Key moments

Every director will choose their own key moments in Romeo and Juliet depending on how they are interpreting the play.
Here we've listed some important moments in the order in which they appear in the play.

The scene is set (Act 1 Scene 1)
Montague and Capulet servants clash in the street, the Prince threatens dire punishment if another such brawl should take place, and Romeo tells his friend, Benvolio, of his obsession with Rosaline.

The lovers meet for the first time (Act 1 Scene 4)
Romeo is persuaded to attend a masked party at the Capulet household. Not knowing who she is, he falls in love with Juliet the moment he sees her, and she, equally ignorant that he is a Montague, falls just as instantly for him.

Romeo risks death to meet his loveJuliet again (Act 2 Scene 1)
When everyone has left the party, Romeo creeps into the Capulet garden and sees Juliet on her balcony. They reveal their mutual love and Romeo leaves, promising to arrange a secret marriage and let Juliet's messenger, her old Nurse, have the details the following morning.

The wedding is held in secret (Act 2 Scene 5)
Juliet tells her parents she is going to make her confession to Friar Laurence, meets Romeo there and, despite some personal misgivings, the friar marries them immediately.

Romeo angrily kills Juliet's cousin, Tybalt (Act 3 Scene 1)
Romeo meets Tybalt in the street, and is challenged by him to a duel. Romeo refuses to fight and his friend Mercutio is so disgusted by this 'cowardice' that the takes up the challenge instead. As Romeo tries to break up the fight, Tybalt manages to killkills Mercutio and, enraged, Romeo then kills Tybalt. The Prince arrives and, on hearing the full story, banishes Romeo rather than have him executed.

The unhappy couple are parted (Act 3 Scene 5)
Arranged by the Friar and the Nurse, Romeo and Juliet have spent their wedding night together. They are immediately parted though, as Romeo must leave for banishment in Mantua or die if he is found in Verona. Believing her grief to be for the death of her cousin, Juliet's father tries to cheer Juliet by arranging her immediate marriage to Paris. He threatens to disown her when she asks for the marriage to be at least postponed, and she runs to the Friar for advice and help.

The Friar suggests a dangerous solution to the problem (Act 4 Scene 1)
Juliet arrives at the Friar's to be met by Paris, who is busy discussing their wedding plans. She is so desperate that she threatens suicide, and the Friar instead suggests that she takes a potion that will make her appear to be dead. He promises to send a message to Romeo, asking him to return secretly and be with Juliet when she wakes, once her 'body' has been taken to the family crypt.

Juliet is found 'dead' (Act 4 Scene 4)
The Nurse discovers Juliet 's 'body' dead' when she goes to wake her for her marriage Paris. Friar Laurence is called, counsels the family to accept their grief, and arranges for Juliet to be 'buried' immediately.

Romeo learns of the tragedy and plans his own suicide (Act 5 Scene 1)
Romeo's servant, Balthasar, reaches Mantua before the Friar's messenger and tells Romeo that Juliet is dead. Romeo buys poison and leaves for Verona, planning to die alongside Juliet's body.

The tragic conclusion (Act 5 Scene 3)
Trying to break into the Capulet crypt, Romeo is disturbed by Paris and they fight. Romeo kills Paris and reaches Juliet's body. He drinks the poison, kisses his wife for the last time, and dies. Having learned that Romeo never received his message, the Friar comes to the crypt to be with Juliet when she wakes. He finds Paris's body and reaches Juliet just as she revives. He cannot persuade her to leave her dead husband, and runs away in fear. Juliet realises what has happened, takes Romeo's knife and stabs herself to death with it. The watchmen discover the gruesome sight and call the Prince, to whom the Friar confesses everything. Having heard the full story, the Montagues and Capulets are reconciled. Peace has been achieved, but the price has been the lives of two innocent young lovers.

Written by Kath Bradley MPhil (Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham).
Kath has worked for the RSC in a variety of roles since 2005.

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