The Montagues and the Capulets are two noble families in Renaissance Verona, Italy. Locked in a long-standing feud, one that is fought by the nobles of the two families as well as their servants, they have engaged in a series of bloody public battles. In response, the ruler of Verona, Prince Escalus, is forced to intercede and declare that if any member of either family is caught fighting in the future they will be put to death. Thus the feud is ostensibly put on hold.
The Capulets, it turns out, throw a masquerade ball each year. Obviously they do not invite the Montagues. Juliet, daughter of Capulet and Lady Capulet, is 13 and will soon be of marriage age. It is the hope of her parents that she will fall in love with Paris, a wealthy kinsman of Escalus, at the ball. As it happens, three of the Capulets, sixteen year-old Romeo, his cousin Benvolio, and their friend Mercutio sneak into the ball. Romeo has his sights on Rosaline although she has taken a vow of chastity and is unavailable.
As soon as Romeo lays eyes on Juliet he falls in love with her, and Juliet falls in love with him at first sight. They soon find out, to their dismay, that they are from rival families. Nevertheless, Romeo is so in love with Juliet that he climbs over a wall to hide under Juliet’s window. As Juliet emerges from the window and tells the night sky about her love for Romeo, he emerges from hiding and they admit their love to each other. With the help of Friar Laurence and Juliet’s Nurse, who is especially attached to Juliet as her own daughter, the couple are secretly married the next day.
The same day, Benvolio and Mercutio are waiting for Romeo on the street. It is here that Tybalt confronts them and demands the presence of Romeo for a duel to punish him for invading the ball. As Mercutio stalls Tybalt with an eloquent but vague speech, Romeo arrives on the scene. After a period of verbal sparring between Romeo and Tybalt, Mercutio draws his sword to attack Tybalt. Romeo intervenes but Tybalt wounds Mercutio. Tybalt flees the scene only to return after to find that Mercutio has died. Angry over the death of Mercutio, Romeo engages Tybalt and kills him. He decides to flee from the inevitable consequences from Escalus. Later, Escalus arrives, and upon learning the details of the murder, he banishes Romeo from Verona for life. Juliet is heartbroken after finding out about all of this and sends her nurse to give her ring to Romeo.
Later that night, Romeo returns to Juliet. He climbs into her room and their marriage is consummated. As morning approaches, Romeo is forced to leave. He departs for Mantua to await news of Juliet and his banishment.
While Juliet and Romeo spend their night consummating their marriage, Lord Capulet sets about making sure she marries Paris. When Lord and Lady Capulet tell Juliet of their plans for her, she refuses. This sends he father into a rage. Both Lady Capulet and Juliet’s nurse refuse to leave her alone.
Juliet visits Friar Lawrence shortly after this and the two of them hatch a scheme designed to reunite her with Romeo. Friar Laurence is to give her a potion which will make her appear dead for two days. During this time, Romeo will come to the Capulet family vault to meet her. Friar Lawrence makes arrangements to alert Romeo of the plan.
Following the plan, on the day she and Paris are to be married, Juliet drinks the potion. She is found later by her nurse who alerts everyone that she is dead. The family is in mourning over her apparent suicide. So as to expedite the scheme Friar Laurence explains that she should be put in the family vault as soon as possible.
Friar Laurence is unfortunately unable to deliver a letter to Romeo in time to let him in on the scheme. Upon his return form Mantua he hears that Juliet is dead. In his grief, he rushes back to Verona. On the way he obtains a poison for the purpose of taking his own life. He also writes a suicide note explaining all the tragic events which led him to kill himself. In the meantime, Friar Laurence finds out that Romeo did not receive the letter. He rushes to the tomb to intercede on behalf of the grief-stricken lover.
As Romeo approaches the Capulet tomb he discovers Paris guarding the vault and mourning the death of his beloved, Juliet, who he believes is truly dead. Paris challenges Romeo and Romeo kills him. As Romeo drags Paris’s body into the tomb, he discovers Juliet and presumes she is dead. He drinks his poison, gives her a last kiss, and he dies.
Friar Laurence arrives soon after this just as Juliet is waking up. He tries to convince her to run away but she refuses. Juliet discovers the body of Romeo and realizes what he has done. She drinks the poison and dies also.
As others arrive on the scene, Lord Capulet and Lord Montague also enter. They learn the truth of the tragic events from Friar Laurence and the suicide letter from Romeo provides proof. The two rival families agree to settle their differences and form an alliance as a result of the tragedy.