Who would you want to be?
Montague head of an important family in Verona, Romeo's father
Lady Montague Romeo's mother
Romeo their teenage son
Benvolio Romeo's cousin and friend
Abram Montague's servant
Balthasar Romeo's servant
Capulet head of another important family in Verona, Juliet's father
Lady Capulet Juliet's mother
Juliet their teenage daughter
Tybalt Juliet's quick-tempered cousin
Cousin Capulet an older member of the Capulet family
Nurse Juliet's nurse and carer
Peter servant and Nurse's attendant
Sampson and Gregory Capulet's servants
Prince Escalus Prince of Verona
Mercutio Romeo's hot-headed friend and relative of the prince
Paris a young count and potential husband for Juliet
Page servant to the Prince
Friar Laurence a Catholic monk who knows both Romeo and Juliet
Friar John a fellow monk
Apothecary a pharmacist in Mantua
Rosaline the girl Romeo likes before meeting Juliet (she never appears in the play)
The Chorus the narrator
The Watchmen officials, lawmen
Romeo and Juliet is one of the specially abridged plays for primary school children from The Shakespeare Schools Festival.
To find out more, visit www.ssf.uk.com
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-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought 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.
The prologue is the opening scene in Romeo and Juliet, when a narrator (Chorus) tells the audience about the play they are about to see. It's about two important families, living in 'fair' (beautiful) Verona in Italy. They have an 'ancient grudge' – they've been enemies for a long time – but new fighting and feuding has broken out between them. Their teenage children are the 'star-cross'd lovers': they fall in love, but their future is 'star-crossed' or unlucky. We are told, before the play even starts, that these two will kill themselves, so we know that is going to happen. It's not going to be a happy ending! It's a 'death-marked' love and, sadly, it's only their deaths can bury their parents' strife (anger with one another).
Ready for the play to begin? Click on Act I.
Prince: Throw your mistempered weapons to the ground... Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word by thee, old Capulet, and Montague, have thrice disturbed the quiet of our streets
The Prince stops a violent sword-fight between servants and members of
the Capulet and Montague households. It's the third time 'an airy word' has caused a fight and he's really angry with both of them for disturbing the peace of the city.
Capulet to Paris: My child is yet a stranger in the world. She hath not seen the change of fourteen years. Let two more summers wither in their pride ere we may think her ripe to be a bride.
Paris is after Juliet's hand in marriage, but her father says she's not yet fourteen and 'a stranger in the world' – naive and innocent. He wants two more summers to go by before she gets married. But he invites Paris to a party at his house – if Paris can make her fall in love with him, things might be different – or he might meet someone else there.
Benvolio to Romeo: At this same ancient feast of Capulet’s sups the fair Rosaline whom thou so loves, with all the admired beauties of Verona. Go... compare her face with some that I shall show, and I will make thee think thy swan a crow.
Benvolio and Romeo find out about Capulet's party and discover that Rosaline, the woman Romeo loves, will be there. Benvolio says that there will be lots of other beauties there – if they go (uninvited, because they are enemies of the Capulets), Romeo can compare Rosaline to others to see if she's more crow than swan, meaning not as pretty as Romeo thinks she is! They go masked but Tybalt notices them and is furious they are there. Capulet calms Tybalt down, saying he will not tolerate a fight at his party and Tybalt leaves in a rage.
Romeo (noticing Juliet): Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.
Romeo falls in love at first sight... They talk, they walk and they kiss! At the end of the party, they both learn who the other is.
Find out what happens when you fall in love with your enemy in Act II ...
Romeo (on seeing Juliet on the balcony): But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Romeo goes back to the Capulet house – saying he has left his heart there – and finds Juliet's room. She comes out onto her balcony.
Juliet: O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name. Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet.
Juliet cries out (not knowing he is there), why does the man she has fallen in love with have to be Romeo?! Can he not change his family and his name? Or if he won't, she will change her name so they can be together. Romeo calls up to her and they tell each other how they feel. They are madly, hopelessly and utterly in love with each another. It is the most romantic scene in the play, in any Shakespeare play.
The next day, Romeo goes to see his friend Friar Laurence. He tells him everything that has happened with Juliet and begs the Friar to marry them. Friar Laurence is amazed at how quickly Romeo has switched from Rosaline to Juliet! He also sees how this marriage would be a good thing to stop the feuding between the families.
Juliet sends Nurse to find Romeo and arrangements are set – Juliet is to go to Friar Laurence's cell (his room in the monastery), where she and Romeo will be married.
Friar Laurence: The sweetest honey Is loathsome in his own deliciousness and in the taste confounds the appetite. Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so.
Friar Laurence tries to calm down their passion and enthusiasm, by saying that sweet honey is delicious but too much can make you feel sick,. He tells them to love moderately if they want it to last. Then he marries the young couple.
Their happiness soon turns to disaster in Act III
Tybalt to Romeo: Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford
no better term than this: thou art a villain.
Tybalt is still furious with Romeo for attending the feast. He feels the family has been insulted and wants revenge. He calls Romeo a villain to insult him. He wants a fight! But Romeo will not fight his new wife's cousin – no matter how rude he is to him. However, Mercutio cannot stand to see his friend insulted. He draws his sword and a fight starts. Romeo gets between them but Tybalt manages to stab Mercutio under Romeo's arm.
Mercutio: Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man. I am peppered, I warrant, for this world. A plague o' both your houses!
Mercutio knows he will soon be in his grave. He curses both the house of Montague and Capulet before dying. Romeo is distraught. When Tybalt returns, Romeo fights with Tybalt and kills him. Benvolio encourages him to run away before everyone comes. Benvolio explains what has happened to the Prince and the assembled crowd. The Prince banishes Romeo from Verona.
Nurse brings the news to Juliet who is waiting for her new husband to join her. To hear that her cousin is dead is bad enough, but to hear that Romeo has been banished is even worse. She falls into deep despair.
Juliet to Nurse: O, find him! Give this ring to my true knight and bid him come to take his last farewell.
Romeo is with Friar Laurence. He is also in despair, weeping and threatening to hurt himself. The Friar gets really cross. He tells Romeo how lucky he is to be alive and not sentenced to death for killing Tybalt. He tells him to go to Juliet and then to travel to Mantua where he can wait for their marriage to be accepted. Nurse arrives to give Romeo Juliet's ring and he goes to spend his first and last night with his new wife.
But that very night, Juliet's father agrees to a wedding between Paris and Juliet – in just a few days time! And when Juliet refuses, he goes crazy with anger, telling her he'll disown her and throw her out of the house and out of this life. Juliet doesn't know what to do – and Nurse is no comfort.
There is only one man who can help. Find out who in Act IV.
Juliet to Friar Laurence: Be not so long to speak. I long to die
If what thou speak’st speak not of remedy.
Juliet goes to the Friar in the hope that he has a solution to this desperate situation. If he doesn't, she says she will kill herself.. And the Friar has an idea! He gives her a potion to take that stop her pulse and make her go cold, as if dead. Her parents will put her body in the Capulet crypt...
Friar Laurence: And in this borrowed likeness of shrunk death thou shalt continue two and forty hours, and then awake as from a pleasant sleep.
When she wakes up after forty-two hours, it will be as if she had just been asleep. The Friar will send word to Romeo to come and rescue Juliet, and they can both disappear to Mantua where they can live a happy, married life and no one will know. Juliet is delighted with the plan and goes back home, apologises to her father and agrees to get ready for the wedding to Paris.
That night Juliet thinks of all the awful things that could go wrong – particularly waking up in tomb of dead people and spirits! But she bravely takes the potion, and in the morning the wedding turns into a funeral when Nurse discovers her lifeless body.
Does it all end happily ever after? Find out in Act V.
Romeo to the Apothecary: Let me have a dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear as will disperse itself through all the veins that the life-weary taker may fall dead...Romeo's servant Balthasar returns from Verona with news of Juliet's death. Romeo decides he cannot live without her. He asks an apothecary to give him a poison that will act instantly. But why did Friar Laurence's message not get to Romeo? Because Friar John, the messenger, was confined to the house because of the plague (a horrible disease of the time)! Friar Laurence goes to save Juliet from the tomb.Paris to Romeo: Condemned villain, I do apprehend thee.Romeo arrives at the tomb but Paris is already there. Romeo asks him to leave – he doesn't want to fight – but Paris tries to arrest him. They draw their swords and Romeo kills Paris. He goes to find Juliet.Romeo, looking at Juliet: Eyes, look your last! Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you the door of breath, seal with a righteous kiss a dateless bargain to engrossing death!Juliet still looks so beautiful to Romeo. After hugging and kissing her, he takes the poison and falls down dead, just as Friar Laurence enters the tomb and Juliet wakes up! The Friar is horrified to see both Paris and Romeo dead. He tries to get Juliet to leave the tomb because the Watchmen are coming, but she won't leave. Instead, she finds Romeo's dagger and stabs herself.The Watchmen arrive, shortly followed by the Prince, Romeo's parents and Juliet's parents. Friar Laurence, Paris's page and Balthasar reveal everything that has happened. Balthasar has a letter from Romeo confirming it all.Prince: Capulet, Montague, see what a scourge is laid upon your hate, That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love. And I...have lost a brace of kinsmen. All are punished.The Prince is harsh to Capulet and Montague. Their feuding has led to the deaths of their loved ones, and members of his family, too. Everyone has been punished. Capulet and Montague both agree to end their feuding and build a statue of gold to the other's child.The End
READ THE STORY
Retellings for children don't get much better than this one. Lively, easy to read, large print, fun illustrations.
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A book designed to be an engaging and enjoyable first introduction to Shakespeare; his life, work and plays. Discover what is was like to live in Elizabethan England, and learn why Shakespeare is still so popular 400 years after his death.
READ THE STORY
With 16 pages of notes and discussion, this is an excellent retelling for older children 9+.
To truly appreciate the play, you need to see it performed. Here is a UK listing for 2015.
KINGSTON: Rose Theatre
To be included in a Shakespeare for School listing, please email webmaster@Shakespeareforschool.uk
Illustrations © Adria Meserve 2014. Text © Penny Worms 2014. All rights reserved.