The Play’s the Thing: Amidst the feuding Montagues and Capulets in Verona, Romeo (a Montague) and Juliet (a Capulet) meet at a party and fall in love. They chat for a bit at night and then get engaged and secretly married the next day. Following the marriage, Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, after Tybalt kills Romeo’s friend, Mercutio, which leads to the Prince banishing Romeo from Verona, who only gets to spend one night with Juliet. Just after Romeo leaves, Juliet’s parents inform her she’s going to marry Paris in three days which leads to her hatching a plot with Friar Laurence to fake her death to get out of the marriage and allow her to run off with Romeo. Romeo doesn’t get the memo about the fake death, buys poison, and drinks it over Juliet’s “corpse”. Juliet wakes up and stabs herself when she sees Romeo is dead. The Montagues and Capulets end their feud as a result of losing both their children.
Heroes and Villains: While the main focus is on Romeo and Juliet, my favourite character in this play has always been Mercutio, who’s a bit lewd but is a great friend to Romeo right up until he dies.
Pick-up Lines with Style: “the all-seeing sun/ Ne’er saw her match since first the world begun.” (I.ii)
- “burn daylight” (I.iv)
- “that which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet” (II.ii)
- “parting is such sweet sorrow” (II.ii)
- “A plague o’ both your houses” (III.i)
Speech to Know: When it comes to Romeo and Juliet, the choice of speech is pretty obvious. Romeo’s first speech from the balcony scene.
“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun! –
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off. –
It is my lady; O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were! –
She speaks, yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses, I will answer it. –
I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing, and think it were not night. –
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!” (II.ii)
View from the Pit: I’m an unabashed lover of Romeo and Juliet. Their relationship is brief and (I’ll admit freely) highly unrealistic, but the dialogue is so beautiful and romantic and the plot puts all emotions at such a fevered pitch that it’s just irresistibly enjoyable. The conflict between the Montagues and Capulets serves as a brilliant counterpoint to Romeo and Juliet’s relationship and the tragedy is heightened by its inevitability as the entire plot is outlined in the prologue. The play is so familiar to me (from multiple readings and viewings – theatre and film) that the play is one of the few where I anticipate and relish in the dialogue. Whether I enjoy it because the plot and dialogue is so embedded in the social consciousness or just for its own merits, the results are the same: I ❤ me some Romeo and Juliet.