfuge he has uncovered.  Capulet is unconcerned.  Tybalt angrily exits.  Romeo makes a move on Juliet.  As the party nears its end, the Nurse calls Juliet aside, telling her that her new-found friend is a Montague.  It’s then when Romeo realizes that Juliet is a Capulet.  Neither Juliet nor Romeo seems to be very concerned over who is whose son or daughter.

Soon after Romeo and his friends leave the party, Romeo says to himself “Can I go forward when my heart is here?” He slips away from his two friends, jumps over the wall of the Capulet compound, and heads for Capulet’s orchard, located right under Juliet’s bedroom balcony.  Benvolio sees Romeo jump over the wall, but sensing there is little he or Mercutio can or should do, knowing it’s late, decides to leave well enough alone. (Infatuation, Act 2, Scene 2.1)  Caught up in the events of the evening and unable to settle down, Juliet comes out on her balcony, swooning and cooing over Romeo. (Infatuation, Act 2, Scene 2.2) Believing she hears him, she talks openly of her love for this man named Romeo.  This is a quick romance folks, Juliet famously saying “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”  He soon says “What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”  This is good stuff.  In the early morning hours they agree to marry, she on her balcony, he below in her father’s garden.  Romeo agrees to make plans for the wedding.  As dawn breaks, he leaves the garden with hopes to find Friar Lawrence, and he does, picking flowers.  Seeing Romeo, Friar Lawrence says “Our Romeo hath not been in bed tonight.  Wast thou with Rosaline?”  Romeo responds “With Rosaline, my ghostly Father?  No. I have forgot that name and that name’s woe.”  Romeo tells the friar that his current love interest is “the fair daughter of rich Capulet” and “this I pray, that you consent to marry us today.”  Friar Lawrence exclaims “Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here!”   Friar Lawrence agrees to the request saying “Come, go with me.  In one respect I’ll thy assistant be, for this alliance may so happy prove to turn your households’ rancor to pure love.” (Insight, Act 2, Scene 3)

An anxious Juliet, all the while fantasizing over Romeo, sends the Nurse out into the city of Verona to look for Romeo. She finds him. Romeo tells her to tell Juliet that they are to be married that afternoon and that she is to meet him at Friar Lawrence’s cell.  The Nurse’s return can’t come soon enough for the anxious Juliet. The Nurse takes her time when she does return, teasing Juliet, finally telling her of Romeo and Friar Lawrence’s plans for a wedding that afternoon.  Juliet does then meet Romeo at Friar Lawrence’s cell; the friar then leading them to the church where they are secretly married.  Other than the three of them, only the Nurse knows of the wedding.

Meanwhile, an angry Tybalt, looking for a fight with Romeo, still upset with Romeo’s appearance as an uninvited guest at his uncle’s dinner party the night before, finds Mercutio and Benvolio innocently talking with each other on a street corner.  A just-secretly-married Romeo enters.  Tybalt calls Romeo a villain.  Coming to Romeo’s defense, Mercutio draws his sword.  Mercutio and Tybalt fight.  Mercutio is stabbed.  All exit but Romeo.  Benvolio re-enters, reporting that Mercutio has died.  Tybalt re-enters.  He and Romeo fight, Romeo killing him. Romeo, now frightened, exits. The Prince of Verona, Montague and Capulet enter.  Benvolio defends Romeo’s actions, telling all how the tragic situation unfolded, when Lady Capulet cries “I beg for justice. Romeo slew Tybalt; Romeo must not live.” The Prince says “Romeo slew him; he slew Mercutio.  Who now the price of Mercutio’s blood doth owe?”  Montague cries “Not Romeo, Prince; he was Mercutio’s friend.”  But an angry prince, weighing what he has heard, speaking of Romeo says “Immediately we do exile him hence.”  Romeo is banished to Mantua. 

Juliet, having now been married for three hours and yearning for Romeo says “Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night, Romeo leap to these arms, untalked of and unseen.”   The Nurse soon enters crying “He’s dead, he’s dead.”  A frightened Juliet says “Hath Romeo slain himself?”  The Nurse cries “O Tybalt, Tybalt, the best friend I had!” Juliet, more concerned for Romeo than the death of her cousin, says “Is Romeo slaughtered and is Tybalt dead?  My dearest cousin, and my dearer lord?” (Love, Act 3, Scene 2)  Finally the Nurse tells her “Tybalt is gone and Romeo banished.”  The Nurse, who earlier had secured a rope ladder for Romeo to use to slip into Juliet’s bedroom, picks up the rope ladder saying “I’ll find Romeo to comfort you.”  A little earlier, fearing Romeo’s exile was forever, Juliet spoke to the ropes saying “Poor ropes, he made you for a highway to my bed, but I, a maid, die maiden-widowed.” 

Meanwhile, Romeo is beside himself, learning from Friar Lawrence that rather than being put to death for slaying Tybalt he has been banished from Verona, telling the friar that he’d rather die than be separated from Juliet.  Friar Lawrence considers him a fool. (Counsel, Act 3, Scene 3) The Nurse enters, saying Juliet is distraught with grief over the turn of events.  Friar Lawrence urges Romeo to compose himself, to visit Juliet that night, but to be certain to return before dawn and leave for Mantua.

Separately, Capulet tells Paris that he has his permission to marry his daughter Juliet in three days, the friar and the Nurse being, as we say, the only others aware of her marriage to Romeo.  This happens on a Monday; the wedding would be Thursday.  Capulet tells his wife to begin preparations for a wedding and a feast.

Romeo and Juliet then spend the night together, Romeo leaving as planned just as dawn breaks.  Lady Capulet soon enters her daughter’s bedroom planning to tell her that Tybalt has been killed and that Romeo has been banished.  Instead, Lady Capulet tells her that she has some good news: in three days she gets to marry the County Paris.  Juliet refuses the offer.  Learning that his daughter rejects the thought of marrying Paris, an uncompromising Capulet demands she marry him or “hang, beg, starve, die in the streets, for, by my soul, I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee.”  Juliet holds firm. The Nurse comforts and counsels her.  After a nice talk with the Nurse, Juliet says “Go in and tell my lady I am gone, having displeased my father, to Lawrence’ cell to make confession and to be absolved.”  As the Nurse exits Juliet says “Marry I will; and this is wisely done.”  Juliet to herself says “I’ll to the Friar to know his remedy. If all else fail, myself have power to die.”

A jubilant County Paris helps with the couple’s planning for Thursday’s wedding; they meet with Friar Lawrence.  All the while Juliet deals with Paris diplomatically, but keeps him uncertain and at arms-length.  When Paris exits, Juliet confides in Friar Lawrence that he must help her with this dilemma or she’ll take her own life.  With a most unusual option, Friar Lawrence tells her he knows of a way for her to temporarily appear to be dead. (Fear, Act 4, Scene 1)  The two of them agree that they must find a way to keep her from marrying Paris, she, of course, being married.  She buys into his remedy, agreeing to “undertake a thing like death to chide away this shame.”  He gives her a vial of “distilling liquor” to take that night.  It is now Tuesday night and Capulet enthusiastically is helping to prepare for the post-wedding reception.  Juliet enters and tells her father that she repents.  He is now really happy and decides to move the wedding up a day, to the next day. Capulet says “I will walk myself to County Paris, to prepare up him against tomorrow. My heart is wondrous light since this same wayward girl is so reclaimed.”  Juliet slips off to bed, dismisses the Nurse, drinks the ‘mixture’ in the vial, and falls asleep. (Fear, Act 4, Scene 3) Early the next morning Capulet sends the Nurse to waken Juliet, who finds her ‘dead.’  Friar Lawrence and Paris arrive and are told she died during the night.  Friar Lawrence and the Capulets make funeral plans and take her body to the family crypt. 

In Mantua, Romeo is advised of Juliet’s ‘death.’  He rushes to the Apothecary to buy a poison.  Although selling poison is against the law, Romeo pays the Apothecary so well that the Apothecary decides that the funds are worth the risk and provides Romeo with the poison.

County Paris secretly enters the Capulet’s crypt, but soon steps aside, hearing Romeo; Romeo having also decided to pay a visit to the crypt.  Paris steps forward.  He and Romeo draw swords and fight.  Romeo stabs him.  As he is dying, Paris asks to be placed in Juliet’s tomb.  Romeo opens Juliet’s tomb, places Paris’ body next to her, kisses Juliet, drinks the poison and dies. Friar Lawrence soon enters the crypt and finds the bodies of Romeo and Paris.  Juliet awakens and asks for Romeo.  Friar Lawrence soon exits.  Seeing Romeo dead, she stabs herself and dies. (Chivalry, Act 5, Scene 3)

The Prince and the Capulets then enter the crypt.  Montague soon enters, telling all that his wife died during the night from grief over her son’s exile.  Friar Lawrence confesses to the prince that he was aware of all of the events all along.  The prince uses the occasion to moralize, saying he hopes this tragedy can bring peace between the two families.

Copyright © 2010 Abbreviated Shakespeare

Home