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In Verona, Italy, there live two famous families, the Montagues and the Capulets. These two houses are deadly enemies, and their enmity does not stop at harsh words, but extend to bloody duels. Romeo, son of old Montague, thinks himself in love with haughty Rosaline, a beautiful girl who does not return his affection. Hearing that Rosaline is to attend a great feast at the house of Capulet, Romeo and his trusted friend, Mercutio, don masks and enter the great hall of their enemy as guests. Romeo is no sooner in the ballroom than he notices the exquisite Juliet, Capulet’s daughter, and instantly forgets his disdainful Rosaline. Romeo never saw Juliet before, and in asking her name he arouses the suspicion of Tybalt, a fiery member of the Capulet clan. Tybalt draws his sword and faces Romeo. Old Capulet, coming upon the two men, parts them, and with the gentility that comes with age requests that they have no bloodshed at the feast. Tybalt, however, is angered that a Montague should take part in Capulet festivities and afterward nurses a grudge against Romeo.

Romeo goes to Juliet, speaks in urgent courtliness to her, and asks if he might kiss her hand. She gives her permission, much impressed by this unknown gentleman whose affection for her is so evident. Romeo then begs to kiss her lips, and when she has no breath to object, he presses her to him. They are interrupted by Juliet’s nurse, who sends the young girl off to her mother. When she goes, Romeo learns from the nurse that Juliet is a Capulet. He is stunned, for he is certain that this fact will mean his death. He can never give her up. Juliet, who fell instantly in love with Romeo, discovers that he is a Montague, the son of a hated house.

That night Romeo, too much in love to go home to sleep, steals to Juliet’s house and stands in the orchard beneath a balcony that leads to her room. To his surprise, he sees Juliet leaning over the railing above him. Thinking herself alone, she begins to talk of Romeo and wishes aloud that he were not a Montague. Hearing her words, Romeo can contain himself no longer, but speaks to her. She is frightened at first, and when she sees who it is she is confused and ashamed that he overheard her confession. It is too late to pretend reluctance. Juliet freely admits her passion, and the two exchange vows of love. Juliet tells Romeo that she will marry him and will send him word by nine o’clock the next morning to arrange for their wedding.

Romeo then goes off to the monastery cell of Friar Lawrence to enlist his help in the ceremony. The good friar is much impressed with Romeo’s devotion. Thinking that the union of a Montague and a Capulet will dissolve the enmity between the two houses, he promises to marry Romeo and Juliet.

Early the next morning, while he is in company with his two friends, Benvolio and Mercutio, Romeo receives Juliet’s message, brought by her nurse. He tells the old woman of his arrangement with Friar Lawrence and bids her carry the word back to Juliet. The nurse gives her mistress the message. When Juliet appears at the friar’s cell at the appointed time, she and Romeo are married. Time is short, however, and Juliet has to hurry home. Before she leaves, Romeo promises that he will meet her in the orchard underneath the balcony after dark that night.

That same day, Romeo’s friends, Mercutio and Benvolio, are loitering in the streets when Tybalt comes by with some other members of the Capulet house. Tybalt, still holding his grudge against Romeo, accuses Mercutio of keeping company with the hateful and villainous young Montague. Mercutio, proud of his friendship with Romeo, cannot take insult lightly, for he is as hot-tempered when provoked as Tybalt. The two are beginning their heated quarrel when Romeo, who just returned from his wedding, appears. He is appalled at the situation because he knows that Juliet is fond of Tybalt, and he wishes no injury to his wife’s people. He tries in vain to settle the...

(The entire page is 1,507 words.)

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