Romeo and Juliet

Updated: Feb 13, 2011, 12:45 PM IST

Liji Varghese

Love is an emotion of strong affection and attachment, it brings with it happiness and contentment. But not all stories have a happy ending. `Romeo and Juliet` is one such epochal romantic tragedy written by Shakespeare and tells us about two star-crossed lovers, uniting in secret due to their feuding families and eventually committing suicide under hostile circumstances.

The play, written between 1591 and 1595, was highly disparaged by the critics due to lack of physiological depth and complexity in comparison with the Shakespeare`s four great tragedies Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, and Othello, written in the first decade of the 17th century. However, later scholars discarded the comparative evaluation of the work and upgraded its status within Shakespeare's canon.

The description…

The play opens with a brawl between the servants of the Montague and Capulet, the two feuding families, in the streets of Verona.

Romeo, the son of Lord Montague, who is infatuated with Capulet`s niece, Rosaline, persuaded by his cousin Benvolio and Mercutio the kinsman of Prince Escalus, attends the ball at the Capulet house, only to fall in love with Juliet at the first sight. After the ball, Romeo sneaks into Capulet`s courtyard, where both, Romeo and Juliet confess their love for each other, despite knowing the fact that their families were sworn enemies.

The next day, the very much in love couple get secretly married, with the help of Friar Laurence, a Franciscan friar, who hopes to reunite the families with the union of their children.

However, destiny had something else in store for the lovers. Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, who is enraged over Romeo sneaking into the ball, challenges him to a duel, which Romeo declines as he was now married to Juliet. Mercutio, however, offended by Tybalth accepts the duel. Mercutio is fatally wounded in the duel, which leaves Romeo bereaved, who then confronts Tybalth and slays him. The Prince, having lost his kinsman, exiles Romeo from Verona.

Capulet, who is unaware of Juliet’s marriage to Romeo, decides to marry her to Count Paris, another kinsman of Prince Escalus. Grief-stricken, Juliet seeks Friar Laurence help, who offers her a drug that will put her into a state of death-like coma for forty two hours. Friar promises to inform Romeo about the plan. However, the messenger fails to reach Romeo, who gets to know about the apparent death of Juliet from a servant.

Romeo, believing Juliet to be dead, buys poison and goes to the Capulet crypt, where she was buried. Count Paris, who had come to mourn Juliet`s death, confronts Romeo, thinking him to be a thug. Romeo kills Paris in the clash. Still thinking Juliet to be dead, Romeo consumes the poison. Juliet comes out of coma, only to find her lover dead by her side and stabs herself with the dagger.
The death of Romeo and Juliet results in the reconciliation of the two feuding families.

The play ends with the Prince's elegy for the lovers

"For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."