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Romeo and Juliet | Summary | Short Story

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

ROMEO & JULIET | Shakespeare’s Greatest Plays Summarized Into Groundbreaking Short Stories

Hi, I’m Cecilia Elise Wallin. And this is a video in my series Learn From the Classics of Literature.

In some of the videos in this series, we will learn from the incomparable Shakespeare. Twelve of Shakespeare’s greatest plays have been summarized into beautiful groundbreaking short stories by the British poet and novelist Edith Nesbit, and these short stories have been recorded by great LibriVox readers. One of these exquisite short stories is Romeo and Juliet, which we are going to listen to now.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, adapted into a short story by Edith Nesbit:

“Once upon a time there lived in Verona two great

families named Montagu and Capulet. They were both

rich, and I suppose they were as sensible, in most things,

as other rich people. But in one thing they were extremely

silly. There was an old, old quarrel between the two families,

and instead of making it up like reasonable folks, they made a

sort of a pet of their quarrel, and would not let it die out. So that a

Montagu wouldn’t speak to a Capulet if he met one in the

street — nor a Capulet to a Montagu — or if they did speak, it was to

say rude and unpleasant things, which often ended in a fight. And

their relations and servants were just as foolish, so that street fights

and duels and uncomfortablenesses of that kind were always grow-

ing out of the Montagu- and-Capulet quarrel.

Now Lord Capulet, the head of that family, gave a party — a

grand supper and dance — and he was so hospitable that he said any-

one might come to it — except (of course) the Montagues. But there

was a young Montagu named Romeo, who very much wanted to be

there, because Rosaline, the lady he loved, had been asked. This lady

had never been at all kind to him, and he had no reason to love

her; but the fact was that he wanted to love somebody, and as he

hadn’t seen the right lady, he was obliged to love the wrong one.

So to the Capulets’ grand party he came, with his friends Mercutio

and Benvolio.

Old Capulet welcomed him and his two friends very kindly — and

young Romeo moved about among the crowd of courtly folk dressed

in their velvets and satins, the men with jewelled sword hilts and col-

lars, and the ladies with brilliant gems on breast and arms, and

stones of price set in their bright girdles. Romeo was in his best too,

and though he wore a black mask over his eyes and nose, every one

could see by his mouth and his hair, and the way he held his head,

that he was twelve times handsomer than any one else in the room.

Presently amid the dancers he saw a lady so beautiful and so lov-

able, that from that moment he never again gave one thought to

that Rosaline whom he had thought he loved. And he looked at this

other fair lady, as she moved in the dance in her white satin and

pearls, and all the world seemed vain and worthless to him compared

with her. And he was saying this — or something like it — to his

friend, when Tybalt, Lady Capulet’s nephew, hearing his voice,

knew him to be Romeo. Tybalt, being very angry, went at once to

his uncle, and told him how a Montagu had come uninvited to the

feast; but old Capulet was too fine a gentleman to be discourteous

to any man under his own roof, and he bade Tybalt be quiet. But

this young man only waited for a chance to quarrel with Romeo.

In the meantime Romeo made his way to the fair lady, and told

her in sweet words that he loved her, and kissed her. Just then her

mother sent for her, and then Romeo found out that the lady on

whom he had set his heart’s hopes was Juliet, the daughter of Lord

Capulet, his sworn foe. So he went away, sorrowing indeed, but lov-

ing her none the less.

Then Juliet said to her nurse.

“Who is that gentleman that would not dance ?”

“His name is Romeo, and a Montagu, the only son of your great

enemy,” answered the nurse.

Then Juliet went to her room, and looked out of her window over

the beautiful green-grey garden, where the moon was shining. And

Romeo was hidden in that garden among the trees — because he could

not bear to go right away without trying to see her again. So she —

not knowing him to be there — spoke her secret thought aloud, and

told the quiet garden how she loved Romeo.

And Romeo heard and was glad beyond measure ; hidden below,

he looked up and saw her fair face in the moonlight, framed in the

blossoming creepers that grew round her window, and as he looked

and listened, he felt as though he had been carried away in a dream,

and set down by some magician in that beautiful and enchanted

garden.

“Ah — why are you called Romeo?” said Juliet. “Since I love you,

what does it matter what you are called ?”

‘CaII me but love, and Til be new bc.ptised — henceforth I never

will be Romeo,” he cried, stepping into the full white moonlight from the shade of the cypresses and oleanders that had hidden him.

She was frightened at first, but when she saw it was Romeo him-

self, and no stranger, she too was glad, and, he standing in the gar-

den below and she leaning from the window, they spoke long to-

gether, each one trying to find the sweetest words in the world, to

make that pleasant talk that lovers use. And the tale of all they said,

and the sweet music their voices made together, is all set down in a

golden book, where you children may read it for yourselves some

day.

And the time passed so quickly, as it does for folk who love each

other and are together, that when the time came to part, it seemed as

though they had met but that moment — and indeed they hardly

knew how to part.

“I will send to you to-morrow,” said Juliet.

And so at last, with lingering and longing, they said good-bye.

Juliet went into her room, and a dark curtain hid her bright win-

dow. Romeo went away through the still and dewy garden like a man

in a dream.

The next morning very early Romeo went to Friar Laurence, a

priest, and, telling him all the story, begged him to marry him to

Juliet without delay. And this, after some talk, the priest consented

to do.

So when Juliet sent her old nurse to Romeo that day to know

what he purposed to do, the ol3 woman took back a message that all

was well, and all things ready for the marriage of Juliet and Romeo

on the next morning.

The young lovers were afraid to ask their parents’ consent to their

marriage, as young people should do, because of this foolish old

quarrel between the Capulets and the Montagues.

And Friar Laurence was willing to help the young lovers secretly,

because he thought that when they were once married their parents

might soon be told, and that the match might put a happy end to the

old quarrel.

So the next morning early, Romeo and Juliet were married at

Friar Laurence’s cell, and parted with tears and kisses. And Romeo

promised to come into Ae garden that evening, and the nurse got

ready a rope-ladder to let down from the window, so that Romeo

could climb up and talk to his dear wife quietly and alone.

But that very day a dreadful thing happened.

Tybalt, the young man who had been so vexed at Romeo’s going

to the Capulet’s feast, met him and his two friends, Mercutio and

Benvolio, in the street, called Romeo a villain, and asked him to

fight. Romeo had no wish to fight with Juliet’s cousin, but Mercutio

drew a sword, and he and Tybalt fought. And Mercutio was killed.

When Romeo saw that his friend was dead he forgot everything,

except anger at the man who had killed him, and he and Tybalt

fought, till Tybalt fell dead. So, on the very day of his wedding,

Romeo killed his dear Juliet’s cousin, and was sentenced to be ban-

ished. Poor Juliet and her young husband met that night indeed ; he

climbed the rope-ladder among the flowers, and found her window,

but their meeting was a sad one, and they parted with bitter tears

and hearts heavy, because they could not know when they should

meet again.

Now Juliet’s father, who, of course, had no idea that she was mar-

ried, wished her to wed a gentleman named Paris, and was so angry

when she refused, that she hurried away to ask Friar Laurence what

she should do. He advised her to pretend to consent, and then he

said :

“I will give you a draught that will make you seem to be dead

for two days, and then when they take you to church it will be to

bury you, and not to marry you. They will put you in a vault think-

ing you are dead, and before you wake up Romeo and I will be

there to take care of you. Will you do this, or) are you afraid?”

‘T will do it ; talk not to me of fear !” said Juliet. And she went

home and told her father she would marry Paris. If she had spoken

out and told her father the truth . . . well, then this would have

been a different story.

Lord Capulet was very much pleased to get his own way, and set

about inviting his friends and gettinp- the wedding feast ready. Every

one stayed up all night, for there was a great deal to do, and very

little time to do it in. Lord Capulet was anxious to get Juliet married,

because he saw she was very unhappy. Of course she was really

fretting about her husband Romeo, but her father thought she was

grieving for the death of her cousin Tybalt,’nd he thought marriage

would give her something else to think about.

Early in the morning the nurse came to call Juliet, and to dress her for the wedding ; but she would not wake, and at last the nurse cried

out suddenly —

“Alas ! alas ! help ! help ! my lady’s dead. Oh, well-a-day that ever

I was born !”

Lady Capulet came running in, and then Lord Capulet, and Lord

Paris, the bridegroom. There lay Juliet cold and white and lifeless,

and all their weeping could not wake her. So it was a burying that

day instead of a marrying. Meantime Friar Laurence had sent a mes-

senger to Mantua with a letter to Romeo telling him of all these

things ; and all would have been well, only the messenger was de-

layed, and could not go.

But ill news travels fast. Romeo’s servant, who knew the secret

of the marriage but not of Juliet’s pretended death, heard of her fu-

neral, and hurried to Mantua to tell Romeo how his young wife was

dead and lying in the grave.

“Is it so!” cried Romeo, heart-broken. “Then I will lie by Juliet’s

side to-night.”

And he bought himself a poison, and went straight back to Ver-

ona. He hastened to the tomb where Juliet was lying. It was not a

grave, but a vault. He broke open the door, and was just going down

the stone steps that led to the vault where all the dead Capulets lay,

when he heard a voice behind him calling on him to stop.

It was the Count Paris, who was to have married Juliet that very

day.

“How dare you come here and disturb the dead bodies of the

Capulets, you vile Montagu !” cried Paris.

Poor, Romeo, half mad with sorrow, yet tried to answer gently.

“You were told,” said Paris, “that if you returned to Verona

you must die.”

“I must indeed,” said Romeo. “I came here for nothing else.

Good, gentle youth — leave me — Oh, go — before I do you any harm

-I love you better than myself — go — leave me here — “

Then Paris said, “I defy you — and I arrest you as a felon.”

Then Romeo, in his anger and despair, drew his sword. — They

fought, and Paris was killed.

As Romeo’s sword pierced him, Paris cried,

“Oh, I am slain ! If thou be merciful, open the tomb, lay me with

Juliet!”

And Romeo said, “In faith I will.”

And he carried the dead man into the tomb and laid him by the

dear Juliet’s side. Then he kneeled by Juliet and spoke to her, and

held her in his arms, and kissed her cold lips, believing that she

was dead, while all the while she was coming nearer and nearer to

the time of her awakening. Then he drank the poison, and died be-

side his sweetheart and wife.

Now came Friar Laurence when it was too late, and saw all that

had happened — and then poor Juliet woke out of her sleep to find

her husband and her friend both dead beside her.

The noise of the fight had brought other folks to the place too.

and Friar Laurence hearing them ran away, and Juliet was left

alone. She saw the cup that had held the poison, and knew how all

had happened, and since no poison was left for her, she drew her

Romeo’s dagger and thrust it through her heart — and so, falling

with her head on her Romeo’s breast, she died. And here ends the

story of these faithful and most unhappy lovers.

And when the old folks knew from Friar Laurence of all that

had befallen, they sorrowed exceedingly, and now, seeing all the

mischief their wicked quarrel had wrought, they repented them

of it, and over the bodies of their dead children they clasped hand?,

at last, in friendship and forgiveness.” (

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, adapted into a short story by Edith Nesbit

Romeo and Juliet summary short story