Romeo and Juliet
Based on the story by William Shakespeare
Retold and edited by Timothy Cobb
(1) Montague and Capulet
In the fourteenth century, in Italy, there were two young lovers named Romeo and Juliet. And they lived in Verona. This is their tragic story.
Romeo was a boy of sixteen, and Juliet was a girl of fourteen.
Romeo's family name was Montague, and Juliet's family name was Capulet. Romeo was the only son of the Montagues, and Juliet was the only daughter of the Capulets.
The two families were enemies. When members of these families met in the streets they often fought with each other. So the Prince of Verona made a new law: "If you fight in public again, you will be put to death."
Capulet's daughter, Juliet, was very beautiful, and her father was already looking for a husband for her. He was thinking of a young man called Count Paris, and said, "Paris is a good man for Juliet to marry."
Paris was about ten years older than Juliet, and he came from a good family. He was in love with Juliet.
One day Juliet's father said to Paris, "I am going to have a party at my house tonight. Please come, and meet my daughter Juliet. She is still young, but if you love her, you can say to her, 'Will you marry me?'"
(2) The Party at Capulet's House
Juliet's father sent one of his servants out to invite the guests to the party. The names of the guests were written on a piece of paper, but the servant could not read them.
In those days, many people were illiterate and could not read.
In the street by chance, the servant met Romeo and Benvolio, one of Romeo's friends. Benvolio said to Romeo, "Can you read to me the names written on this piece of paper, please?"
Romeo began to read, and then he asked the servant, "Where is this party going to be? Who is giving it?"
"My master, Capulet, is giving it at his house," said the servant. "Please come to the party yourself ― if you are not a Montague."
After saying this, the servant went on his way, and then Benvolio said to Romeo, "All the lovely girls in Verona are going to be at the party. You should go to the party. I will go."
That evening, before the party began, Juliet was sitting in her room with her nurse.
Juliet's mother came to her room and said to the nurse. "I would like to speak to my daughter about something important. You know how old she is, don't you?"
The nurse loved to talk very much, and began to say, "Of course, I know. She is fourteen. I know it well because she is the same age as Susan, my poor dead daughter. Juliet was just three when that big earthquake struck. That was eleven years ago.
I remember that she was running around the house, and fell on her face. She began to cry, and then my husband helped her stop crying. I cannot help laughing when I think of it."
"Stop talking, please," said Juliet's mother. "I want to speak."
"Ah, but you were a pretty baby, Juliet," said the nurse. "When you get married, I shall be very very happy."
"I want to speak about that," said Juliet's mother. "Juliet, what do you think about getting married? I was already a mother when I was your age. It is about time that you got married.
There is a nice man called Paris. He is coming to the party tonight. He likes you and loves you. You will be able to meet him there. Do you think you will be able to love him?"
"I will talk with him, mother," said Juliet. "But I cannot promise that I will love him."
(3) Romeo at His Enemy's House
Meanwhile, Romeo and his friends -- Benvolio, Mercutio and others, were on their way to the party.
There was a custom that some people wore masks sometimes at parties. So Romeo and his friends also wore masks so that people would not know they were Montagues.
The party began, but Romeo looked sad. So his friends asked him, "Are you OK? You must be more cheerful. This is a party. Let's dance tonight."
"No, I can't dance," said Romeo. "My heart is too heavy, I had a bad dream last night."
"That dream was brought to you by Queen Mab, the queen of the fairies," said Mercutio jokingly. "She always gives people bad dreams when they sleep."
"No, really, I'm serious," said Romeo. "I am afraid that something terrible may happen tonight."
Father Capulet was in a cheerful mood. He welcomed all the guests, and said to them, "Please enjoy, eat, drink and dance."
Juliet, the only daughter of the Capulets, began to dance with Paris, when Romeo came in and saw them dancing together.
Romeo did not know who she was, but fell in love with her at once. He thought, "She is more beautiful than anybody else here."
Being fascinated by her beauty, he took off his mask, forgetting that he was in his enemy's house. After a while, he put the mask back on again, and waited for a chance to speak to Juliet.
While Romeo stood there, he was seen by Juliet's cousin, Tybalt. Tybalt was a very hot-tempered young man.
Tybalt was sure that Romeo was a Montague, and said to Juliet's father, "That young man was not invited to this party. He is one of our enemies. He must not stay here. I will kill him."
"He may stay," said Capulet. "They say he is a fine young man. I do not wish to treat him badly in my own house."
Tybalt did as Capulet said, but he could not control his anger.
(4) Romeo Falls in Love with Juliet
When Juliet was alone, Romeo went and spoke to her. She did not know who he was, but she fell in love with him at once.
He took her hand and said, "May I kiss you?" They kissed, and then kissed again.
But at that moment Juliet's nurse came and said, "Your mother wants to speak to you."
So, Juliet left. Then Romeo asked the nurse, "Who is that girl?"
"Master Capulet's daughter," she said. Romeo was very shocked when he heard it, and sadly began to leave the house with his friends.
As they were leaving, Juliet came back and said to her nurse, "Go and find out who the young man is."
After a while, the nurse came back and said, "His name is Romeo, and he is a Montague, the only son of your great enemy!"
Poor Juliet! She was in love for the first time, and now found that her loved one was also her enemy.
She said, "Oh, my only love was born of my only unhappiness. I met him knowing nothing about him, and it is too late now that I have met him."
She longed to meet him again, but it was impossible for them to meet openly.
Romeo, on his way home, thought to himself, "I cannot sleep peacefully without seeing Juliet again."
So he went back to the house of the Capulets, and climbed over the wall into her garden. Then he walked towards the balcony.
Juliet was standing on the balcony without noticing Romeo. To him she looked like the sun, and her eyes were like stars.
Then she began to speak to herself. "Oh, Romeo, why are you Romeo Montague? Leave your family and give up your name. Or else, say that you love me; if you do, I will no longer be a Capulet.
You are not my enemy, only your name. Why is a name so important?
A rose will still smell just as sweet even if it has a different name. Romeo will still be just as dear to me even if his name is not Romeo.
Romeo, give up your name, and take me instead!"
(5) Marriage of Romeo and Juliet
When Romeo heard this, he came out of the darkness and shouted, "So I will! If you really love me, I will change my name. I will no longer be Romeo Montague."
Juliet, of course, was greatly surprised when she saw him. But more than that, she was worried. "My family may kill you if they find you here," she said.
"Don't worry," he said. "I love you so much that I do not mind if they kill me."
There was a voice of the nurse to call to Juliet to come to bed, so there was no time for more talking.
"If you really love me," said Juliet, "I will be your wife and follow you wherever you may go.
I will send someone to you tomorrow. Then you can give the person a message about when and where you will marry me."
Early the next morning Romeo called on his priest, Laurence. Laurence was just going into his garden to pick flowers and herbs to make medicine. Romeo told his story and asked Laurence, "Will you marry us, please?"
Laurence was surprised to hear it, but promised to help him, because he thought, "This may melt the hatred, and the two families may become friendly."
Meanwhile in town, Benvolio and Mercutio were looking for Romeo. After a while Romeo showed up and they began joking with him.
To their surprise, Romeo was cheerful. Romeo's friends were happy to see him in his jovial mood.
Then Juliet's nurse passed by on her way to find Romeo and receive his message.
She saw him there, so she stopped, and Romeo gave her his message. "Tell Juliet to come to Laurence's cell this afternoon," he said. "We will make a confession as the preparation for our marriage."
He also told her one more thing. "I will send a man to hand you a rope-ladder, so that I can climb up and see Juliet at night."
To Juliet the time seemed so long as she waited for her nurse to come back. When Juliet received the message, her cheeks turned bright red. The nurse smiled when she saw this.
Then Juliet hurried off to Laurence's cell, while the nurse went to get the rope-ladder.
In the afternoon, Romeo and Juliet both came to Laurence. Seeing that Romeo's heart was too single-minded, Laurence advised him, "If your love is too passionate, it can be dangerous and may lead to bad results."
But the joy of Romeo and Juliet would not be disturbed by anyone.
They made a confession before Laurence and after that, Romeo said to Juliet, "The nurse will bring to you a rope-ladder. Tonight I will come to you."
(6) The Fight
So far the young lovers' plans were going well, but now a terrible thing happened.
While Benvolio and Mercutio and others were walking through the town, Tybalt suddenly appeared and began insulting them. When Romeo came along, then Tybalt began to insult him too.
But Romeo was not angered. Mercutio could not understand why Romeo did not feel angry. He drew his sword to fight, and so did Tybalt, and they began to fight.
Romeo tried to stop them. But unfortunately, Tybalt wounded Mercutio. The wound was so deep that Mercutio bled to death. Now Romeo became angry to the point of drawing his sword, and he killed Tybalt.
"You must hurry away, Romeo!" said Benvolio. "If the Prince finds you here, you will be put to death!"
Romeo left, and soon the Prince arrived with citizens of the town. Benvolio explained how the fight began, and said, "Tybalt started the fight, not Romeo."
Then the Prince said, "I will not put Romeo to death but to banish him forever from this town."
Meanwhile, Juliet was waiting at home eagerly for Romeo to arrive. Then the nurse came in with the rope-ladder. She was crying, "Oh, he's dead, he's dead!"
At first Juliet could not understand what she was talking about. But at last the nurse said clearly, "Tybalt is dead, and Romeo is banished forever from the town."
Juliet was terribly shocked. But she comforted herself with the thought, "At any rate Romeo is not dead. He is only banished."
The nurse also comforted her by saying, "I know where Romeo is. I will bring him to you tonight."
(7) Banished Romeo
Romeo was hiding in Laurence's cell. He was waiting to hear the Prince's decision. Laurence told him, "The Prince has decided to banish you." This made him feel like he was dead.
Romeo tried to kill himself. Laurence tried to stop him and there was a struggle. After that, Laurence said to Romeo, "You are alive. Juliet is alive. Go and see her tonight. Then escape to Mantua, and wait there until the Prince changes his mind. Then you can return."
Meanwhile, Juliet's father was thinking about Juliet's marriage. He decided and said, "Juliet should marry Paris this week. This will help her overcome her sadness over Tybalt's death."
Romeo did not know this, and came to Juliet's room that night. They spent the night together, and the night seemed too short for them. Soon the day came and the lark began to sing.
Then they heard the nurse's voice, "Your mother is coming," so Romeo had to leave quickly.
When he went away, Juliet wept, being anxious about whether she would be able to see him again.
Her mother saw her and said, "Are you still sad about your cousin's death? I have good news for you. On Thursday you will marry Count Paris."
"Never!" said Juliet. "I would rather marry my enemy Romeo than marry Paris."
Then her father came in. When he heard of Juliet's reply, he became very angry and shouted at her, "Be at that church on Thursday, or I will never speak to you again!"
After her parents had left, Juliet turned to her nurse for comfort. But the nurse's advice was, "You have lost Romeo now. Marry Paris. He will be a good husband."
Juliet was shocked by her nurse's advice, and she thought, "I must go to Laurence. If he cannot help me, I will kill myself."
Juliet went to him and asked. "What should I do? If I leave my house secretly and go to Mantua with Romeo to live there, my parents will look for me.
Is there any way to avoid their search and live in Mantua with Romeo without being disturbed by anyone? I cannot live without Romeo."
Laurence was puzzled but after considering he finally said, "I have a special medicine made from my herbs. If you drink it, it will cause you to appear dead for about forty-two hours. Then you will wake again as if from a sleep.
Say to your mother and father, 'I agree to marry Paris.' Then drink this medicine. When they come to wake you in the morning, they will think you are dead. They will take you and place you in the family tomb.
Meanwhile I will send a message to Romeo. He will go there to find you and take you with him to Mantua. Live there with Romeo until the Prince changes his mind. Have you the courage to do this?"
"Oh, yes, yes," said Juliet.
(8) Juliet Drinks Medicine
She received the medicine and went home. She said to her father, "I will marry Paris." He was very happy to hear it.
That night Juliet said to her nurse, "Please leave me alone, tonight. I want to pray and prepare my heart for this wedding."
When Juliet was alone, at first she had many fears. "Can I believe Laurence's words?" she thought. "What will happen to me if I wake before Romeo comes?"
But in the end she quickly seized the medicine and drank it all.
The next morning the nurse came to call Juliet. What a shock it was for her when she saw Juliet! She thought Juliet was dead. Her cries brought the others to Juliet's room.
They could do nothing to bring her back to life. So they had to change their plans and prepare for Juliet's funeral instead of her wedding.
Romeo was now in Mantua, which was not very far from Verona. There he was eagerly waiting for the messenger from Laurence.
But the messenger, John, did not come. As a matter of fact, on his way to meet Romeo, John was quarantined by the people of a town which was affected by pestilence, because they thought he was a carrier. He was locked in a house and could not come to Romeo.
Instead of John, Romeo's own servant came. He told Romeo, "Juliet is dead! Her body is laid in the tomb of the Capulets."
Romeo was terribly shocked when he heard this. He decided, "I will go at once to Verona and die with Juliet." He went to buy some poison so that he could kill himself. Then he headed towards the Capulets' tomb.
Meanwhile, John came back to Laurence and told him, "I was not able to give Romeo your message."
When Laurence heard this, he said, "Then I must hurry at once to the vault, and open the tomb before Juliet wakes up. Then I will take her to Romeo."
(9) Deaths of the Lovers
Before Laurence came, Romeo arrived at the vault and entered. He opened the tomb, and saw Juliet's body lying there.
"Oh, my love, my wife!" he cried . "Death has not yet taken away your beauty. I will remain here with you forever. One last look! One last kiss!"
Then he drank the poison and died, hugging Juliet's body.
Laurence now arrived, but he was too late to stop Romeo. When he entered the vault and saw them, he was shocked.
At the same moment Juliet woke and asked, "Where is my Romeo?"
"He lies there dead," said Laurence crying, "Come, we must hurry from this terrible place."
But Juliet did not want to leave Romeo. When she found there was no more poison, she took Romeo's dagger. She kissed him, and then stabbed herself in the heart by his side.
Now the Prince arrived with many members of the Montague and Capulet families. Laurence explained the whole story and said, "It is my fault. You should punish me."
"No," said the Prince. "We should punish the Montague and Capulet families. But they have been punished enough already. Romeo and Juliet have died because of their families' hostility toward one other."
When Capulet heard this, he said, "Brother Montague, give me your hand. It is the best betrothal gift to Juliet, bride of Romeo. "
Then Montague stretched out his hand, and they shook hands. Montague said, "We will be friends from now on. I will build a statue of Juliet in Verona so that the people may remember faithful Juliet."
Capulet replied, "I will build one of Romeo next to hers. Poor sacrifices of our enmity. I am sorry"
"I am sorry, please forgive me." said Montague too. "They will remind us of our friendship restored." Montague and Capulet hugged each other, as tears rolled down their faces.