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Story Dynamics

8 of the 12 essential questions
Steadfast
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.
Start
Main Character Growth
Romeo has to start acting like the man that Juliet is certain he can be.
Be-er
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.
Male
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.
Action
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).
Optionlock
Story Limit
With their two only children dead, the Montagues and Capulets come to their senses and reconcile.
Success
Story Outcome
The grief stricken Capulets and Montagues reconcile, horrified the ancient grudge has resulted in
their children’s deaths:
PRINCE
A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun for sorrow will not show his head (5.3.316-
317).
Bad
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""
Physics
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)
Doing
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).
Experience
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.
Skill
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.
Expectation
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.
Determination
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).
Non-Accurate
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).
Accurate
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.
Enlightenment
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).
Threat
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).
Learning
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
Mind
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)
Preconscious
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).
Worry
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).
Confidence
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).
Result
Main Character Problem
Romeo’s desire for immediate results is the cause of his problems.
Process
Main Character Solution
Romeo needs to take part of the process to achieve the results he desires.
Non-Accurate
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:
ROMEO
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).
FRIAR LAWRENCE
. . . O deadly sin, O rude unthankfulness! . . . This is a dear mercy, and thou seest it not (3.3.25,30).
Accurate
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.
Worth
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.
Desire
Main Character Critical Flaw
What Romeo covets undermines his efforts—evidenced in his desire for Rosaline:
MONTAGUE
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).
BENVOLIO
. . . What sadness lengthens Romeo’s hours?
ROMEO
Not having that, which, having, makes them short.
BENVOLIO
In love?
ROMEO
. . . 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).
Conscious
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
CAPULET
“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
Universe
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.
Progress
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.
Threat
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).
Security
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:
CAPULET
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.
Expectation
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).
Determination
Influence Character Solution
Juliet’s self-determination is what satisfies her personal drive.
Hunch
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).
Theory
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.
Fantasy
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.
JULIET
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)
Experience
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).
Present
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""
Psychology
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)
Being
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:
JULIET
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)
Desire
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)
Ability
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.
Effect
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.
Cause
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).
Non-Accurate
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.
Accurate
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:
FRIAR LAWRENCE
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).
Thought
Relationship Story Catalyst
Romeo overhears Juliet musing aloud. Juliet’s honest expression of her feelings for him spurs on
their relationship:
JULIET
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?
JULIET
. . . Romeo, doff thy name;/And for thy name, which is no part of thee,/Take all myself.
ROMEO
I take thee at thy word./Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized. . . (2.2.33-38, 47-50)
Worry
Relationship Story Inhibitor
The apprehension concerning the future of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship impedes the subjective
story progress:
JULIET
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).
Conceiving
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:
JULIET
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
Doing
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).
Being
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.
Progress
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).
Preconscious
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.
Learning
Overall Story Requirements
Montague and Capulet learn of the events that have transpired, and vow to keep peace.
Conceiving
Overall Story Prerequisites
Friar Lawrence devises a way to end the feud—marry Romeo and Juliet.
Present
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).
Conscious
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
Learning
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.
Understanding
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.
Doing
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)
Obtaining
Overall Story Signpost 4
Lives are lost as peace is finally achieved between the Capulets and Montagues.
Main Character
Preconscious
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:
FRIAR LAWRENCE
Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here!/Is Rosaline, that thou didst loves so dear,/So soon
forsaken? (2.3.69-71)
Memory
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 toSubconscious
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).
Subconscious
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 toConscious
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.
Conscious
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
Past
Influence Character Signpost 1
Nurse recounts Juliet’s history; It is clear Juliet has had no suitors in her past:
LADY CAPULET
—Tell me, daughter Juliet,/How stands your disposition to be married?
JULIET
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.
Progress
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.
Future
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.
Present
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
Conceptualizing
Relationship Story Signpost 1
Romeo and Juliet begin to envision the import of falling in love with an enemy:
ROMEO:
Is she a Capulet? O dear account? My life is my foe’s debt. (1.5.131-132)
JULIET
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 toBeingHaving fallen immediately and
irrevocably in love, Romeo and Juliet envision a plan to secretly marry--involving only Nurse and
Friar Lawrence in the pretense.
Being
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:
FRIAR LAWRENCE
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).
Becoming
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 toConceiving
Romeo and Juliet have become husband and wife in life, and both share the idea to continue on as
one in death.
Conceiving
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.