Romeo and Juliet: Plot Summary

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Act 1, Prologue
The play begins in Verona, a city that has had its peace shattered by the feud between two prominent families, the house of Montague and the house of Capulet. The Chorus tells us that amidst this ancient grudge, a “pair of star-cross’d lovers” will take their lives and that their deaths will extinguish their parents’ rage.

Act 1, Scene 1
On a street in Verona, two servants from the house of Capulet, Sampson and Gregory, deliberately initiate a fight with two servants from the Montague house, Abram and Balthasar. Benvolio, a close friend to Romeo and nephew of Lord Montague, arrives and tries to stop the fight: “Part fools!/Put up your swords; you know not what you do” (1.1.56-7). But as he attempts to keep the peace, Tybalt, nephew to Lord Capulet, comes upon the scene and demands to duel with the passive young Benvolio. Reluctantly, Benvolio draws his sword and they fight. The fiery citizens of Verona become involved and a vicious brawl ensues. Capulet and Montague arrive, and immediately join in the clash, while their wives look on in fear. Prince Escalus happens upon the scene and he is shocked and outraged at such behaviour from his subjects. His guards break up the fight and he chastises all those involved, exclaiming “You men, you beasts!” (1.1.74-5). He declares that any further public disorder will result in the execution of the participants. The crowd disperses along with Lord Capulet and his family, leaving behind Montague, Lady Montague, and Benvolio. Their attention turns to their son Romeo, who has been depressed of late. Benvolio asks Lord Montague if he knows what is troubling his son, but he has no answer. All he knows is that Romeo has been seen walking the streets in the early mornings, “With tears augmenting the fresh morning’s dew/Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs” (1.1.124-5). Benvolio sees Romeo coming and requests that Montague and his Lady step aside so he can talk to Romeo alone and uncover the reason for his melancholy. After asking many questions Benvolio finally learns that Romeo is sad because he is in love with a woman, Rosaline, who has taken a vow of chastity and refuses to return his affection. Benvolio suggests to Romeo that he should forget Rosaline and look for romance elsewhere. Romeo insists that no woman could ever compare to Rosaline, for she is a ravishing beauty. He insists that to forget Rosaline would be impossible, “Thou canst not teach me to forget” (1.1.229), as the scene comes to a close.

Act 1, Scene 2
Scene 2 opens with Paris, a noble young kinsmen of the Prince, asking Capulet for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Capulet tells Paris that Juliet has “not seen the change of fourteen years” (1.2.10) and is probably too young to marry. However, if Paris can woo her and win her heart, Capulet will grant him consent to wed Juliet. Capulet is preparing for a grand party at his house that evening, and he gives a servant a guest list and instructs him to go forth into the streets to invite them all. The servant meets Romeo and Benvolio on the road and he begs Romeo to help him, for he is illiterate and cannot complete the task given to him by his master. Romeo obligingly reads aloud the names on the invitation list, and to his delight, comes upon the name Rosaline. Benvolio challenges Romeo to sneak into the party with hopes that Romeo will see many other women to distract his attention away from Rosaline. Romeo agrees that going to the party is a splendid idea, for he longs to catch a glimpse of his darling Rosaline.

Act 1, Scene 3
Back at Capulet’s house, Lady Capulet visits her daughter’s chamber to tell her about Paris. Juliet’s nurse is in the room and she begins to ramble, recounting Juliet as a young child:

For then she could stand high-alone; nay, by the
rood,
She could have run and waddled all about;
For even the day before, she broke her brow…. (1.3.35-8)

Lady Capulet asks Juliet how she feels about marriage and Juliet politely and honestly responds, “It is an honour that I dream not of” (I.iii.46). Lady Capulet tells Juliet that it is time she start thinking of becoming a bride and a mother, for there are girls in Verona even younger than Juliet who have children of their own. She adds that a suitable mate has already been found for Juliet: “The valiant Paris seeks you for his love” (1.3.54). Juliet has little choice but to respectfully agree to consider Paris as a husband. She tells her mother, “I’ll look to like” (1.3.76). Their conversation ends abruptly when a servant calls Lady Capulet, announcing that supper is ready and the guests have arrived for the party.

Act 1, Scene 4
The festivities are about to commence at the house of Capulet and, concealed amidst the Masquers, Romeo and Benvolio arrive with their close friend, Mercutio. Stifled by “love’s heavy burden”, Romeo refuses to dance with his friends. He reveals that he has had an ominous dream, but will not be any more specific. Mercutio tries to lighten Romeo’s mood, and muses that Romeo must have been visited in sleep by Queen Mab, the “fairies midwife”… “In shape no bigger than an agate stone/On the fore-finger of an alderman” (1.4.52-4). She races over peoples noses as they slumber, riding in a chariot steered by a gray-coated gnat and made from an empty hazelnut. Romeo is not as amused as Mercutio himself is by his inventive tale, and Romeo implores him to be silent. He cannot shake the feeling that

Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
Shall bitterly begin this fearful date
With this night’s revels, and expire the term
Of a despised life clos’d in my breast
By some vile forfeit of untimely death. (1.4.104-8)

Act 1, Scene 5
In the hallway of Capulet’s house four servingmen clear away the dinner dishes. Lord Capulet comes out to greet his guests, asking them to dance and make merry. He admits that his “dancing days” have long since past, but he loves to watch others enjoy themselves. Romeo, seeking Rosaline through the crowd, sees Juliet instead. He is awe-struck by her grace and beauty, and he completely forgets Rosaline. Romeo’s heart is racing as he exclaims, “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!/It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night/As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear” (1.5.46-9). Tybalt, a cousin to Capulet, recognizes Romeo’s voice and shouts for his sword. Tybalt is prepared to slay Romeo in front of the guests, but Lord Capulet stops him, knowing that any fighting will ruin the festivities. It appears that Lord Capulet is not as hostile towards his perceived enemy as is his violent and head-strong kinsman, Tybalt, as we can see in the following passage:

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-govern’d youth.
I would not for the wealth of all this town
Here in my house do him disparagement… (I.v.68-72)

Tybalt is disgusted by Capulet’s weakness, and leaves the party in a rage. Romeo decides he should leave as well, but first he stops to speak at least a word to Juliet. Dressed as a pilgrim to the Holy Land, Romeo addresses Juliet in character, pretending that he has just come upon a most holy shrine. They exchange pleasantries and Juliet, equally smitten with the handsome Romeo, grants him a kiss. Juliet is promptly called away by her mother, and Romeo learns from the Nurse that she is the daughter of his father’s enemy, Capulet. Deeply troubled by this knowledge, Romeo exits the hall with Benvolio and Capulet’s other guests. When everyone has left, Juliet probes the Nurse for information about the stranger with whom she has fallen madly in love. The Nurse tells her that his name is Romeo and he is a Montague. Like Romeo, Juliet is grieved to hear such news and she cries “My only love sprung from my only hate!/Too early seen unknown, and known too late!” (1.5.140-1) as the first act draws to a close.

Act 2, Prologue
The Chorus opens Act II by announcing that Romeo is madly in love with the bewitching Juliet. But he warns that Romeo will not be able to court his Juliet in the proper manner befitting a fair lady because she is his father’s enemy. And he adds that Juliet will not be able to meet Romeo as she pleases, but will be forced to see her darling only in secret. Despite the obstacles the lovers must overcome, the Chorus reassures us that their “passion lends them power”, and that they will find a way to be together.

Act 2, Scene 1
Romeo leaves the house of Capulet and wanders into a lane behind their family orchard. Longing to be with Juliet, he sorrowfully asks “Can I go forward when my heart is here?” He realizes that he cannot go any further from Juliet and he leaps over the orchard wall onto Capulet’s grounds. Mercutio and Benvolio, who have been looking for Romeo, see him disappear behind the wall and they laugh at his silly behaviour, still thinking that he is chasing after Rosaline. They decide not to follow him on his quest for love and they both go home to bed.

Act 2, Scene 2
Romeo is hidden amongst the shadows outside Capulet’s house, content simply to be close to Juliet. Looking up, Romeo catches sight of a figure emerging from an overhead window. He rejoices when he realizes who has come out upon the balcony: “It is my Lady! O it is my love” (2.2.11). Juliet, believing that she is alone, professes her love for Romeo and her profound sorrow that he is a Montague. Romeo reveals himself and, with words as moving as any in literature, the lovers speak to each other, exchanging their vows of absolute and undying devotion. The glorious meeting is interrupted by a cry coming from inside the house. It is Juliet’s nurse, who has been searching the house for her mistress. Before they part, the lovers hatch a cunning plan. Romeo will find a way for them to be married and, when he does, he will give the details to the messenger Juliet sends to him. The scene comes to a close as they say their tender farewells for the evening:

Juliet: Good-night, good-night! Parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good-night till it be morrow.
Romeo: Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy
breast
Would I were sleep and peace, so sweet to rest!
Hence will I to my ghostly father’s cell,
His help to crave, and my dear hap to tell. (2.2.184-90)

Act 2, Scene 3
Romeo travels to the cell of Friar Laurence, who has been out in the fields all morning gathering herbs. He ponders the duel nature of these “baleful weeds and precious juiced flowers” that have the power to kill and the power to heal. Cheerful and excited, Romeo greets the Friar and tells him of his new love and plans for marriage. Friar Laurence, who has been Romeo’s friend and confessor for sometime, is confused and concerned about Romeo’s sudden change of heart. He exclaims “Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here!/Is Rosaline, that thou didst love so dear/So soon forsaken?” (II.iii.65-8). But Romeo persuades the Friar that this time he has found true love and that he is ready to enter immediately into the serious bond of holy matrimony. Friar Laurence agrees to help Romeo, hoping that their union will finally end the feud between the houses of Montague and Capulet. In one respect I’ll thy assistance be/For this aliance may so happy prove/To turn your households’ rancour to pure love” (2.3.90-3).

Act 2, Scene 4
Mercutio and Benvolio are again wandering about the streets of Verona, wondering what happened to the love-struck Romeo. Their conversation turns to Tybalt, who Mercutio calls “the courageous captain of compliments” (2.4.21). Tybalt has left a note for Romeo at the house of Montague, challenging him to a duel. Mercutio is afraid that the fierce Tybalt will surely kill Romeo, who is too preoccupied to fight his best. Benvolio sees Romeo approach, seemingly in a light-hearted mood. Mercutio, overjoyed to see Romeo back to his happy and carefree self, teases him about his recent foolish behaviour. The two banter as good friends should and Mercutio quips, “Why, is this not better now than groaning for love? Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo, now art thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature; for tis drivelling love is like a great natural…” (2.4.90-4). But Benvolio and Romeo are tired of his ramblings and cut him off in mid-sentence. Romeo directs Mercutio to Juliet’s nurse who is coming down the road, and Mercutio continues his musings with her as his new audience. It does not take long for Mercutio to lose interest in his own pontificating and he and Benvolio leave for supper at Montague’s house. Romeo and the Nurse are left alone and Romeo makes excuses for Mercutio’s talkative and saucy behaviour, which has greatly offended her. Romeo asks the Nurse to give Juliet the information about his plan of marriage, and she agrees. The wedding, he tells the Nurse, will be performed that afternoon by Friar Laurence. Juliet is to go to the Friar’s cell and Romeo will arrange for a rope ladder to be placed at Juliet’s window within the hour to facilitate her escape. The Nurse runs off with the message as the curtain closes.

Act 2, Scene 5
Scene 5 opens in Capulet’s orchard. Juliet is frantically awaiting the news about Romeo. The Nurse comes in, preoccupied with her own troubles. She wants to discuss her aching bones, but Juliet pleads with her not to withhold Romeo’s plan any longer. Slowly, the Nurse begins to speak of Romeo. She says that she doesn’t much care for the boy, but she approves of his handsome face and gentle nature. She finally tells Juliet all that Romeo has told her, and Juliet leaves at once for Friar Laurence’s cell.

Act 2, Scene 6
Friar Laurence and Romeo are anxiously awaiting Juliet’s arrival. The Friar gives Romeo some advice before the wedding, cautioning him to ‘love moderately’. Juliet appears and Friar Laurence comments on her delicacy. He starts the marriage proceedings at once, “For, by your leaves you shall not stay alone/Till Holy Church incorporate two in one” (2.6.36-7).

Act 3, Scene 1
Act 3 opens with Mercutio and Benvolio walking as usual around the town. Benvolio’s keen instinct is telling him that a brawl could erupt in the street at any moment, and he warns Mercutio that they should go home at once. Mercutio is not as peace loving as his dear friend and chastises Benvolio for even suggesting that they cower inside. To aggravate Benvolio, Mercutio cites nonsensical examples of fights Benvolio has participated in — one with a man cracking nuts, another with a man who tied his new shoes with ‘old riband’. Benvolio sees the Capulets coming and knows a confrontation is inevitable. Tybalt demands to see Romeo so that he can slay him with his ever-ready rapier. Mercutio confronts Tybalt, but, because Mercutio is not a Capulet, Tybalt brushes him aside and moves straight toward Romeo who has just come upon the scene. Romeo, now related to Tybalt, refuses to fight. He cannot reveal why he does not defend his honour, but suggests that they should stop the bitter feud and embrace each other once and for all:

I do protest, I never injured thee,
But love thee better than thou canst devise
Till thou shalt know the true reason of my love;
And so, good Capulet,– which name I tender
As dearly as mine own,– be satisfied (3.1.70-4).

Mercutio cannot stand by and watch Romeo stand down like a common coward. He draws his sword and challenges Tybalt. Romeo tries to stop the fight but to no avail — Tybalt fatally wounds Mercutio. He dies cursing both families, “a plague on both your houses/They have made worms meat of me” (3.1.91-2), despite the fact that his own intemperance has caused his death. Romeo is crushed by the knowledge that Mercutio has lost his life for him, and he draws his sword, attacking Tybalt with ferocity. Tybalt is no match for the skilled and enraged Romeo, and he falls dead to the ground. Romeo stands over Tybalt and all the consequences of his actions flood his mind. By the Prince’s decree, Romeo will be executed for disobeying the peace, thus leaving Juliet a widow. And he has betrayed his new bride by killing her beloved cousin. The Prince, the Capulets, and Montague happen upon the tragic scene and Benvolio tries his best to explain why Romeo was forced to kill Tybalt. Because Romeo has slain the instigator of the violence and the murderer of Mercutio, the Prince decides that Romeo should not be executed but banished from Verona instead. If Romeo ever returns, Prince Escalus cautions, he will certainly be killed.

Act 3, Scene 2
Juliet waits at the Capulet house, unaware of the horror unfolding in the street outside and longing for Romeo to come to her bed. But instead of Romeo, the Nurse enters, crying “He’s dead, he’s dead!”. Juliet fears that the Nurse is referring to Romeo and begs her for more information. When the Nurse tells her that it is Tybalt who is dead at the hand of the banished Romeo, Juliet lashes out at her traitorous husband: “O serpent heart!” But she almost immediately forgives Romeo, realizing that Tybalt would have not spared the life of Romeo if he had won the duel. Her thoughts turn to Romeo’s banishment. She knows that she cannot live without her husband and exclaims “‘Romeo is banished’, to speak that word/Is father, mother, Tybalt, Romeo ,Juliet/All slain, all dead” (3.2.120-3). The Nurse, realizing that Juliet is about to commit suicide, promises her that she will find Romeo and bring him to comfort her.

Act 3, Scene 3
Romeo, who has taken refuge in Friar Laurence’s cell, hears the news that he has not been sentenced to death, but banished from Verona. He expresses his anguish at the knowledge that he will not be reunited with Juliet. Suicidal, he laments: “Banished? O friar, the damned use that word in hell/Howlings attend it” (3.3.46-7). The Nurse arrives at the door, announcing that she comes from Lady Juliet. Romeo anxiously asks if Juliet now hates him for killing Tybalt and if she is coping with his banishment. The Nurse tells Romeo that Juliet weeps and weeps, alternating between cries of Tybalt and Romeo. She also tells him that he must visit Juliet one more time. He agrees, risking execution if anyone sees him. Friar Laurence, after chastising Romeo for his outrageous display of weakness, instructs Romeo that he should flee to Mantua after his final meeting with Juliet, and he will send him regular updates on Juliet and his family. Romeo and the Nurse bid the Friar farewell and head toward the house of Capulet.

Act 3, Scene 4
In this brief scene, Capulet, his Lady, and Paris discuss Juliet’s great distress over the death of her kinsman, Tybalt. Capulet decides that the best remedy for her grief is to wed Paris the following Thursday.

Act 3, Scene 5
Dawn approaches, and in Juliet’s chamber the lovers share their final moments together. Juliet cannot bear the thought of Romeo leaving, and she tries to convince him that the night is not yet over: “it is not yet near day. It was the nightingale, and not the lark/That pierc’d the fearful hollow of thine ear” (3.5.1-3). But Romeo knows that it was no nightingale singing, but the lark, “the herald of the morn” (3.5.6). He insists that he must go but Juliet persists, and Romeo gives into his darling, agreeing that it is not morning because Juliet wills it so. He will stay and die to make Juliet happy a little longer. Realizing that they have no choice but to part, Juliet tells Romeo that he should go “O, now be gone; more light and light it grows” (3.5.35).

The Nurse comes to warn the lovers that Lady Capulet is coming and Romeo climbs out the window to the orchard below, reassuring Juliet that they will be reunited. Juliet’s mother rushes in, elated with what she believes to be wonderful news of the upcoming marriage of Juliet to Paris. When Juliet refuses to marry Paris, Lady Capulet is dumbfounded. Capulet, hearing the refusal as he comes to congratulate his daughter, is outraged and insulted. Not only is Juliet flagrantly disobeying him, but she is also rejecting a man whom he has personally chosen above all others. Juliet pleads with Capulet, but he is deaf with rage. He storms out of Juliet’s chamber and Juliet turns to her mother, making a final plea for help. Lady Capulet, while not as furious as her husband, refuses to hear another word. “Talk not to me … for I have done with thee” (3.5.204-5). She exits the room and Juliet is alone with her Nurse. She begs for comfort but the Nurse will give her none, telling her instead to forget Romeo who is forever banished, and marry the noble Paris as Capulet commands. Juliet pretends to come to her senses and tells Nurse to go and inform her mother that she has gone to Friar Laurence to confess her sin of disobedience to her father. The Nurse happily agrees and runs off with the news. Juliet is disgusted with the Nurse’s hypocrisy:

Ancient damnation! O most wicked fiend!
Is it more sin to wish me thus forsworn,
Or to dispraise my lord with that same tongue
Which she hath prais’d him with above compare
So mant thousand times? (3.5.237-9)

She decides to place her last hope in Friar Laurence. If he cannot help her, she will surely commit suicide.

Act 4, Scene 1
Act 4 opens with Friar Laurence and Paris discussing his upcoming marriage to Juliet. The Friar expresses his disapproval of the wedding plans, telling Paris that he does not know Juliet well enough to marry her. He is careful not to be any more specific in his criticism. Juliet arrives and is friendly but cool to her would-be husband. Paris leaves, assuming that Juliet is about to confess her sins to the Friar. Once alone, Juliet and the Friar discuss what can be done to save Juliet from the fate of becoming the wife of two men. Friar Laurence, a man skilled in the art of herb preparation, proposes a dangerous plan to Juliet. He has a potion that will make her appear dead when she drinks it, and it will keep her the lifeless state for forty-two hours. She will be interred in the Capulet family crypt, as custom dictates, and Friar Laurence will send word to Romeo. Romeo will then return to Verona and collect Juliet and they will live together in Mantua, free from Prince Escalus and their feuding families. Juliet excitedly approves of the plan and goes home to drink the potion.

Act 4, Scene 2
Capulet and his Lady are busy making wedding arrangements. They are indeed planning a huge event — Capulet orders ‘twenty cunning cooks’. Juliet comes into the main hall to speak with her father. He is cheerful and his spirits are further uplifted when Juliet apologizes and assures him that henceforward, until Paris becomes her master, she will be ruled only by her father. Capulet moves the wedding up a day to the next morning, and tells his wife “My heart is wonderous light/Since this same wayward girl is so reclaim’d” (4.2.45-7).

Act 4, Scene 3
Juliet, alone in her chamber, holds her vial of poison. The full gravity of the situation weighs heavy on her mind, and she expresses her fears in a moving soliloquy. What if the potion fails to work? What if the Friar has betrayed her and has given her real poison, so that no one finds out he disgracefully married her to Romeo in secret? Juliet quickly rules out these scenarios as impossible , but she still fears awaking in the stifling and gruesome vault next to the corpse of Tybalt, bloody and festering in his shroud. The horrors of her imagination overtake Juliet and she sees the ghost of Tybalt ready to seek out and kill Romeo. With a final cry to Romeo, Juliet drinks the potion and falls lifeless upon her bed.

Act 4, Scene 4
Downstairs the next morning, the wedding plans are moving ahead as scheduled. Capulet sends the Nurse to fetch Juliet while he visits with his future son-in-law.

Act 4, Scene 5
The Nurse rushes to Juliet’s chamber and finds her dead. Her screams attract Lady Capulet, who, upon seeing her dead daughter, cries “O me, O me! My child, my only life/Revive, look up, or I will die with thee!” (4.5.14-5). Capulet comes in to find out what delays Juliet and he laments “Death, that hath ta’en her hence to make me wail/Ties up my tongue, and will not let me speak” (4.5.29-30). Paris and Friar Laurence enter and Paris grieves for the love he will never know. The musicians, gathered for the wedding festivities, now play a song in memory of Juliet for her sorrowful Nurse.

Act 5, Scene 1
Act V opens in Mantua, where Romeo is waiting anxiously for news of Juliet and his family. He greets his servant, Balthasar with excitement:

Dost thou not bring me letters from the friar?
How doth my lady? Is mt father well?
How fairs mt Juliet? that I ask again;
For nothing can be ill, if she be well. (5.1.13-6)

With deep regret, Balthasar tells him that Juliet has died and that her body rests in the Capulet tomb. Romeo puts on a brave face for his faithful servant, but when Balthasar departs, he reveals with despair that the only thing left to do is return to Verona and join Juliet in death. Romeo calls for the apothecary and demands a vial of poison. The apothecary reluctantly gives him a potion and Romeo thanks him greatly for the gift. Indeed, to Romeo, it is a most wonderful gift: “Come, cordial and not poison, go with me/To Juliet’s grave; for there I must use thee” (5.1.85-6).

Act 5, Scene 2
Back at Friar Laurence’s cell, Friar John reports that he has been unable to deliver the vital letter to Romeo. A plague had broken out and Friar John was quarantined for fear he was infected. Friar Laurence sends John to find an iron bar with which they can pry open the tomb, for it is only three hours until Juliet will awake afraid and alone amongst the corpses. Friar Laurence, knowing he can trust no one but himself, plans to keep Juliet safe in his own cell until Romeo can be reached.

Act 5, Scene 3
Paris and his page enter the churchyard and stand before the Capulet tomb. Paris orders the page to stand watch so that he can be alone in his grief. He strews the vault with flowers and speaks to Juliet:

O woe! thy canopy is dust and stones–
Which with sweet water nightly I will dew,
Or, wanting that, with tears distill’d by moans. (5.2.13-5)

He is interrupted by his page’s whistle, warning him that someone approaches. He hides in the darkness and sees Romeo and Balthasar enter with a torch, a mattock, and a wrenching iron. Romeo hands Balthasar a letter and asks him to deliver it to Lord Montague in the morning. He next cracks open the tomb and tells Balthasar that he must not interfere with the actions that he will now take. Balthasar agrees to leave, but he instead hides in the shadows to observe his master. Paris, who still believes Romeo to be the murderous villain who has slain Tybalt and, indirectly, Juliet, steps out of the dark to challenge Romeo to a duel. Romeo warns Paris to leave him be: “Good gentle youth, tempt not a desperate man” (5.3.59).

Romeo does not want another to die at his hands and he implores Paris to put away his sword. But Paris attacks and Romeo is forced to fight. Skilled at the art of combat, Romeo has no trouble defeating Paris. As Paris lay dying he requests that Romeo place his body beside Juliet’s and Romeo, knowing Paris’ anguish far too well, gladly agrees. He carries Paris inside the crypt, where he sees his beloved Juliet, as beautiful as ever in her best clothes. Standing above her, Romeo begins his farewell to his young bride, “O my love! my wife!” (5.3.91). He drinks the poison, and with one last kiss he falls dead to the earthen floor of the tomb. Friar Laurence arrives and Balthasar comes out of hiding to tell him that Romeo has been in the vault for at least half an hour. Friar Laurence rushes in to find Romeo dead and Juliet awakening from her death-like slumber. Confused, Juliet asks Friar Laurence where her Romeo is, and he can do nothing but tell her the horrible truth.

Hearing the Watchmen in the distance and fearing they will be caught, Friar Laurence begs Juliet to hurry. Juliet refuses to go and the Friar, desperately afraid for his own life and reputation, runs outside, leaving Juliet behind. She sees the vial of poison still enclosed in Romeo’s hand, and she drinks from it, but there is no poison left. Then she kisses her love with the hopes that there is enough poison on his lips to kill her, but she lives on. She hears the Watchmen draw closer and she knows she must act quickly. She grabs Romeo’s dagger and stabs herself, falling dead upon Romeo’s body. The Watchmen rush in and are shocked at the bloody scene. They capture Balthasar and Friar Laurence as Prince Escalus arrives, along with the Capulets and Lord Montague. The Friar recounts the whole tragic story to the Prince and the feuding families, and they realize that their hate is the reason why their children lay dead. Capulet and Montague vow to end their war and they decide to erect golden statues of the star-crossed lovers as a beautiful yet painful reminder of their lives and extraordinary love. The play comes to a close with the mournful words of Prince Escalus:

A glooming peace this morning with it
brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.
Go hence to have more talk on these sad things;
Some shall be pardon’d, and some punish’d:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo. (5.3.304-10)