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Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and HappinessShakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and Happiness


Romeo and Juliet


Key characters

Romeo, a young man from Verona in Italy.

Juliet, a young lady.

Mercutio and Benvolio, Romeo’s friends.

Capulet, Juliet’s father.

Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin

The Nurse, Juliet’s nurse.

Friar Laurence, Franciscan monk.

Paris, a young nobleman.

 Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and Happiness

Fun facts

  • Re-written as the musical, West Side Story about the rival Hispanic and white gangs in New York.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio played Romeo in a 1996 film version, pictured right below.


The story

Romeo (a member of the Montague family from Verona, Italy) is in love with Juliet, whose father is head of the rival Capulet family.Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and Happiness

This rivalry threatens Romeo’s chances of winning her. But his cousin and friend, Benvolio, persuades him that they and another friend, Mercutio, should attend  a feast, hidden by masks

The feast is organized by the Catuplets to attract Juliet to Paris, a young nobleman.

Romeo dumps his girlfriend, Rosaline, when he and Juliet instantly fall in love. But Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, is furious when he recognizes Romeo and his friends.

Juliet appears on her balcony above the orchard where Romeo is hiding to see her. They:

  • exchange loving words (in the famous balcony scene).
  • agree to marry as soon as possible. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and Happiness

(Ford Madox Brown's 1870 painting of the balcony scene is pictured right) 

So Romeo arranges, through Juliet’s nurse, to be secretly married by Friar Laurence.

Mercutio is killed by Tybalt and an enraged Romeo kills him. On hearing this the Prince of Verona exiles Romeo who flees to nearby Mantua after spending a night with Juliet.

But then Lord Capulet, Juliet’s father, insists that Juliet must marry Paris.

The heartbroken girl agrees to Friar Laurence’s plan - promise to marry Paris but just before the wedding take a drug which will put her into a death-like sleep. Then ,after she is laid in the family tomb, she will awake and escape with Romeo.Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and Happiness

But the Friar's letter, explaining the plan, never reaches Romeo before he hears that Juliet has died.

Heartbroken he rushes to Verona to Juliet’s tomb, where Paris is grieving. They fight, Paris is killed and Romeo enters the tomb.

He finds the unconscious Juliet (Claire Dunes, pictured right in the 1996 film) and poisons himself, believing her to be dead. Juliet:

  • awakes and sees Romeo’s body.
  • stabs herself.

The Prince of Verona thinks that the lovers’ deaths are punishment for the feud between the two families, who therefore decide to make peace.


Lessons on love and happiness

 Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and Happiness

1. Love

Romeo and Juliet is one of the greatest ever love stories.

They sacrifice their lives for their love, united by passion but divided by family feud.

In the famous balcony scene, Juliet (unaware that Romeo can hear her) implores him to overlook their family differences and love her.

“O, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name, or if they wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet”, she says.

 Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and Happiness

2. Passion isn’t enough

True love is more than just impulsive passion and infatuation.

Romeo shows his impulsiveness when he:

  • dumps his first love, Rosaline (when he sees Juliet).
  • kills Tybalt.

Realizing the murder’s disastrous consequences, he says;

“I am fortune’s fool”.

But the play also emphasizes the importance to successful relationships of:Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and Happiness

  • self-sacrifice.
  • emotional maturity.

Juliet is more mature than Romeo, despite only being two weeks away from her fourteenth birthday at the beginning of the play.

In the balcony scene she tells him not to swear his love “by yonder blessed moon”, because the moon may be

  • “inconstant”.
  • “prove false”.

Instead she emphasizes an ever growing and kind relationship.

“The more I give to thee the more I have, for both are infinite”, she says.

 Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and Happiness

3. Communication matters

Romeo tragically:

  • doesn’t hear about Friar Laurence’s plan.
  • kills himself (thinking Juliet is dead).

 Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and Happiness

4. Concentrate on what’s important

The love of Romeo and Juliet is the important thing, not the family feud that leads to:

  • their deaths.
  • the killing of Mercutio.

“A plague o’ [on] both your houses [i.e. families]”, says the dying Mercutio.

 Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and Happiness

5. Don’t dream your life away

Wisdom and happiness come from reality not dreams which Mercutio says are

“thin of substance as the air”.


6. Fate can be fatal

In the play’s prologue the chorus describe Romeo and Juliet as “star-crossed lovers” 

In other words, their destiny is determined by fate (or circumstances beyond their control).

 Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - Love and Happiness

7. Philosophy can help you in times of trouble

A troubled mind can be soothed by seeking and finding wisdom through philosophy (which Friar Laurence tells Romeo is “adversity’s sweet milk”).

But Romeo ignores his advice, because he is so distraught about his exile away from Juliet.

“Hang up philosophy! Unless philosophy can make a Juliet”, he says.


Key quotes on love

O, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name, or if they wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet, Juliet (in the balcony scene).

When I die take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night, Juliet (talking about Romeo on their wedding night).

Parting is such sweet sorrow, Juliet.


Key quotes on success

O fortune, fortune, all men call thee fickle, Juliet.

They stumble that run fast, Friar Laurence.


Key quotes on ethics

Tempt not a desperate man, Romeo.

Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied, and vice sometimes by action dignified, Friar Laurence.


Key quote on relationships

A plague o’ [on] both your houses, Mercutio.


Key quotes on stress and pain

Adversity’s sweet milk, philosophy, Friar Laurence.

One pain is lessened by another’s anguish, Benvolio.


Key quote on age

For you and I are past our dancing days, Lord Capulet.

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