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Brief Summary of Romeo and Juliet

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/14/2012

Need a refresher on the drama, romance and tragedy in Romeo & Juliet? Read this brief summary for the major events in Acts 1-5.

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    Act I

    This brief summary of Romeo and Juliet Act II is intended to help you follow the play as you read it. It is not a substitute for reading it. Now, with no further ado...

    The Prologue pretty much tells you everything that's going to happen in the play: The Montagues and Capulets hate each other; a Montague and a Capulet fall in love. The lovers kill themselves. The Capulets and Montagues feel really stupid and end their feud.

    Scene 1 opens the play with a brawl between Montague servants and Capulet servants. Prince Escalus shows up and decrees any one who fights in public will be killed. Juxtaposed with the violence is Benvolio and Lord Montague discussing the fate of Romeo, whose infatuation/love for Rosaline makes him wander aimlessly, lamenting his fate. Benvolio investigates and confirms his suspicions about Romeo's unrequited love.

    In scene 2, Paris asks Lord Capulet permission to marry his daughter Juliet. Capulet gives him permission if Juliet accepts his suit. They leave. An illiterate Capulet servant enters and asks Benvolio and Romeo to read a list of guests he must send invitations to. Benvolio comes up with the brilliant idea of crashing the party and introducing Romeo to some Verona hotties to make him forget about Rosaline.

    In scene 3, Juliet states her lack of interest in Paris but promises her mom that she'll at least take a look.

    In scene 4, Mercutio gives a brilliant monologue on dreams as he teases Romeo.

    Scene 5 is the party at the Capulet's house. Tybalt recognizes Romeo and wants to kill him. Lord Capulet stays his hand. Romeo dances with Juliet. They fall in love immediately. They curse their fate.

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    Act II

    Scene 1 - Romeo disses his friends who discuss his whereabouts.

    Scene 2 - Romeo sneaks into the Capulet orchard (we call this stalking). Juliet disowns her name, not knowing Romeo is nearby. Romeo makes himself known and disowns his name. They talk about how much they love each other and discuss marriage; after all, they've known each other for nearly an hour. They arrange for the nurse to give Romeo a message.

    Scene 3 - The Friar Lawrence makes the first of many blunders, agreeing to marry the two in hopes it will end the family feud.

    Scene 4 - The nurse arrives as Mercutio, Benvolio, and Romeo make jest. Romeo tells the nurse that Juliet is to meet her at the Friar's cell.

    Scene 5 - The nurse teases Juliet before giving her the news of the wedding arrangement.

    Scene 6 - Friar Lawrence marries the two young lovers.

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    Act III

    Scene 1 - Benvolio begs Mercutio to head home because he smells trouble. Mercutio refuses. Tybalt comes looking for Romeo. They argue. Romeo arrives. Tybalt challenges Romeo to a fight, but Romeo refuses, telling Tybalt they should act like family. Tybalt's insults continue. Mercutio calls Romeo a wimp and engages Mercutio in a brawl. As Romeo tries to break up the fight, Mercutio is slain. He blames Romeo and curses both the Montagues and Capulets. Tybalt returns. Romeo kills Tybalt. Romeo flees.

    Scene 2 - Meanwhile, Juliet impatiently waits for Romeo to arrive so they can enjoy honeymoon festivities. The nurse enters and relates the bad news. Initially, Juliet thinks Romeo has been killed. She's not sure what to think when she discovers Romeo murdered Tybalt. She concludes Romeo is blameless.

    Scene 3 - Romeo runs to Friar Lawrence's cell. He hears he has been banished and has a complete emotional meltdown, threatening and attempting suicide. The nurse shows up and arranges for Romeo to visit Juliet that night before he leaves Verona forever.

    Scene 4 - Lord Capulet agrees to a marriage between Juliet and Paris.

    Scene 5 - Romeo is leaving Juliet's bedroom as Lady Capulet enters. She denounces Romeo. Lord Capulet enters and tells Juliet she will marry Paris in a few days. Juliet refuses. Capulet slaps her, yells at her, and forces her to agree. The nurse advises her to marry Paris. Juliet pretends to agree.

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    Act IV

    Scene 1 - Paris visits Friar Lawrence seeking advice on his upcoming marriage with Juliet. Juliet enters. They exchange awkward greetings. Paris leaves. Juliet seeks the Friar's advice. The Friar gives Juliet a potion that will make her seem dead. When she wakes up, she'll be in the Capulet's tomb with Romeo waiting for her there.

    Scene 2 - Juliet consents to marry Paris. The Capulets rejoice and prepare.

    Scene 3 - Juliet delivers a beautifully haunting soliloquy and drinks the potion.

    Scene 5 - The nurse finds Juliet dead. There's weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on account of the supposed tragedy.

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    Act V

    Scene 1 - Romeo hears news of Juliet's death. The news of Friar Lawrence's plan does not reach Romeo. He goes to the apothecary and buys poison.

    Scene 2 - Lawrence finds out that his letter never made it to Romeo in Mantua. He heads to the Capulet tomb.

    Scene 3 - Romeo appears at the tomb to die with Juliet. He meets Paris there. Romeo kills Paris. Romeo marvels at how "alive" Juliet still looks. He drinks the poison just as Juliet awakes. Juliet sees her dead husband. Lawrence enters, sees Romeo dead, tries to persuade Juliet to come with him. Lawrence inexplixably leaves Juliet alone in a tomb with her dead husband, surrounded by corpses. Juliet stabs herself and dies. The Montagues, Capulets, and the Prince show up trying to figure out why there are more dead people at the Capulet's tomb than there should be. Friar Lawrence explains what happened.