The audience is introduced to the long-running feud between the two most important families of Verona, the Capulets and the Montagues. The first quatrain (the first four lines) tells us the old argument has blown up again; the second that it will be resolved only through the deaths of 'a pair of star-crossed lovers', Romeo and Juliet, the children of these families.
A quarrel breaks out between servants from the Capulet and Montague households. Benvolio, a Montague, tries to stop it, but is goaded into fighting by Tybalt, a Capulet. The noise brings forth Lord and Lady Capulet and Lord and Lady Montague, and eventually Escalus, the Prince of Verona. He demands peace between the families, and warns that any further outbreak will result in death. Romeo then appears, depressed and sad. He admits to his cousin Benvolio that his mood is due to unrequited love; Benvolio advises him to forget the lady and seek out other women.
Count Paris asks Capulet for Juliet's hand in marriage. Capulet invites him to a feast to be held that night to be sure that it is Juliet he wants. Romeo decides to go with Benvolio, even though they haven't been invited, for Rosaline, the woman he loves, will be there.
Lady Capulet tells Juliet that Paris has asked to marry her and tells her to notice him at the feast to ascertain if she likes him.
Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio, a friend, discuss whether to go to the feast held by the Capulets. Mercutio is the only one to have been invited, but Benvolio is keen to go as a masker, a common ritual where uninvited guests join in the revels. Romeo, however, is perturbed by a dream he had the previous night, which he believes is connected in some way with the feast. Mercutio lightens the mood and persuades them all to go in.
Capulet welcomes the maskers but Tybalt recognizes one of them as a Montague. He wants to confront them but is warned off by Capulet, who is fond of Romeo. Tybalt resolves to revenge the matter another time. Romeo notices Juliet and is struck by her beauty. He attempts to woo her by speaking in sonnet form, and they kiss. The Nurse's interruption causes the couple to realize they have fallen in love with the enemy.
The Chorus stresses that Romeo and Juliet cannot conduct their affair in public because of their families' feud. Romeo is hidden in the Capulet's garden, wanting to be near his love. Benvolio and Mercutio enter looking for him, joking about his love for Rosaline they don't know of his love for Juliet. Romeo stays concealed, though, and the two friends eventually leave.
Romeo admires Juliet as she stands on her balcony. She is unaware he is there and admits she loves him despite the fact that he is her enemy. Romeo answers her, and refuses to leave despite the danger of being discovered. They declare openly their love for one another and Juliet agrees to marry Romeo if he can send word the next day how this will be arranged. She will send a messenger at nine in the morning to learn of his plan. When she leaves, Romeo resolves to visit Friar Lawrence for advice on how to bring about the marriage.
Romeo visits Friar Lawrence. He is pleased that Romeo is no longer pining for Rosaline but is taken aback to learn that the youth is in love with another woman so soon after. Despite his reservations, he agrees to help, seeing this marriage as an opportunity to heal the feud.
Benvolio and Mercutio are still looking for Romeo the next morning. Tybalt has sent a challenge to Montague and Benvolio believes Romeo will accept. Romeo meets them from his meeting with the Friar and starts joking with Mercutio. Juliet's Nurse arrives and Romeo tells her to arrange for Juliet to go to confession that afternoon where Friar Lawrence will marry them. He tells his servant to give her a rope ladder too, so that he can enter Juliet's room that night.
Juliet waits for the Nurse who has been gone three hours. Only after persistent questioning does she learn of the arranged marriage that afternoon.
Romeo and Juliet meet at the Friar's and go in to be married.
Scene 1 Mercutio and Benvolio are walking in Verona amidst a gang of Capulets. Benvolio suggests they go indoors but Mercutio playfully refuses. They meet Tybalt and Mercutio taunts him. However Tybalt is looking for Romeo and insults him when he enters. Romeo is reluctant to fight, being related to the Capulets now, and Mercutio, disappointed in his friend, challenges Tybalt himself. Romeo tries to stop them, but Mercutio is killed; despite foreseeing much unhappiness resulting from this, he avenges his friend's death and kills Tybalt. Benvolio tells his cousin to leave as the Prince will punish any feuding by death. However, because Tybalt committed murder the Prince orders that Romeo be exiled instead.
Juliet expresses her impatience for the night, as darkness will bring Romeo to her. The Nurse bursts in to tell her of Tybalt's death and Romeo's exile. The Nurse is amazed that Juliet grieves her lover's banishment more than her cousin's death, but she agrees to bring Romeo to her, from where he has been hiding at Friar Lawrence's.
Friar Lawrence tells Romeo of his banishment by the Prince. The Nurse enters and tells him of Juliet's grief. This prompts Romeo to try and kill himself, but the Friar persuades him against this by showing him how much he
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