Romeo and Juliet

Comprehensive Storyform

The following analysis reveals a comprehensive look at the Storyform for Romeo and Juliet. Unlike most of the analysis found here—which simply lists the unique individual story appreciations—this in-depth study details the actual encoding for each structural item. This also means it has been incorporated into the Dramatica Story Expert application itself as an easily referenced contextual example.

Story Dynamics

8 of the 12 essential questions

Main Character Resolve

Romeo remains steadfast in his love for Juliet and desire to remain at her side—to the point of following his wife in death.

Main Character Growth

Romeo has to start acting like the man that Juliet is certain he can be.

Main Character Approach

Romeo’s first preference in approaching a conflict is to adapt himself to the environment, for example, he lacks interest in the (contentious) ” . . . activities of his gang of friends, whom he accompanies only reluctantly to the Capulet feast: ‘I’ll be a candle holder and look on’” (1.4.38) (Paster 258); After making Juliet his wife, he tries to placate Tybalt rather than fight him; and so forth.

Main Character Mental Sex

Romeo uses cause and effect problem solving techniques.  As an example, in his first scene with Benvolio, he explains Rosaline’s cold heart is the cause of his morose behavior—he does not look beyond this to determine the real reason for his unhappiness—that he has not yet found true love.

Story Driver

The “three civil brawls” (1.1.91) the Capulets and Montagues have engaged in force Prince Escalus to determine: “If you ever disturb our streets again,/Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace” (1.1.98-99), thus driving the story forward.  Gibbons asserts: “In Romeo and Juliet the play’s decisive events occur with instantaneous suddenness: servants brawl on sight, the lovers fall in love at first sight, the shock of the tragic catastrophe converts the parents suddenly and completely from hate to love” (70).

Story Limit

With their two only children dead, the Montagues and Capulets come to their senses and reconcile.

Story Outcome

The grief stricken Capulets and Montagues reconcile, horrified the ancient grudge has resulted in their children’s deaths:
A glooming peace this morning with it brings.  The sun for sorrow will not show his head (5.3.316-317).

Story Judgment

Romeo ultimately fails in his efforts to live happily ever after with his “heart’s dear love” (2.3.61)—“For never was a story of more woe/Than this of Juliet and her Romeo” (5.3.320-21).

Overall Story Throughline

""An Ancient Grudge""

Overall Story Throughline

Problems in the objective story are derived from activities and endeavors, principally to do with the ancient grudge between the Capulets and Montagues, and Friar Lawrence’s attempt to reconcile the two families.  Gibbons explains:
Shakespeare makes the plot depend crucially on messages.  He invents the episode in which Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio learn by accident from Capulet’s illiterate servant of the proposed ball.  This scheme is repeated when the Nurse haphazardly encounters the young gallants, and Romeo lightheartedly identifies himself amidst the bawdy mockery of his friends.  Later, the Nurse brings Juliet a happy reply (II,v).  In the second, tragic, movement of the play, the Nurse brings Juliet the news of Tybalt’s death and Romeo’s banishment . . . . Shakespeare stresses in both scenes the ease with which messages can go wrong; so Juliet at first thinks it is Romeo, not Tybalt, whom the Nurse saw bedaubed in gore-blood. . . . In the closing movement of the play Balthasar brings Romeo the false report of Juliet’s death (v.i); immediately afterwards, as Romeo leaves the stage by one door, bearing a phail of poison, Friar John enters by another to begin the next scene by telling Friar Laurence how he failed to get through with the message that Juliet is drugged, not dead. (41-42)

Overall Story Concern

The objective characters are concerned with engaging in battles of wits, wills, and physical strength—much for the sake of a “quarrel between the two families [Montagues and Capulets] . . . so ancient that the original motives are no longer even discussed.  Inspired by the ‘fiery’ Tybalt, factionalism pursues its mindless course despite the efforts of the Prince to end it” (Bevington xxii).

Overall Story Issue

Thematic issues regarding experience in the objective story are illustrated in terms of age.  This is seen particularly in Lord Capulet and Nurse, both who think they know what’s best for Juliet, and Friar Lawrence, who counsels the young lovers.

Overall Story Counterpoint

Skill is illustrated in feats of swordplay, such as the duel between Mercutio and Tybalt—and in feats of wordplay, such as Mercutio’s “Queen Mab” speech.  Proficiency in both is well regarded.

Overall Story Thematic Conflict
Experience vs.Skill

In Romeo and Juliet, experience creates a generation gap between old and young.  Aptitude for a quick draw or insightful jest is held in higher esteem by the younger generation, more than any experience an elder might try to pass on.

Overall Story Problem

Expectations the objective characters have for one another create problems.  An illustration of this is seen in Paris, Juliet’s prospective bridegroom.  Capulet has granted permission for the young man to court and marry his daughter—when Juliet refuses the suit, Capulet is outraged and abusive.

Overall Story Solution

Friar Lawrence, Prince Escalus, Capulet and Montague all determine their part and acknowledge their accountability in the tragedy of the young lovers: “The long last public ceremonial is important because, although the private catastrophe of the lovers is unalterably complete, recognition occurs only when the whole story is known by all” (Bevington xxv).

Overall Story Symptom

The Prince will not tolerate any more “frays” on the part of the Capulets and Montagues; Lord Capulet does not tolerate his daughter’s insubordination, neither does Lady Capulet: “Talk not to me, for I’ll not speak a word./Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee” (3.5.215).

Overall Story Response

Despite Prince Escalus’ pronouncement against further outbreaks of violence between the Capulets and Montagues: “Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace” (1.1.99), he is tolerant when Romeo kills Tybalt, allowing him banishment instead of death.

Overall Story Catalyst

The objective story accelerates when Friar Lawrence intuitively discerns, if he aids Romeo and Juliet in their desire to marry, their rival families will ultimately reconcile: “In one respect I’ll thy assistant be,/For this alliance may so happy prove/To turn your households’ rancour to pure love” (2.3.96-99); After Mercutio’s death: “. . . Romeo sees at once that an irreversible process has begun . . . . The temper of this new world is largely a function of onrushing events” (Snyder 178).

Overall Story Inhibitor

The action that starts the story is halted when, after the feuding families have engaged in “Three civil brawls”(1.1.91), the Prince threatens Capulet and Montague: “If ever you disturb our streets again,/Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace” (1.1.98-99); As a warning to the community against further battles, Prince Escalus banishes Romeo.  The objective story is impeded—Friar Lawrence counsels Romeo to wait patiently “. . . . till we can find a time/To blaze your marriage, reconcile your friends,/Beg pardon of the Prince, and call thee back” (3.3.150-52).

Overall Story Benchmark

Much of the tragedy can be attributed to ignorance and misinformation.  As the characters begin to learn the true nature of people and events, they can begin to make informed decisions.

Additional Overall Story Information →
Overall Story Throughline Synopsis

The Montagues and Capulets, the two chief families of Verona, are bitter enemies; Escalus, the prince, threatens anyone who disturbs the peace with death.  Romeo, son of old Lord Montague, is in love with Lord Capulet’s niece Rosaline.  But at a feast given by Capulet, which Romeo attends disguised by a mask, he sees and falls in love with Juliet, Capulet’s daughter, and she with him.  After the feast he overhears, under her window, Juliet’s confession of her love for him, and wins her consent to a secret marriage.  With the help of Friar Laurence, they are wedded next day.  Mercutio, a friend of Romeo, meets Tybalt, of the Capulet family, who is infuriated by his discovery of Romeo’s presence at the feast, and they quarrel.  Romeo comes on the scene, and attempts to reason with Tybalt, but Tybalt and Mercutio fight, and Mercutio falls.  Then Romeo draws and Tybalt is killed.  The prince, Montague, and Capulet come up, and Romeo is sentenced to banishment.  Early the next day, after spending the night with Juliet, he leaves Verona for Mantua, counselled by the friar, who intends to reveal Romeo’s marriage at an opportune moment.  Capulet proposes to marry Juliet to Count Paris, and when she seeks excuses to avoid this, peremptorily insists.  Juliet consults the friar, who bids her consent to the match, but on the night before the wedding drink a potion which will render her apparently lifeless for 42 hours.  He will warn Romeo, who will rescue her from the vault on her awakening and carry her to Mantua.  The friar’s message to Romeo miscarries, and Romeo hears that Juliet is dead.  Buying poison, he comes to the vault to have a last sight of Juliet.  He chances upon Count Paris outside the vault; they fight and Paris is killed.  Then Romeo, after a last kiss on Juliet’s lips, drinks the poison and dies.  Juliet awakes and finds Romeo dead by her side, and the cup still in his hand.  Guessing what has happened, she stabs herself and dies.  The story is unfolded by the friar and Count Paris’s page, and Montague and Capulet, faced by the tragic results of their enmity, are reconciled.  The play begins with a sonnet spoken by the chorus and in its poetry, language, and plot reflects the sonnet craze of the 1590’s from which period Shakespeare’s own sequence dates. (Drabble 854)

Overall Story Backstory

The backstory of Shakespeare’s tragedy is described in the prologue: 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.

Main Character Throughline

Romeo — Lover

Main Character Throughline

What sets Romeo apart from the other males in the story is his disposition in regard to women—one from which he essentially does not waver:
Feuding, then, is the form that male bonding takes in Verona, a bonding which seems linked to the derogation of woman.  But Romeo, from the very opening of the play, is distanced both physically and emotionally from the feud . . . . He is alienated . . . from the idea of sexuality that underlies it.  Romeo subscribes to a different, indeed a competing view of woman—the idealizing view of the Petrarchan lover. (Paster 257)

Main Character Concern

Romeo embodies impulsive actions: As Friar Lawrence admonishes: “Wisely and slow.  They stumble that run fast” (2.4.101).  “Romeo . . . misreads the signs of Juliet’s revival.  Less than a minute’s hesitation here would have saved his life and Juliet’s, but Romeo acts in passionate haste” (Gibbons 53).

Main Character Issue

Romeo does not allow himself the luxury of confidence: “Romeo fears ‘Some consequence yet hanging in the stars’ when he reluctantly goes to the Capulet’s feast (1.4.107); After he has slain Tybalt, he cries ‘O, I am fortune’s fool!’ (3.1.135)” (Bevington xxii).

Main Character Counterpoint

It is his love for Juliet that instills confidence in Romeo—enough to defy his family and friends.

Main Character Thematic Conflict
Worry vs.Confidence

Although Romeo’s nature does not essentially change, he does mature from an apprehensive boy to a man confident in his decisions.  Gibbons explains:
When we first hear of Romeo . . . he is described in the attitude of a typical Elizabethan melancholy lover . . . . By the beginning of the last scene, Romeo’s transformation of personality is expressed in a new note of resolution and command, compressed, resonant and personal (50).

Main Character Problem

Romeo’s desire for immediate results is the cause of his problems.

Main Character Solution

Romeo needs to take part of the process to achieve the results he desires.

Main Character Symptom

Romeo focuses on what is inadequate to his needs and desires.  An example of this is when he learns he is banished:
Ha, banishment?  Be merciful, say “death,”/For exile hath more terror in his look,/Much more than death.  Do not say “banishment (3.3.13).
. . . O deadly sin, O rude unthankfulness! . . . This is a dear mercy, and thou seest it not (3.3.25,30).

Main Character Response

Romeo directs his efforts towards what is acceptable.  “Romeo’s love of introspective solitude” (Gibbons 53) is tolerated by his parents; Romeo tolerates the antics of his friends; After Friar Lawrence’s sententious words, he goes off to Matua until his presence will once more be tolerated in Verona; and so forth.

Main Character Unique Ability

Romeo’s steadfast belief in his own worth and his right to marry Juliet causes him to defy his own family and that of the Capulets—crucial to the rival families’ ultimate reconciliation.

Main Character Critical Flaw

What Romeo covets undermines his efforts—evidenced in his desire for Rosaline:
Many a morning hath he there been seen,/With tears augmenting the fresh morning dew,/Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs (1.1.134-36).
. . . What sadness lengthens Romeo’s hours?
Not having that, which, having, makes them short.
In love?
. . . Out of her favor where I am in love. . . . A sick man in sadness makes his will—/A word ill urged to one that is so ill./In sadness, cousin, I do love a woman (1.1.210-12).

Main Character Benchmark

Romeo is first presented as a self-conscious “poseur”—and five days later he has matured, but not quite enough to make sensible, informed decisions.  Bryant asserts:
What Romeo needs most of all is a teacher, and the only one capable of giving him instruction worth having and giving it quickly is Mercutio.  All the rest are unavailable, or ineffectual, like Benvolio, or unapt for dealing practically with human relations. . . . His first line in the play, discharged at a young fool who is playing the ascetic for love, is revealing: “Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance” (1.4.13).  And when gentle Romeo persists in day-dreaming, he says, “Be rough with love,” declares that love is a mire and that dreamers are often liars.  The long fairy speech which follows dignifies idle dreams by marrying them to earth; its intent is to compel Romeo to acknowledge his senses and to bring him to an honest and healthy confession of what he is really looking for, but Romeo is too wrapped up in self-deception to listen.  In Act 2 Mercutio tries harder, speaks more plainly, but prompts from his pupil only the fatuous “He jests at scars that never felt a wound.”  Later still, in the battle of wits (2.4), Mercutio imagines briefly that he has succeeded: “Why, is not this better now than groaning for love?  Now art though sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature” (92.95).  There are no wiser words in the whole play, and none more ironic; for Romeo even here has not found his identity and is never really to find it except for those fleeting moments when Juliet is there to lead him by the hand. (lxxviii)

Additional Main Character Information →
Main Character Description

“Young Romeo is it? (1.5.72) He bears him like a portly gentleman,/And, to say truth, Verona brags of him/To be a virtuous and well-governed youth” (1.5.75-77).

Main Character Throughline Synopsis

When we first hear of Romeo in Shakespeare’s play he is described in the attitude of a typical Elizabethan melancholy lover; he is young and untried, but there is at first an element of parody in Shakespeare’s presentation of him; his conventionality and bookishness are obvious in the first words he speaks, all absurdly stereotyped paradox and similitude . . . it is only the unusually rapid and intense alternations of mood, and a certain musical sensitivity on diction that enliven his speech. . . . When Romeo enters Capulet’s garden . . . . Romeo . . . finds new language. . . . Romeo’s development, however, is not achieved without uncertainties, hesitations, and false notes. (Gibbons 47)

Main Character Backstory

Romeo, infatuated with the fair Rosaline, pines away for the lady who does not return his interest.  He is a romantic, predisposed to fall in love with the first sight of Juliet.

Influence Character Throughline

Juliet — Object of Affection

Influence Character Throughline

Juliet is a very young girl and only child—she is expected to be obedient to her parents’ wishes, despite any of her own desires that may be to the contrary.

Influence Character Concern

Juliet is concerned with her changing status—obedient daughter of the Capulets to wife of a rival Montague—her particular concern is, the way things are going (her family not aware of her marriage), she will soon find herself married off to Paris.

Influence Character Issue

Juliet threatens Romeo’s relationship with his male friends: “Romeo is not really asked to choose between Juliet and his family but between Juliet and Mercutio, who are opposed in the play’s thematic structure” (Paster 261); Juliet “threatens suicide if Friar Lawrence cannot save her from marrying Paris” (Mowat and Werstine 176).

Influence Character Counterpoint

A child of her father’s house, Juliet only has security when she obeys the rules.  Once she decides not to live up to parental expectations, she has no familial protection:
Hang thee, young baggage, disobedient wretch!/I tell thee what: get thee to church o’ Thursday,/Or never after look me in the face. (3.5.166-68)

Influence Character Thematic Conflict
Threat vs.Security

Juliet’s thematic conflict is best illustrated when she dares to disobey her parents.  Her apparent willfulness compels her father to threaten the very security she is dependent upon.

Influence Character Problem

Juliet is driven by the expectations placed upon her:
A woman . . . was a daughter, wife, or widow expected to be chaste, silent, and above all, obedient.  It is a profound and necessary act of historical imagination, then, to recognize innovation in the moment when Juliet impatiently invokes the coming of night and the husband she has disobediently married: “Come gentle night; come loving black-browed night,/Give me my Romeo” (3.2.21-23) (Paster 254).

Influence Character Solution

Juliet’s self-determination is what satisfies her personal drive.

Influence Character Symptom

“In terms of the play’s symbolic vocabulary, Juliet’s preparations to imitate death on the very bed where her sexual maturation from girl to womanhood occurred confirms ironically her earlier premonition about Romeo” (Paster 263): If he be married,/My grave is like to be my wedding bed (1.5.148-49).

Influence Character Response

At Friar Lawrence’s suggestion, Juliet agrees to the theory if she takes the potion to create a visage of death, her parents will plunge into a despair so great, that upon her awakening, they will smile upon her marriage to Romeo.  Unfortunately, Romeo is not privy to this information, and believing her dead, kills himself.

Influence Character Unique Ability

Romeo creates fantasy girls—first seen with his mooning over Rosaline.  He tries to do the same with Juliet, but she will have none of that.  She makes him realize he is in love with a woman, not a fantastical creature of his imagination.  Conversely, the private world Juliet creates for Romeo is a fantasy from the reality of his harsh, external environment.
Wilt thou be gone?  It is not yet near day.
It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear.
Nightly she sings on yond pomegranate tree.
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale. (3.5.1-5)

Influence Character Critical Flaw

Juliet’s lack of experience undermines her efforts: “Her five-day maturation is a miracle which only Shakespeare could have made credible; yet at the end she is still a fourteen-year-old girl, and she succumbs to an adolescent’s despair” (Bryant lxxviii).

Influence Character Benchmark

Over the course of the story, Juliet’s concern is measured against the current situation and circumstances.

More Influence Character Information →
Influence Character Description

“Youth, freshness, and vulnerable innocence” (Gibbons 40)

Influence Character Throughline Synopsis

Juliet is the daughter of Lord and Lady Capulet.  At the start of her throughline she responds to her mother’s question: “Can you like of Paris’ love?” (1.4.102), with: “I’ll look to like, if looking liking move./But no more deep will I endart mine eye/Than your consent gives strength to make it fly” (1.4.103-05).  Over the course of several days, however, Juliet transforms herself from dutiful daughter to a wife—fierce in her commitment to her husband, Romeo, following him even in death: “If that thy bent of love be honorable,/Thy purpose marriage . . . all my fortunes at thy foot I’ll lay/And follow thee my lord throughout the world” (2.2.150-55).

Influence Character Backstory

Juliet is a young teen—as her father informs Paris: “My child is yet a stranger in the world” (1.2.8).  Paster states: “A woman’s identity was conceived almost exclusively in relation to male authority and marital status” (254).

Relationship Story Throughline

""Love at First Sight""

Relationship Story Throughline

Romeo and Juliet do not fall in with their families’ way of thinking:
Romeo and Juliet find a new discourse of romantic individualism . . . their union imperils the traditional relations between males that is founded upon the exchange of women, whether the violent exchange Gregory and Sampson crudely imagine or the normative exchange planned by Capulet and Paris.  Juliet, as the daughter whose erotic willfulness activates her father’s transformation from concerned to tyrannical parent, is the greater rebel. (Paster 264)

Relationship Story Concern

The suddenness of Romeo and Juliet’s love, the circumstances in which they are a part—that of belonging to feuding families, and their extreme youth all contribute to the feeling that this is a temporary relationship.  Romeo and Juliet’s concern is temporarily keeping their marriage secret—hoping to eventually fulfill the role of peacemakers.
An example of Romeo and Juliet’s concern with who they are is illustrated in Juliet’s balcony speech:
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. (2.2.36-39)
‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s a Montague?  . . . What’s in a name?
That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet . . . (2.2.41-43/46-47)

Relationship Story Issue

“The logic of Juliet’s almost instant disobedience in looking at, and liking, Romeo (rather than Paris) can be understood as the ironic fulfillment of the fears in traditional patriarchal culture about the uncontrollability of female desire, the alleged tendency of the female gaze to wander.” (Paster 260)

Relationship Story Counterpoint

The thematic counterpoint to Romeo and Juliet’s desire to be together is “ability”—in this case their inability to engage in romance publicly.

Relationship Story Thematic Conflict
Desire vs.Ability

Romeo and Juliet overcome all obstacles in their desire to be together—for the brief time they are able.

Relationship Story Problem

Romeo and Juliet must deal with the effects of their romance.  Because they choose to keep it secret, mishaps and misunderstandings occur—to the relationship’s detriment.

Relationship Story Solution

If certain objective characters had understood the cause of Romeo and Juliet’s strange behavior, the tragedy may not have occurred.  For example: “For all his dictatorial ways, and the manifest advantages he sees in marrying his daughter to an aristocrat, Capulet would never knowingly force his daughter into bigamy” (Bevington xxiii).

Relationship Story Symptom

“Non-Accurate” as the subjective story focus is emphasized in Romeo and Juliet.  Tragic mishaps occur because of non-accurate information, for example, Balthasar’s report to Romeo of Juliet’s death is not quite accurate.  In terms of “non-accurate” meaning “not within tolerance,” the Capulets and Montagues, at least from the outset, would not tolerate a relationship between the two—hence Romeo and Juliet’s (and Friar Lawrence and Nurse’s) need for secrecy; Mercutio, as Romeo’s closest friend, does not really tolerate Romeo’s romantic pursuits, let alone a true love that would separate Romeo as a man from the “boys”; and so forth.

Relationship Story Response

Accuracy is attempted in Romeo and Juliet’s relationship.  For example, Friar Laurence is careful to give Juliet just the right amount of poison:
If thou darest, I’ll give thee remedy. (4.1.77)
The efforts in the subjective story are directed toward making the relationship acceptable, however: “. . . the secret marriage in which this new language of feeling is contained cannot here be granted the sanction of a comic outcome.  When Romeo and Juliet reunite, it is only to see each other, dead, in the dim confines of the Capulet crypt.  In this play the autonomy of romantic individualism remains ‘star-crossed’” (Paster 264).

Relationship Story Catalyst

Romeo overhears Juliet musing aloud.  Juliet’s honest expression of her feelings for him spurs on their relationship:
O Romeo, Romeo!  Wherefore [why] 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.
ROMEO [Aside]
Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?
. . . Romeo, doff thy name;/And for thy name, which is no part of thee,/Take all myself.
I take thee at thy word./Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized. . . (2.2.33-38, 47-50)

Relationship Story Inhibitor

The apprehension concerning the future of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship impedes the subjective story progress:
O God, I have an ill-diving soul!/Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low,/As one dead in the bottom of a tomb (3.5.54-56).

Relationship Story Benchmark

As an example of “conceiving” as the standard by which growth is measured in the subjective story, after their first meeting, Juliet conceives of the next step in their relationship:
Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed.
If that thy bent of love be honorable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,
By one that I’ll procure to come to thee,
Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite
And all my fortunes at thy foot I’ll lay
And follow thee my lord throughout the world. (2.2.149-155)

Additional Relationship Story Information →
Relationship Story Throughline Synopsis

The characters of Romeo and Juliet have been depicted in literature, music, dance, and theater.  The appeal of the young hero and heroine—whose families, the Montagues and Capulets, respectively, are implacable enemies—is such that they have become, in the popular imagination, the representative type of star-crossed lovers. . . . Shakespeare set the scene in Verona, Italy, during July.  Juliet, a Capulet, and Romeo, a Montague, fall in love at a masked ball of the Capulets and profess their love when Romeo later visits her at her private balcony in her family’s home.  Because the two noble families are enemies, the couple is married secretly by Friar Laurence.  When Tybalt, a Capulet, kills Romeo’s friend Mercutio in a quarrel, Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished to Mantua.  Juliet’s father insists on her marrying Count Paris, and Juliet goes to consult the friar.  He gives her a potion that makes a person appear to be dead.  He proposes that she take it and that Romeo rescue her; she complies.  Unaware of the friar’s scheme, Romeo returns to Verona on hearing of Juliet’s apparent death.  He encounters Paris, kills him, and finds Juliet in the burial vault.  He gives her a last kiss and kills himself with poison.  Juliet awakens, sees the dead Romeo, and kills herself.  The families learn what has happened and end their feud. (Merriam Webster 964-65)

Relationship Story Backstory

It is not simply that the families of Romeo and Juliet disapprove of the lover’s affection for each other; rather, the Montagues and the Capulets are on opposite sides in a blood feud and are trying to kill each other on the streets of Verona.  Every time a member of one of the two families dies in the fight, his relatives demand the blood of his killer.  Because of the feud, if Romeo is discovered with Juliet, he will be killed.  Once Romeo is banished, the only way that Juliet can avoid being married to someone else is to take a potion that apparently kills her, so that she is buried with the bodies of her slain relatives.  In this violent, death-filled world, the movement of the story from love at first sight to the union of the lovers in death seems almost inevitable. (Mowat and Werstine xiii)

Additional Story Points

Key Structural Appreciations

Overall Story Goal

Friar Lawrence states the goal, the Capulet and Montagues’ feud must be undone—Romeo and Juliet will marry: “To turn your households’ rancour to pure love” (2.3.99).  “The Friar’s aims are those implicit in the play’s comic movement: an inviolable union for Romeo and Juliet and an end to the families’ feud” (Snyder 180).

Overall Story Consequence

If the Capulets and Montagues cannot come to terms, they will continue to be arch-enemies—passing on the role to younger generations.  The violence acted out over a long forgotten grudge will continue to bring grief to the community of Verona.

Overall Story Cost

Friar Lawrence aids in Romeo and Juliet’s marital union in hopes it will advance mending the rift between the feuding families—the cost of this progress is the loss of their and other’s lives.  In another example: “Friar Laurence and the Nurse have no place in the new world brought into being by Mercutio’s death, the world of limited time, no effective choice, no escape.  They define and sharpen the tragedy by their very failure to find a part in the dramatic progress, by their growing estrangement from the true springs of the action” (Snyder 181).

Overall Story Dividend

Romeo and Juliet give into their impulse to love rashly—which gives them brief happiness; The impulsive banter Mercutio and the Nurse engage in entertains the gallants; and so forth.

Overall Story Requirements

Montague and Capulet learn of the events that have transpired, and vow to keep peace.

Overall Story Prerequisites

Friar Lawrence devises a way to end the feud—marry Romeo and Juliet.

Overall Story Preconditions

Romeo explains to Friar Lawrence the circumstances of Juliet and his relationship—and in the young man’s mind it is imperative they wed right now: “Then plainly know my heart’s dear love is set/On the fair daughter of rich Capulet./As mine on hers, so hers is set on mine (2.3.61-63).  We met, we wooed, and made exchange of vow” (2.3.66).

Overall Story Forewarnings

An example of “conscious” as a forewarning to the consequence of “being”—the Capulets and Montagues remaining rivals—is illustrated during Capulet’s feast, when Tybalt becomes cognizant of Romeo on the premises, and wishes to remove him.  Capulet refuses to allow Tybalt to create a fracas during the party; Tybalt exits bitterly, contemplating revenge at a later date: “I will withdraw, but this intrusion shall,/Now seeming sweet, convert to bitt’rest gall.” (102-103)

Plot Progression

Dynamic Act Appreciations

Overall Story

Overall Story Signpost 1

Capulet and Montague learn what the consequences of further brawls between households will be; Romeo’s family wishes to: “learn from whence his sorrows grow” (1.1.157); Romeo tells Benvolio: “Thou canst not teach me to forget” (1.1.246) about Rosaline; Romeo and Benvolio learn of Capulet’s feast, and that his niece Rosaline is on the guest list; and so forth.

Overall Story Journey 1 from Learning to Understanding

Friar Lawrence learns of Romeo’s change of heart, and immediately comprehends what this could mean towards achieving peace in the community.

Overall Story Signpost 2

Friar Lawrence appreciates what the marriage of Romeo and Juliet can mean to the community; None of Romeo’s gallant friends understand his not accepting Tybalt’s challenge—Mercutio in particular; and so forth.

Overall Story Journey 2 from Understanding to Doing

The objective story progresses from misunderstandings to wrongdoings and misadventures.

Overall Story Signpost 3

Capulet prepares for his daughter’s wedding; Friar Lawrence prepares Juliet for “death”; and so forth.

Overall Story Journey 3 from Doing to Obtaining

The best example of how the objective story progresses from “doing” to “obtaining” is found in Friar Lawrence’s final speech, as he explains how the community’s actions have resulted in loss, and yet will have ultimately achieved a peace between the Montagues and Capulets:
As the Prince and the lover’s families stand silent in grief, the Friar gives a virtually uninterrupted account . . . . This narrative awakens pity, compassion and guilt in them, and as he delivers it the Friar begins his expiation in the act of confession.  The dangerous folly of his meddling in natural magic now apparent, his good intentions may speak in mitigation of his guilt.  Moreover, his narrative has such cumulative effect that the Prince himself, in pronouncing judgement, includes his own name among the guilty, and in that confession prepares the way for full reconciliation. (Gibbons 76)

Overall Story Signpost 4

Lives are lost as peace is finally achieved between the Capulets and Montagues.

Main Character

Main Character Signpost 1

Benvolio reports to Lady Montague and her husband, once Romeo “was ‘ware of me” (1.1.126) he “gladly fled” (1.1.133); Romeo’s first response to Juliet’s beauty is to fall in love.

Main Character Journey 1 from Preconscious to Memory

Romeo’s immediate response to Juliet causes him to forget his melancholy love for Rosaline:
Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here!/Is Rosaline, that thou didst loves so dear,/So soon forsaken? (2.3.69-71)

Main Character Signpost 2

Romeo tries to remember his loyalty to his new wife and her family when Tybalt challenges him.

Main Character Journey 2 from Memory to Subconscious

Mercutio’s death prompts Romeo to forget his loyalty to his new wife and her family as he takes revenge on Tybalt: ” . . . Romeo intervenes in the duel [between Tybalt and Mercutio] and then commits himself to angry revenge” (Gibbons 71).

Main Character Signpost 3

After taking revenge against Tybalt, Romeo is a “fearful man” (3.3.1), hiding out in Friar Lawrence’s cell.  When informed of his punishment, he expresses his basic motivation to live (with Juliet)—without her he’d rather die.

Main Character Journey 3 from Subconscious to Conscious

Romeo has wreaked vengeance on Tybalt and consummated his marriage to Juliet.  Now, banished to Mantua, he is conscious he must wait until word from Friar Lawrence to return.  Tragically, he is misinformed of his beloved’s death—and makes the conscious decision to follow her in the afterlife.

Main Character Signpost 4

Romeo believes he has all the facts when he hears of Juliet’s death.  He makes a conscious decision to kill himself, exemplified by the purchase of poison from the apothecary: “. . . Romeo’s best speech is perhaps the one he delivers in the tomb; with it he gives dignity, meaning, and finality to the one act he plans and executes, however unwisely, without the help of his friends” (Bryant lxxii).

Influence Character

Influence Character Signpost 1

Nurse recounts Juliet’s history; It is clear Juliet has had no suitors in her past:
—Tell me, daughter Juliet,/How stands your disposition to be married?
It is an honor that I dream not of (1.3.69-71).

influence Character Journey 1 from Past to Progress

Juliet progresses from a young, innocent girl to a maturing woman preparing for marriage.

Influence Character Signpost 2

Juliet is concerned with how the meeting is going between her Nurse and Romeo; Juliet is “graduating” from girlhood to womanhood.

Influence Character Journey 2 from Progress to Future

Now that Juliet has determined her future with Romeo, she restlessly awaits the union to move forward: “The clock struck none when I did send the Nurse.  In half an hour she promised to return. . . ./O, she is lame!  Love’s heralds should be thoughts,/Which ten times faster glides than the sun’s beams” (2.5.1,4-5).  The prospect her father has in mind, however, is quite different.  He deems her future to be wife of Paris.

Influence Character Signpost 3

Juliet attempts to halt the wedding to Paris.

Influence Character Journey 3 from Future to Present

To circumvent her parents’ plans for her future as wife of Paris, Juliet must act now.

Influence Character Signpost 4

Juliet’s impact centers on her “death.” At the present time her family and Romeo believe her to be dead, and this belief precipitates all of their final actions.

Relationship Story

Relationship Story Signpost 1

Romeo and Juliet begin to envision the import of falling in love with an enemy:
Is she a Capulet?  O dear account?  My life is my foe’s debt. (1.5.131-132)
My only love sprung my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth it is to me
That I must love a loathed enemy. (1.5.152-155)

Relationship Story Journey 1 from Conceptualizing to BeingHaving fallen immediately and irrevocably in love, Romeo and Juliet envision a plan to secretly marry--involving only Nurse and Friar Lawrence in the pretense.
Relationship Story Signpost 2

Romeo and Juliet pledge their love and secretly marry—outwardly acting as if nothing has occurred.

Relationship Story Journey 2 from Being to Becoming

Romeo and Juliet’s relationship shifts from betrothal to that of husband and wife:
Come, come with me, and we will make short work,/For, by your leaves, you shall not stay alone/Till Holy Church incorporate two in one (2.6.35-37).

Relationship Story Signpost 3

Romeo and Juliet become sexually intimate; Friar Lawrence plays an important part in their crisis of Romeo’s banishment and Juliet’s upcoming nuptials to Paris: “Friar Laurence is one of the tribe of manipulators, whose job it is to transform or otherwise get round seemingly intractable realities” (Snyder 180).

Relationship Story Journey 3 from Becoming to Conceiving

Romeo and Juliet have become husband and wife in life, and both share the idea to continue on as one in death.

Relationship Story Signpost 4

Romeo has no idea Juliet is in a trance.  Juliet awakens to find he has killed himself.  She cannot conceive life without him and kills her self as well.

Plot Progression Visualizations

Dynamic Act Schematics


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