Romeo and Juliet


photo of Wiliam Shakespeare

Play by William Shakespeare

Arranged here by Barbara Webber

Hi there. I am William Shakespeare, and in this book you will find the opening scenes of one of my most famous plays, Romeo and Juliet. I hope you enjoy this version of my tale. After you read the first few scenes, you will learn some history about me and about how my plays have influenced modern society. If you should come to any trouble while reading, or if you would like to learn more about me, my play or the artwork in this book, there will be three coaches waiting to help you. Just click on any of them while you're reading and they will empart their wisdom upon you. Try them out below, they will tell you what their jobs are.

I shall bid you adieu now, as you will soon see, parting is such sweet sorrow...


There are two similar households,

In beautiful Verona where our scene begins,

An outbreak of fighting from an old grudge,

Has caused citizens to kill.

From these two enemies,

Two young lovers will commit suicide.


Their untimely end defeats the grudge,

With their death their parents' hatred is removed.

It could not be removed except for with the death of their children,

This is what will be on our stage for two hours,

For those of you who are patient,

We will fill you in on more details.

Sampson and Gregory are two servants from the Capulet family. They are walking through the main square carrying swords and talking loudly. They are joking with eachother about girls and sex, and they are talking about how angry the Montagues make them. They are spewing insulting comments about the Montegue family.

It isn't long before some servants of the Montague family come by and overhear the Capulet servants. They all go back and forth trying to start a fight before Benvolio, a Montague, arrives on the scene.

Benvolio tries to break things up, and draws his sword just to try and stop the servants from fighting. But the hot-headed Tyblat sees him and assuems he is drawing to intice a fight with the servants. Although Benevolio swears he was only trying to keep the peace, Tybalt draws and they fight. Old Montague and Lady Montague as well as Old Capulet and Lady Capulet show up and things begin to look as though they will get out of control. Swords are drawn, insults are shouted and everyone is on the verge of a huge, nasty brawl.

Prince Escalas is the reigning prince of the city. When he comes upon this near catastrophe in the streets of his city, he is angry and annoyed. He threatens both families that if they should ever fight openly like this again, they will pay for it with their lives.

After things break up and everyone goes about their day, Romeo comes into the square looking glum and sad. He is greeted by Benvolio, his cousin who proceeds to ask him what is wrong. Romeo's parents have noticed his meloncholy mood and have petitioned Benvolio to find out what's wrong with him. After much prodding, Benvolio discovers that Romeo is in love with a young lady named Rosalin. A girl who does not love him back, and has taken a vow of chastity, so Benvolio says, forget her, and he promises to help Romeo get over this.

Meanwhile, at the Capulet's estate, Lord Capulet is talking with a young royal named Paris. Paris is asking for permission to marry his daughter, Juliet. Capulet tells Paris that his 14 year old daughter is still too young in his eyes, but he gives permission to Paris to talk with Juliet. He says the decision of marriage will ultimately be hers and that if he convinces her to love him, they will have his blessing. He invites Paris to a party that he is throwing that night. He tells him to look around at all the girls and be absolutely sure that Juliet is the only one he wants.

Romeo and Benvolio find out about Capulet's party, and they decide to crash it as a way to cheer Romeo up. It is a masquarade ball, and so everyone will be masked, making it easy for them to hide in plain sight. Before the party, they join up with Mercutio and a few friends and make their plan to enter the party. Romeo is hesistant and almost ruins the mood, but Mercutio keeps things jovial and they head to the party by torchlight.

Juliet has been told to look at Paris, and though she has agreed to look, she does not think she will fall for him. She is dancing when Romeo first sees her. He is at once in love with her and completely entranced by her beauty. He asks around about who she is and as he is doing so, Tybalt overhears and recognizes his voice. He is ready to take up his sword and go after Romeo for crashing this party, but Capulet puts a stop to it. He curses Tybalt for being so hot headed and doing so right after The Prince has repremanded them. Tybalt leaves in a hate-filled rage and swears to get Romeo for this later. 

Romeo finally gets close to Juliet and takes her hand and they speak:

Romeo - My hand is not worthy to touch yours. If you don't want my hands to touch you my lips are standing by to make it all better with a kiss. 

Juliet - You don't do enough justice to your hands. To hold someone's hand is to show devotion. Don't people who make pilgrimage to to see statues of saints, touch them also? Holding one palm against the other (like this) is like kissing.

Romeo - Saints and pilgrims have lips too.
Juliet - Yes, but pilgrims use their lips to pray with.

Romeo - Well then, my saint, let our lips do what our hands are doing. I'm praying for you to kiss me. Please don't disappoint. 

Juliet - Saints don't move, even to grant a prayer.

Romeo - Then, don't move. I'll answer my own prayer.

And they kiss...

As people leave the party, Romeo finds Juliet's nurse and asks her who the girl was. Shortly after that, Juliet asks her nurse who the guy was. What the nurse tells each of them is like a dagger to their hearts, for they realize that they have just fallen in love with their only sworn enemy.

Romeo cannot stay away from Juliet. He sneaks into her garden just to gaze at her bedroom window in hopes to see her. She appears on her balcony before too long. At firsst they are both pondering what to do with this new feeling and knowledge, but then Romeo cannot keep silent and so he speaks to her and climbs up to talk to her. They profess their undying love for one another and kiss and tease each other. Until finally they talk of marraige. They both agree it is what they want and so they promise to meet up the next day to make it official!

Romeo and Juliet promise to meet and get married on the following day, but we know from the prologue that this tale will not end well. What do you predict will happen to result in the couple's demise? Before reading the ending of the original play, write your own ending to Romeo and Juliet in which you show not only Romeo and Juliet's future, but also the reactions of the two families to the teens' plans.

The plot of Romeo and Juliet is based on two ealrier versions. The first was an Italian tale, entitled, The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke. It was translated into verse in 1562 and then retold in prose under the title Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1582. Shakespeare borrowed heavily from both of these versions but, he also developed supporting characters, like Mercutio and Paris and expanded the plot to add subplots. Early signs of Shakespeare's dramatic skill were his use of structure, his ability to use elements of both comedy and tragedy in one play, and his expansion of minor characters into developed subplots. These are some of the things critics use to praise Shakespeare's genius.

Romeo and Juliet has been produced countless times on stages all around the world for generations. In addition to that, 18 film versions have been made. The most popular film is the 1968 Franco Zifferelli film which shows the play in its purest form.

Another popular version is the 1996 version where the play's language remained unchanged, but nearly every other element was changed to a more modern appearance. The characters used guns in place of swords and the two feuding houses were dipicted as rival gangs. The famous balcony scene was also changed and did not even include a balcony. For some critics, this version was genius, for others a bad choice. Either way it makes for an interesting comparason to the original.

There are other films that use the plot and themes of Romeo and Juliet as inspiration for their stories. The most famous of these is probably West Side Story. This was a musical produced in the 1960's. Set in New York City in the 1950's, it depicts the difficult lives of two rival street gangs of different ethnic backrounds. When two of the teens, each from a different gang, fall in love, the similarities between this and Shakespeare abound.

As famous as William Shakespeare is and was, there is still very little known about him. Most of what we deem fact about him comes from church and state records of baptisms, deaths, and marriages. He was born in 1564 in Stratford in England. He married Anne Hathaway when he was just 18; she was 26 and already pregnant. They remained married until his death. Shakespeare had 3 children, one daughter and a set of boy and girl twins. His only son died when he was just eleven years old.

Shakespeare is credited with the authorship of 37 plays and 154 sonnets, though some academics would argue that there is no real proof of this. However, several other well known palywrites of his time, namely Robert Greene, have been quoted to complain about Shakespeare and the competition he presents. Most people believe Shakespeare is indeed the writer of his own plays.


William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 and was buried in Stratford.

Written upon William Shakespeare’s tombstone is an appeal that he be left to rest in peace with a curse on those who would move his bones...

Good friend, for Jesus´ sake forbeare
To digg the dust enclosed here!
Blest be ye man that spares thes stones
And curst be he that moues my bones.

Translated this reads as:

Good friend, for Jesus’ sake, forbear

To dig the dust enclosed here;

Blest be the man that spares these stones

And curst he that moves my bones.

Shakespeare's influences are still all around us. Look around, on television, in ads, on the stage and the big screen, you will see interpretations of Shakespeare in everything.