The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet

by William Shakespeare
Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine
Folger Shakespeare Library

The prologue of Romeo and Juliet calls the title characters “starcrossed lovers”—and the stars do seem to conspire against these young lovers. Romeo is a Montague, and Juliet a Capulet. Their families are enmeshed in a feud, but the moment they meet—when Romeo and his friends attend a party at Juliet’s house in disguise—the two fall in love and quickly decide that they want to be married. A friar secretly marries them, hoping to end the feud. Romeo and his companions almost immediately encounter Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, who challenges Romeo. When Romeo refuses to fight, Romeo’s friend Mercutio accepts the challenge and is killed. Romeo then kills Tybalt and is banished. He spends that night with Juliet and then leaves for Mantua. Juliet’s father forces her into a marriage with Count Paris. To avoid this marriage, Juliet takes a potion, given her by the friar, that makes her appear dead. The friar will send Romeo word to be at her family tomb when she awakes. The plan goes awry, and Romeo learns instead that she is dead. In the tomb, Romeo kills himself. Juliet wakes, sees his body, and commits suicide. Their deaths appear finally to end the feud.

Characters in the Play

Montague, his father
Lady Montague, his mother
Benvolio, their kinsman
Abram, a Montague servingman
Balthasar, Romeo's servingman

Capulet, her father
Lady Capulet, her mother
Nurse to Juliet
Tybalt, kinsman to the Capulets
Petruchio, Tybalt's companion
Capulet's Cousin
Sampson, a Capulet servingman
Gregory, a Capulet servingman
Peter, a Capulet servingman
Other Servingmen

Escalus, Prince of Verona
Paris, the Prince's kinsman and Juliet's suitor
Mercutio, the Prince's kinsman and Romeo's friend
Paris' Page

Friar Lawrence
Friar John
Three or four Citizens
Three Musicians
Three Watchmen
Attendants, Maskers, Torchbearers, a Boy with a drum, Gentlemen, Gentlewomen, Tybalt’s Page, Servingmen.

The Prologue

Enter Chorus.

Two households, both alike in dignity
(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene),
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-marked love
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, naught could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which, if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

Chorus exits.

Act 1

Scene 1

Enter Sampson and Gregory, with swords and bucklers, of the house of Capulet.

Sampson Gregory, on my word we’ll not carry coals.
Gregory No, for then we should be colliers.
Sampson I mean, an we be in choler, we’ll draw.
Gregory Ay, while you live, draw your neck out of collar.
Sampson I strike quickly, being moved.
Gregory But thou art not quickly moved to strike.
Sampson A dog of the house of Montague moves me.
Gregory To move is to stir, and to be valiant is to stand. Therefore if thou art moved thou runn’st away.
Sampson A dog of that house shall move me to stand. I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague’s.
Gregory That shows thee a weak slave, for the weakest goes to the wall.
Sampson ’Tis true, and therefore women, being the weaker vessels, are ever thrust to the wall. Therefore I will push Montague’s men from the wall and thrust his maids to the wall.
Gregory The quarrel is between our masters and us their men.
Sampson ’Tis all one. I will show myself a tyrant. When I have fought with the men, I will be civil with the maids; I will cut off their heads.
Gregory The heads of the maids?
Sampson Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads. Take it in what sense thou wilt.
Gregory They must take it in sense that feel it.
Sampson Me they shall feel while I am able to stand, and ’tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh
Gregory ’Tis well thou art not fish; if thou hadst, thou hadst been poor-john. Draw thy tool. Here comes of the house of Montagues.

Enter Abraham with another Servingman.