Key moments in Romeo and Juliet and some significant facts about the play and its characters.

Romeo (David Dawson) receives another kiss from Juliet (Anneika Rose) at the ball.
Romeo and Juliet (2008), directed by Neil Bartlett.
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Key Moments from Romeo and Juliet

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.

We refer to the RSC Shakespeare edition of the plays. Act and scene numbers vary with different editions.

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 (this is Act 1, Scene 5 in many editions).

Romeo risks death to meet Juliet 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. This famous scene, known as the Balcony Scene, is numbered Act 2, Scene 2 in many editions.

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 kills 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 (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 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.


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Facts about Romeo and Juliet

  • The first words of Romeo and Juliet are in the form of a sonnet. This prologue reveals the ending to the audience before the play has properly begun. 

  • The play can be considered as a companion piece to that staged by the Mechanicals at the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Here the young lovers take their lives in earnest, but in A Midsummer Night's Dream the story of Pyramus and Thisbe becomes comic entertainment for three sets of newly-weds.
  • 90% of the play is in verse, with only 10% in prose. It contains some of Shakespeare's most beautiful poetry, including the sonnet Romeo and Juliet share when they first meet. 

  • Although a story of passionate first love, the play is also full of puns. Even in death, Mercutio manages to joke: 'ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a grave man'. 

  • Juliet is only 13 at the time she meets and marries Romeo, but we never learn his exact age. 

  • Like King Lear, the play was adapted by Nahum Tate, changing the story to give it a happy ending. 

  • In 1748, the famous David Garrick staged a version which did not include any mention of Romeo's love for Rosaline, because Garrick felt this made the tragic hero appear too fickle.
  • In March 1662, Mary Saunderson became almost certainly the first woman to play Juliet on the professional stage. Until the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, women were not allowed to perform in public. 

  • Romeo and Juliet, alongside Hamlet, is probably Shakespeare's most performed play and has also been adapted in many forms. 

  • The musical West Side Story is probably the most famous adaptation, while Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet brought Shakespeare's play to the MTV generation.