By any other word would smell as sweet..."
It's hard to imagine there are many who don't know the plot to Romeo and Juliet, perhaps the most famous work of William Shakespeare. Few people have read it, but a lot of people know what happens. But just in case, here's a quick outline:
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
What, can't read Shakespeare? Fine. In troper's terms:
Boy Meets Girl. It's Love at First Sight. But Boy and Girl are members of Feuding Families. Boy secretly marries Girl. Boy's friend is murdered by Girl's cousin, so Boy kills Girl's cousin in a fit of rage, then skips town. Girl agrees to dangerous plot to avoid an Arranged Marriage set up by her parents. Plot goes horribly right. Boy, hearing of Girl's "death," returns to town and kills self for real at her grave. Girl, waking and discovering this, kills self in turn. Grief-stricken families reconcile. The End!
And yes, it all happens about that fast — the whole play happens in the span of less than a week. One of the major themes is that rushing into things is never a good idea, particularly when love and/or family are involved. The other is that this is a not just a tragedy, but a comedy of errors in that sometimes, everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
Your opinion of the play is likely to be shaped by the quality of the actors you saw performing it. While that's true of most plays, it's especially true of this one. Done poorly, it's hours of Wangst. Done well, there's a verve and passion to the play that can be lacking in Shakespeare's more critically beloved works. When done with middle-aged or older actors in the title roles, it just doesn't make sense.
Your opinion of the play is also likely to be shaped by whether you can accept the Love at First Sight premise at face value. Though now largely a Discredited Trope, it was a highly popular plot device in Shakespeare's day. If you can buy into that premise, this is a story of true love struggling against impossible odds, and failing. All those warnings about moderation are well-intentioned but ultimately meaningless. If you don't buy the premise, it's a story of two shallow, overdramatic young people who don't really understand what love is.
The play is a simple one and doesn't feature any of Shakespeare's famous side plots or other distractions. It's titled Romeo and Juliet, and dammit, that's who we're going to be watching.
Despite the heavy subject matter, there are many lighter moments (as in most of Shakespeare's works). This, combined with the impression that some have of the title characters as immature and selfish, has led to productions of different moods. Quite a few directors have made comedic productions which can, in the right hands, become Black Comedy at its finest.
Has been adapted for silver screen numerous times, perhaps most famously by the Italian director Franco Zeffirelli in 1968. That production is widely regarded as an exceptional movie, though it gained a measure of infamy at the time for featuring teen-aged Romeo and Juliet - Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting - partially naked during a scene.note Perhaps more well known today is Baz Luhrmann's zany 1996 adaptation which moved the story to a modern setting, and starred Leonardo DiCaprio at the height of his teenage heartthrob-dom. The 1954 adaptation did win a Leone d'Oro, though.
One of the most notable meta-textual features of the play is the way most of it fits comfortably in an author's arsenal of Small Reference Pools. That is, the vast majority of the English-speaking world knows that Romeo and Juliet are icons of passionate, youthful love... but not everyone might be aware that their story ends tragically, nor that their much-celebrated love was actually their downfall.
Note: The play's full title is The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. No one uses it, though.
- Roméo et Juliette, a 1839 "dramatic symphony" in seven movements (choral and instrumental scenes) by Hector Berlioz.
- Roméo et Juliette, an 1867 opera by Charles Gounod.
- Romeo and Juliet, a 1932 short story retelling by Karel Čapek.
- Romeo and Juliet, a 1935 ballet with music by Sergei Prokofiev.
- Romeo and Juliet, a 1936 film directed by George Cukor that received four Academy Award nominations. Featured 34-year-old Norma Shearer and 43-year-old Leslie Howard playing the teenaged lovers.
- Romeo and Juliet, a 1954 film directed by Renato Castellani, starring Laurence Harvey and Susan Shentall in the title roles.
- Romeo and Juliet, a 1968 Franco Zeffirelli film starring Olivia Hussey as Juliet and Leonard Whiting as Romeo.
- William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, a somewhat polarizing update directed by Baz Luhrmann starring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio. It keeps Shakespeare's text but dramatically reframes it in a late-1990s setting in Mexican-influenced Southern California ("Verona Beach"). The duels and dialogue about them are retained by naming the characters' gun models after various types of bladed weapons instead (e.g. "Sword 9mm class").
- Romeo and Juliet, a 2013 film by Carlo Carlei, and the first traditional retelling to hit screens in quite a while, starring Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth in the lead roles. The dialogue was heavily rewritten, although the new dialogue was still in the Shakespearean style. The rewrites were...not well received.
- Romeo X Juliet, an anime adaptation set IN SPACE! with less Grey and Gray Morality (the Montagues are villains who ousted and all but extinguished the rightfully ruling Capulets)
- West Side Story, probably the most famous adaptation out there, telling the story of a romance between two teens from rival gangs in the 1950s.
- Romeo Must Die, a modern-day retelling (from 2000) moving the action to LA and changing the feud to one between rival black and Chinese gangsters.
- China Girl (1987), which could be described as West Side Story meets Romeo Must Die. It's reset in 1980s Manhattan with rival Italian and Chinese gangs.
- Tromeo and Juliet, a typically outrageous outing from Troma Films with a rather different ending.
- Private Romeo, a film which uses an all male cast and the original dialogue of the play as a commentary on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Romeo is a cadet desperate to get into West Point and Juliet is the new boy to the military academy he attends. Due to DADT, the school's staff finding out about the fact that the two are in love serves as their 'death;' no one actually dies in the film, but they'll both be kicked out of school and any hope of continuing their military careers (including Romeo's dream of West Point) is finished.
- Roméo et Juliette, de la Haine à l'Amour, a French musical by Gerard Presgurvic, which has played in more or less similar format in Canada, Mexico, Japan and various countries throughout Europe and in a much Darker and Edgier Hungarian adaptation.
- Pocahontas depicts a highly fictionalised romance between Pocahontas and John Smith in the midst of an upcoming war. The film was actually pitched as "Romeo & Juliet in 17th century Virginia". Notably it's one of Disney's only films to have a Bittersweet Ending (albeit where the lovers simply don't end up together as opposed to dying tragically).
- The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride, which followed up the first film's Lighter and Softer African Hamlet with a similarly brighter version of this story. In Africa. With lions.
- Shakespeare in Love, in which we learn the "real" story behind the production of the play.
- Romeo & Harriet, a musical parody of Romeo and Juliet.
- Romiette and Julio, a 2001 novel by Sharon Draper about two teenage lovers dealing with the taboos of interracial dating.
- You Never Dreamed, a 1980 Soviet film.
- November 30, a 1995 Swedish movie with a Nonindicative Name where the Official Couple consists of a Peruvian immigrant and repentant neo-Nazi.
- Romeo Va Julietta Yohud Lan'atlangan Sevgi, an Uzbek film from 2006, which loosely resets the story in contemporary Tashkent.
- Romie O and Julie 8, a 1979 animated TV adaptation with robots.
- Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss, an animated adaptation with seals playing the roles.
- Gnomeo and Juliet, a 2011 CGI animated family comedy film with living garden gnomes in place of the original characters.
- Naturally, it was the subject of an episode of Wishbone as well.
- The Sims 2 features the "Veronaville" neighborhood, with the Montys and the Capps as major players, complete with a feud and teenagers from both families in love.
- Prince of Cats, a short 2012 comic by Ron Wimberly set in a mid-Eighties Brooklyn crossed with samurai films and centered around secondary characters Tybalt and Rosalyn.
- Romeo And Julieta, a very, very loose adaptation of the work starring two sentient llama piñatas. Yes, really.
- Warm Bodies, a novel by Isaac Marion where the Montagues and Capulets are replaced with zombies and humans. Also made into a film.
- Often done as a Show Within a Show when a film production or School Play is needed (because it's a play that most people, even those who have never read Shakespeare, are familiar with). If at least one of the two leads is a major character, expect Ship Tease. This includes an episode of Hey Arnold!, an episode of Pokémon, two episodes of K-On!, the second OVA to Cardcaptor Sakura, and an ongoing arc in the first part of Season 12 of Degrassi. An episode of Sabrina: The Animated Series is about auditioning for the play (and features a conjured up version of Romeo to give Sabrina some coaching).
- Diana Wynne Jones used the story as a subplot in The Magicians of Caprona in which the feuding families of Casa Montana and Casa Petrocchi eventually learn that two of their younger members have fallen in love with each other.
- Juliet, a 2010 novel by Anne Fortier, in which the main character discovers that her ancestor was the "real" Juliet behind the famous story.
- Romeo and Juliet: A DreamZone Parody: The porn version.
- Upside Down, starring Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst. A science fiction retelling where the two clans are replaced with inhabitants of two planets tightly revolving around each other. Where each person is only affected by the gravity of his or her birth planet.
- Korean MMO Maplestory adapts the story for a party quest, though the characters live in a town of feuding alchemists (one more focused on nature, the other on technology) and somehow Frankenstein's monster is also involved.
- Jules and Monty, a 2014 webseries that translates the story to a modern college setting.
- The radio drama featuring AKB48, known as "Watashitachi no Monogatari", did their own version of Romeo and Juliet, with the two aces of SKE 48, Matsui Rena and Matsui Jurina, as the main pair. Not only do they change the characters names (basing them more of their respective members names), but they also give it a much happier end. As to be expected, this broadcast pleased lots of WMatsui fans.
- West Bank Story, an award-winning 2005 short musical comedy film, an Affectionate Parody of West Side Story set in the Arab–Israeli Conflict.
- The Spruces And The Pines, an ION Channel Christmas movie, which has two young people falling in love despite the long-running feud between their families, who happen to own rival Christmas tree farms.
A Trope, by Any Other Word . . .
- Adult Fear: The two main characters, who are just kids (Juliet is thirteen in the play - Romeo's age isn't given, but he's most likely in his late teens), take their own short lives for each other. While many people may have thought it romantic or stupid when they were teenagers, it's pretty unsettling to any parent (particularly since teen suicide is a far more publicized issue today that it ever was in previous decades).
- Age Lift: In the original poem, Juliet and Romeo were both about sixteen, while in the Bandello novel, she was 18 and he was 20. The play knocks Juliet's age down to thirteen, but most adaptations bring her back up to sixteen.
- An Aesop:
- Grudges are bad; don't hold them.
- Love in moderation.
- Do not jump into things you're not ready for.
- Extremes in anything, love or hate, can lead to tragedy.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: The Nurse (who is more of a mother figure to Juliet than Juliet's own mother). In particular, her story of Juliet's weaning. Juliet's comment, "Stint thou too, I pray thee, Nurse," should be translated as, "Dang it, will you please stop telling stories about the embarrassing things I did when I was three?"
- Anti-Villain: Paris is Romeo's rival for Juliet's hand but is a good man who likely would have been a decent husband for Juliet.
- Anyone Can Die: Mercutio, Tybalt, Paris, Lady Montague, Romeo, and Juliet all kick the bucket.
- Apothecary Alligator: Mentioned in the description of the apothecary's shop in Act V Scene I.Romeo: And in his needy shop a tortoise hung,
An alligator stuff'd, and other skins
Of ill-shaped fishes
- Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: Act III, Scene 5 opens with Juliet (presumably still sleepy) begging the now-banished Romeo to stay awhile since it can't be morning already. Romeo acquiesces and stays, but then Juliet realizes that it really is morning and that Romeo needs to get the heck out of Dodge, at which point she switches to shooing him out of her room.
- Badass Boast: Tybalt before dueling with Benvolio.Tybalt: Turn thee, Benvolio. Look upon thy death.
- Barefoot Sage: Friar Lawrence is often portrayed as this (justified, since Franciscan friars often went barefoot). However, as "sagey" as he is, he still makes a fatal mistake.
- Betty and Veronica: Juliet's decision between her two suitors. Paris courts her in the 'proper' way, by asking her father's permission. Romeo falls in love with her, marries her in secret and kills her cousin.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Romeo is known as a "noble and well-governed youth," according to Lord Capulet. But kill someone close to him (Mercutio, then Juliet), and he will snap.
- Bilingual Bonus: "ill-shaped fishes" feature in Romeo's description of the apothecary's shop where he buys the poison. The French for fish is 'poisson'; 'ill-shape' it and it becomes 'poison'.
- Black Comedy: Sometimes performed this way.
Mercutio: Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.
- Mercutio provides some as he dies.
- Black Comedy Rape: Act I Scene 1 is filled with rape jokes.
- Blood Knight: Tybalt lives for fighting.
- Break the Cutie: Both of the lovers, but especially Juliet.Juliet: Alack, that Heaven should practice stratagems
Upon so soft a subject as myself!
- Bromantic Foil: Mercutio to Romeo.
- Bus Crash: Lady Montague, who has an important role in the first scene, then disappears almost entirely until the last scene where Montague mentions she died offstage. Her death serves to even the death toll to two from every house—Romeo and Lady Montague, Juliet and Tybalt, and Mercutio and Paris.
- Cargo Envy: From Romeo:Romeo: See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!
- The Cassandra: No one ever listens to pragmatic pacifist Benvolio.Benvolio: I pray thee, good Mercutio, let's retire:
The day is hot, the Capulets abroad,
And, if we meet, we shall not scape a brawl;
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.note
- Character Filibuster: Mercutio's "Queen Mab" speech.Romeo: Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace! Thou talk'st of nothing.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Balthasar, a servant who has a small appearance in the first scene, ends up indirectly causing Romeo's suicide in Act V.
- The Chessmaster: Friar Lawrence only agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet in order to stop the feud, and puts their lives at risk in the process. Tragedy ensues.
- Child Marriage Veto: Juliet refuses to marry Paris. She's already married to Romeo, but her parents don't know that...
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Benvolio, one of the main characters in the first three acts, does not appear in the fourth or fifth. Nobody seems to notice this, even though he's the only significant member of the younger generation left alive at the end.
- Conflicting Loyalty
- Once Romeo marries Juliet, he is tied to both houses. This makes for an awkward decision when Juliet's cousin Tybalt challenges him to a duel.
- The Nurse fails Juliet in the end because of her conflicting loyalties to Juliet and to Juliet's parents.
- Cosmic Plaything: Romeo laments being one after he kills Tybalt.Romeo: O, I am Fortune's fool!
- Courtly Love: Subverted. Romeo abandons his courtly love for Rosaline as soon as he meets the much more open Juliet.
- Crazy Enough to Work: Faking Juliet's death wasn't quite crazy enough.
- Cycle of Revenge: What's perpetuating the feud.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Mercutio's bawdy misogyny and bitterness toward love imply a past relationship that did not end well.
- Dating What Daddy Hates: Subverted, since Capulet is openly fond of Romeo, and never finds out that Romeo and Juliet are an item until after their deaths.
- Death by Despair: Lady Montague, who died after learning of Romeo's exile. Also the presumed cause of Juliet's first "death" by those who don't know about the Friar's potion.
- Death Is Dramatic:
- Mercutio dies offstage, but goes out with a bang:Mercutio: A plague a' both your houses! They have made worms' meat of me. I have it, and soundly too. Your houses!
- By contrast, Lady Montague, a much less important character, gets a couple lines for her offstage death in the very last scene. "Basically, the spectacle involved in a character's death is proportional to the importance of the character to the story."
- Mercutio dies offstage, but goes out with a bang:
- Diabolus ex Machina: Repeatedly. The line about "star-crossed lovers" in the opening narration is a Lampshade Hanging; the stars - meaning Fate - are going to make sure everyone ends up miserable.
- Did They or Didn't They?: Many productions take Lady Capulet's disproportionate grief over Tybalt's death to imply that the two have been romantically involved. After all, the two are closer in age than Lord and Lady Capulet, and the Love Triangle can justify some of the malice between Lord Capulet and Tybalt, Lord Capulet and Lady Capulet, and Lord Capulet and Juliet when she disobeys him.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Tybalt's initial response to Romeo's showing up at the party is to call for his sword and announce that he's going to kill him.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The death scene is rife with sexual imagery. The bit where Juliet welcomes being penetrated by Romeo's dagger is still pretty clear to modern audiences, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. The cup that Romeo drinks his poison from is supposed to be a symbol of femininity, and furthermore, Shakespeare often used "die" as a euphemism for "orgasm".
- Double Entendre: Almost every one of Mercutio's lines, overlapping with Get Thee to a Nunnery. Romeo, Juliet, the Nurse, and even Lord Capulet all get in on the action at some point.
- Downer Ending: There is the glimpse of a Bittersweet Ending, as the rival families finally reconcile their differences, but two statues raised in pure gold above Verona are a poor compensation for the loss of their children, and everyone knows this.
- Drama Queen: Romeo literally throws himself on the ground sobbing at one point.
- Driven to Suicide: The two leads, each by the other's ostensible death.
- Due to the Dead: Romeo honors Paris's request to lay him beside Juliet, after having killed him because Paris thought that Romeo was coming to do the evil version of this trope.
- Dying Curse: Uttered by Mercutio while dying as a side effect of the house feud.Mercutio: A plague a' both your houses!
- Elopement: Romeo and Juliet run away to Friar Lawrence to get married. After Juliet's arranged marriage to Paris is announced, Friar Laurence plans to help them run away for good. It doesn't work.
- Emo Teen: Romeo is this at first, moping around and reciting emo poetry because of his unrequited love for Rosaline. He improves upon meeting Juliet, but when he has to be separated from her, he gets even worse than he was at the beginning. It is also worth noting that the metaphors Romeo uses to express his infatuation with Rosaline were very over-used cliches in Shakespeare's time. But as soon as he starts describing Juliet, his poetry gets far more original and interesting.
- Enter Stage Window: Probably the Ur-Example.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Prince and the Nurse. (Although on the character list the Prince's name is given as "Escalus" and Capulet calls the Nurse "Angelica" at one point.)
- Exact Words: When Abram, one of the Montagues' servants approaches, Sampson quibbles with Abram:Gregory: I will frown as they pass by, and let them take it as they list.
Sampson: Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them; which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it. [Sampson bites his thumb]
Abram: Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
Sampson: I do bite my thumb, sir.
Abram: Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
Sampson: [to Gregory] Is the law of our side if I say ay?
Sampson: No sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir; but I bite my thumb, sir.
- Extremely Short Timespan: From the lovers meeting to getting married to their inevitable deaths, the entire play takes place in a little less than four days.
- Fatal Flaw: Arguments can be made for a wide variety for each protagonist.
- Faux Death: Juliet. Unfortunately, it's shortly followed by actual, self-inflicted death.
- Feuding Families: The Montagues and the Capulets.
- The Fighting Narcissist: Mercutio's description of Tybalt's ornate fighting style implies that Tybalt may fit this trope. Given Mercutio's tendency to criticize others for flaws in himself, he could easily be one as well.
- Foregone Conclusion: Even if, by some strange power, you've never heard the plot of this thing, it's stated in the very beginning that the title characters die . . . on line six of the Prologue, to be precise.
- Forgotten Fallen Friend: Romeo is heartbroken about Mercutio's death . . . for as long as it takes him to kill Tybalt in a revenge-fueled rage. After Tybalt dies, Mercutio is forgotten, Romeo expresses far more grief over Tybalt's death than Mercutio's.
- Fourth Date Marriage: The titular characters get married less than 24 hours after meeting, and plan their marriage the night they meet. The entire plot unfolds over all of four days.
- Freudian Trio
- Romeo - passionate, intensely emotional, and romantic (Id).
- Mercutio - cynical, snarky, explosive, and driven (Ego).
- Benvolio - levelheaded, keeps the others in check (Superego).
- The Friends Who Never Hang: Juliet reacts to the news of Tybalt's death with heartbreak and tears, her beloved cousin. The Nurse exclaims that Tybalt was her best friend. Tybalt never spent time on-stage with either of them.
- Gallows Humor: Most of Mercutio's dying speech.Mercutio: Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.
- Garden of Love: The iconic second encounter between Romeo and Juliet takes place in Capulet's garden.
- GenreBusting/GenreShift: Unusual for its time in combining comedy and tragedy. A typical comedy contains bawdy humor, farce, and young lovers who live Happily Ever After, despite the interference of the older generation. A typical tragedy contains unquiet political figures, and drama, a Tragic Hero who makes mistakes and dies in the end, despite his best efforts. Romeo and Juliet explores all of this, except the happily-ever-after part. Mercutio's death in Act III marks the definitive shift from comedy to tragedy.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Shakespeare in his usual idiom:Mercutio: I conjure thee by Rosaline's bright eyes,
By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,
By her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh,
And the demesnes that there adjacent lie ...
- The Ghost: We hear quite a lot about Rosaline, Romeo's unrequiting love at the start of the play, but she never makes it onscreen. According to the guest list, she is in attendance at Capulet's feast, and some productions make her a more obvious presence there.
- Gone Horribly Right: Juliet wakes up from her potion right on schedule. If she'd woken up five minutes later, then the Capulets and Montagues would have discovered her alive. If she'd woken up five minutes earlier, Romeo would have met her.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Both families seem equally responsible for keeping the feud alive.
- Hair-Trigger Temper
- Tybalt, as everyone around him knows. He reacts to catching Romeo at the Capulet feast by calling for his rapier.
- Lord Capulet, despite admonishing Tybalt for the same trait during the feast, has an explosive, violent reaction to Juliet's Child Marriage Veto.
- Hanlon's Razor: The tragic heroes die because of a problem with the post. Not much malice against them from anybody except Tybalt, who proves fairly ineffectual.
- Have a Gay Old Time:
- Some of the archaic uses of the word "ho" become a tad awkward in this day and age. Such as "Fetch me my long sword, ho!" Even funnier because at this point in the play, his wife is trying to stop him from jumping into the fight. Or the Nurse calling for "Aqua Vitae, ho!", and getting a response from Lady Capulet.
- Romeo talking about his "Well-flowered pump." "Pumps" were shoes, which would be adorned with flowers at dances and other gatherings. Of course, this scene is built on Double Entendres.
- Lord Capulet to Tybalt:Capulet: You are a saucynote boy.
- Lady Capulet tells her husband, "You are too hot," meaning "angry."
- The Hero Dies: Both Romeo and Juliet at the end.
- Hot-Blooded: Mercutio exists in a state of constant, violent enthusiasm, whether reveling, soliloquizing, or dueling to his own death.
- Hufflepuff House: There's actually a third clan—the Prince's family (historically, the Scaligers or Della Scala- the Prince's name, Escalus, is a Latin version of this), consisting of the Prince himself, Mercutio, and Paris. The Prince loses his two kinsmen over the course of the play too, leading him to say in the final scene that he has also been punished for the violence in Verona alongside the Capulets and Montagues.
- Hurricane of Puns: Both the start of Act I Scene 1 (between the Capulets' servants Gregory and Sampson), and the middle of Act II Scene 4 (between Mercutio and Romeo).
Sampson: Gregory, o' my word, we'll not carry coals.
- From Act I, Scene I:
Gregory: No, for then we should be colliers.
Sampson: I mean, an we be in choler, we'll draw.
Gregory: Ay, while you live, draw your neck out of the collar.
- Mercutio all over the place.
- He disdains Romeo for being a victim of love, even though much of Mercutio's own dialogue implies he is himself bitter over a past hurt.
- He accuses Benvolio, the famous pacifist, of having a Hair-Trigger Temper, of which his own actions later in the scene are more suggestive.
- He blames his own death on the pointless feud between the houses, despite having enthusiastically inserted himself into Romeo and Tybalt's conflict.
- He rants at length about how dangerous a swordsman Tybalt is and how Romeo wouldn't stand a chance against him, then takes personal offense when Romeo declines to fight Tybalt.
- Lord Capulet as well. He chides the "saucy" Tybalt for his dramatic reaction to Romeo's infiltration of the feast, yet explodes in an even more dramatic fashion when Juliet declines the marriage he arranged for her.
- Mercutio all over the place.
- Idiot Ball: Friar Lawrence fails to consider the thing most likely to interfere with Juliet's faked suicide—Romeo not getting the message in time—which is exactly what ends up happening.
- Ignored Confession: Juliet confesses to her nurse that she loves Romeo rather than Paris, but she assumes she just means that she would rather marry her cousin's killer than Paris.
- Impeded Messenger: Due to the plague sweeping through Europe, a priest carrying a vital message to Romeo never reaches him. Many places would close their doors to priests, who were believed to carry the plague as they visited those with it for religious ceremonies.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Whenever the Nurse asks for "aqua vitae", it's this.
- Informed Flaw: Mercutio describes Benvolio as hot-blooded, willing to start a fight for any reason at all. Considering that we have only ever seen Benvolio try to stop other people from fighting, it seems more likely that Mercutio is conflating Benvolio with Tybalt or himself.
- In Love with Love: Romeo, particularly with Rosaline.
- Inspiration Nod: In Act II, Mercutio sarcastically disses several mythical Love Interests, including Thisbe, heroine of Pyramus and Thisbe, a much older version of the Romeo and Juliet story.
- Large Ham: Mercutio loves to make dramatic speeches.
- Lost Aesop: If Romeo And Juliet was intended as condemnation of hormonal teenagers who think their first relationship is true love and go to melodramatic extremes to prove that it is love rather than simply lust, it failed horribly.
- Love at First Sight: The title characters fell in love like this. They fell HARD.
- Maid and Maiden: Trope Codifier, The Nurse is the Maid who plays Secret Keeper for Juliet the Maiden as she tries to get with Romeo.
- Mandatory Motherhood: Romeo laments that Rosaline, who is determined to "live chaste," is wasting her beauty by refusing to pass it on to future generations.
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: By their times's standards. Romeo is the one with emotional reactions for better or worse, whereas Juliet is more practical and stages their doomed escape. Romeo kills himself with poison, which is considered a feminine way to commit suicide, whereas Juliet uses a dagger, which was a weapon used typically by men.
- Master Swordsman: Tybalt, whose devotion to ornate classical fighting styles drives Mercutio crazy.
- Masquerade Ball: Capulet holds one, which is where Romeo and Juliet fall in Love at First Sight.
- Matron Chaperone: The Nurse.
- Meaningful Name:
- Tybalt/Tybert/Tibert is the name of the hot-blooded prince of cats from the folk tales of Reynard the Fox. Tybalt is frequently made fun of for this, and is indeed hot-blooded.
- Benvolio means "Good will" and he is the most reasonable of the Montagues.
- Related to mercurial, meaning changeable, which Mercutio certainly is.
- Mercurial itself is derived from the name of Mercury, messenger god of the Roman pantheon. As a member of the house of Escalus, Mercutio is at least poised to serve as a messenger between the warring houses.
- Although it is unlikely that Shakespeare knew the element mercury by that name, it connects in several ways: mercury is notable for its liquid state at room temperature—neither a solid nor a gas (neither a Montague nor a Capulet); it is used both to measure temperature and to form highly reflective surfaces, just as Mercutio's mood measures and reflects the current state of house tensions; and it is toxic after prolonged exposure—like Mercutio.
- Escalus sounds like "scales", relating to his attempts to restore justice and order throughout the play.
- Name and Name: No points for guessing the main characters of this play.
- Never My Fault: Mercutio blames his death on the feud between the houses, despite having eagerly stepped forward to take Romeo's place in his conflict with Tybalt.
- Nice Guy:
- Benvolio is a generally inoffensive pacifist.
- Paris, although how nice he is depends on the staging.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Friar Lawrence's well-intentioned intervention instead leads to the death of both protagonists.
- No Antagonist: Tybalt acts as antagonist for a while, but he dies in Act III of a five-act work. Capulet can be seen as the antagonist, as he would be were the play a comedy, but it is ultimately implied that the feud and pointless hatred themselves were to blame for the play's conflict.
- Not So Above It All: Benvolio acts as though he is above the house conflict and will not takes sides. But in his account of the duel in Act III, he makes it sound as though Tybalt challenged Mercutio, when in fact it was the reverse, which has a significant effect on the Prince's judgement on the affair.
- Not So Different: Despite the grudge between the Capulet and Montague families, they have more in common than not, as pointed out in the very first line: "Two households, both alike in dignity ..."
- Oh, Crap!: Friar Lawrence gets one when Friar John returns with his letter in tow, realizing that his plan to get the lovers back together just went to hell in a hand basket.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Romeo, Benvolio, Mercutio, and the other Montague revelers waltz into their arch-enemy's ball wearing masks. No one is recognized save Romeo, and then only because he talks.Tybalt: This by his voice should be a Montague!
- Parental Substitute: The Nurse to Juliet, whose mother is herself in her twenties and unequipped to be the guiding influence Juliet needs.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: After Romeo kills Tybalt, Lord Montague protests that, since Tybalt had just killed Mercutio, Romeo was merely expediting justice. This likely contributes to Escalus's decision to banish rather than execute him.
- Plucky Girl: Juliet, especially considering the time period it's set in. She disobeys her parents, follows her heart, and braves disownment and being trapped in a tomb to stay true to the man she loves.
- Poor Communication Kills: This is one of the major things that contributed to Romeo and Juliet's deaths. Most notably, the reason the whole play ends in tragedy rather than with a happy reunification of the lovers is that Friar Lawrence isn't able to warn Romeo that Juliet is only feigning death before he hears about it from someone else.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Probably the main reason people think Romeo and Juliet are the model for a good relationship, and probably the reason a surprising number of people forget the ending in the prologue. Ironically, the title has become a kind of shorthand for idolizing the very behaviors it can be argued to make fun of.
- Prince Charmless: Sometimes Paris is played as this, making the audience sympathize more with Juliet for not wanting to marry him.
- Pungeon Master: Goddammit, Mercutio.Romeo: Pardon, good Mercutio, my business was great; and in such a case as mine a man may strain courtesy.
Mercutio: That's as much as to say, such a case as yours constrains a man to bow in the hams.
- Reasonable Authority Figure
- Prince Escalus can be played as such. He wants to stop the two families from fighting in the streets of his city, and it's explicitly stated he's showing Romeo mercy by banishing him instead of having him executed for Tybalt's death. However, it can be argued that his intervention has in fact escal-ated the conflict.
- Lord Montague, as opposed to Lord Capulet, is never shown to be bad in any way, and shows genuine concern for Romeo in the first scene.
- The Reliable One
- Replacement Goldfish: Juliet for the nurse's deceased daughter. Also probably Tybalt for Capulet's deceased children, and/or the Capulets for Tybalt's dead parents. While never explicitly stated to be dead, his parents never show up, and when he dies himself, Lord and Lady Capulet do all the mourning for them.
- Roaring Rampage of Romance: Romeo and Juliet's romance causes six deaths:
- Mercutio: Killed defending Romeo.
- Tybalt: Killed by Romeo in a duel.
- Romeo's mother: Died of sadness because of Romeo's banishment.
- Paris: Killed by Romeo.
- Romeo: Killed himself by ingesting poison.
- Juliet: Killed herself by stabbing herself with Romeo's knife.
- Romantic False Lead: Paris shows up asking for Juliet's hand before she meets Romeo. Or, if Juliet is the protagonist, Romeo shows up besotted with Rosaline before he meets Juliet.
- Runaway Fiancée: The Faux Death set up by Juliet was an attempt to get out of marrying Paris.
- Sacrificial Lion: Mercutio and Tybalt die in Act III, after which the play begins to take shape as a tragedy.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: One could say that this is Friar Lawrence's intention (although it's more like "screw societal tradition" than "screw the rules"), although he ends up failing miserably.
- Secret Relationship: The root of the tragedy.
- Serial Romeo: Romeo's object of hopeless affection changes on a dime in the play, and it's implied he's done this sort of thing before. He knew Juliet for about a minute, and was already making out with her.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: After Mercutio's death, the play turns into a tragedy.
- Spared by the Adaptation: The play never reveals what happened to the apothecary, but the source story ends with him being sentenced to death.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Romeo and Juliet are kept apart by a string of misfortunes. However, it's also an Unbuilt Trope, since it shows how reckless and foolish the lovers were to rush into things.
- Tag Team Suicide: Juliet uses Romeo's dagger to kill herself after Romeo kills himself by ingesting poison.
- Tempting Fate: Romeo, just before his wedding:Romeo: Do thou but close our hands with holy words,
Then love-devouring death do what he dare
It is enough I may but call her mine.
- The World's Expert on Getting Killed: Mercutio gives a very detailed description of how skilled a swordsman Tybalt is. He later starts up a fight with Tybalt himself, and ends up getting killed by him.
- Threatening Mediator: In Act I Scene 1, The Prince of Verona enters in the middle of a brawl that includes servants from Capulet and Montague, the hot-blooded Capulet heir Tybalt and his cronies against the Montague youths, and the heads of the houses. The Prince commands them to stand down, "on pain of death." At the end of the scene, he makes it clear to the heads of the houses that if another brawl erupts, punishing their servants won't be enough: the Lords themselves will be executed.
- Together in Death: Romeo and Juliet, who actually end lying side by side (or at least sufficiently close) in the middle of the Capulet mausoleum.
- Too Dumb to Live: It's probably easier to list the characters who don't act like idiots.
- A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: The entire romance is a string of action on impulse, and the the plot really starts to go south when Romeo kills Tybalt without thinking first.
- Tragic Hero: It has been argued that both Romeo and Juliet are this, that neither quite makes it, that they make one up together, that only Romeo is, and that only Juliet is.
- Tragic Mistake: Romeo's killing of Tybalt in vengeance for Mercutio, leading to his banishment. Everything goes straight to hell for both lovers because of it.
- Translation Convention: The play is set in Italy.
- Unstoppable Rage: Mercutio's death imbues Romeo with so much vengeful fury that he manages to defeat Master Swordsman Tybalt. Later, after Juliet's supposed death, Romeo kills Paris, the prince's cousin, when he tries to deny Romeo entry to the tomb.
- Unusual Euphemism: Shakespeare occasionally uses die as slang for orgasm, particularly in Juliet's wedding-night soliloquy.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
- Romeo's servant Balthazar tells Romeo that Juliet is dead, oblivious to the fact that the death has been faked. Romeo takes this badly.
- Friar John is another unwitting instigator, although, ironically, this stems from his failure to deliver a letter. He doesn't know what it contains.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Tybalt sees Romeo as this; when Tybalt tells Lord Capulet that Romeo has come uninvited to the Capulet masquerade ball, Lord Capulet lets it slide because Romeo has a decent reputation (not to mention Lord Capulet didn't want any trouble). Conversely, the entire Capulet household is fiercely devoted to Tybalt, the play's apparent antagonist.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Friar Lawrence's speech to Romeo in Act III in which he calls Romeo out for crying like a baby, not realizing how lucky he is that he's not dead as a result of his idiocy, and for generally not manning up.
- Women Are Wiser:
- Juliet is far and away the more sensible and level-headed one of the title duo. Also, when a street brawl breaks out, Lords Montague and Capulet try to fight, and their wives have to hold them back.
- Even between the Nurse and Friar Lawrence, this trope is applicable - although in a darker way. Friar Lawrence sets about making tons of risky plans that, although well-intentioned, have a thousand ways to go wrong. The Nurse tells Juliet to be sensible and marry Paris, and give up Romeo for dead, because it involves less risk and heartache.
- Young Love Versus Old Hate: The young lovers come from families that have been at war with each other for generations. The hatefulness of the older generation eventually led to the death of both characters.
- Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb: The fights are often portrayed as this.
- All Part of the Show: Variant in the Zeffirelli movie. Everyone thinks Mercutio, the local Sad Clown, is joking around after being injured by Tybalt; it is only when they check on him they realize his injuries are fatal.
- Ambiguously Gay: Mercutio, in some modern productions.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Very commonly seen to distinguish the two families and highlight how irreconcilable they are. In Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation, the Capulets wear red and the Montagues blue (or sometimes green), and the Prince's family wear somber, dark browns. In the 2013 film adaption, the Montagues wear red and Capulets wear blue.
- Composite Character: Many adaptations have Benvolio take the roles that random Montagues take in the final acts, since otherwise he disappears without explanation.
- Dance of Romance: Though Juliet off-handedly mentions that Romeo doesn't like to dance, some renditions have the duo dance together before they exchange dialogue.
- Demoted to Extra: Most adaptations seem to forget Paris. His death is one of the most frequently omitted sequences, even though it makes a nonsense of the Prince's "I have lost a brace of kinsmen" lines. (This may be because Romeo murders him, which is odd coming from the hero.)
- The Dying Walk: Some adaptations of the story have Mercutio doing this after or while he's uttering his Dying Curse.
- Gratuitous Laboratory Flasks:
- In the 1936 film the Friar has the standard movie scientist's arrangement of exotic glass flasks and beakers bubbling with smoke.
- Friar Lawrence in the 1968 film version has a desk covered in quite a few interesting-looking (and impractical) retorts and bottles, shown prominently during the scene where he is giving Juliet the sleeping potion. The shots of Juliet from Lawrence's P.O.V. make a point of showing her surrounded on all sides by the Italian Renaissance-era style glassware. Interestingly one of the items is a very anachronistic modern Erlenmeyer flask filled with blue liquid.
- Improvised Weapon: The 1968 film has Mercutio and Tybalt briefly fighting with farm tools.
- Modesty Bedsheet: Zig-Zagged during the 1968 film: Juliet has one of these during a scene featuring her and Romeo in bed together, post-nuptuals. There was some controversy when Franco Zefferelli kept a split-second shot of her breasts exposed, despite her being under 18.
- Mortal Wound Reveal: Mercutio's death is often played as this in modern versions, with Franco Zeffirelli's screen adaptation being one example.
- Rapunzel Hair: Olivia Hussey as Juliet in the 1968 film had waist-length hair.
- Sad Clown: Mercutio, in some versions.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: In the 1936 film Romeo climbs over Juliet's balcony, and we get a cut away to shots of the trees and the stars in the sky and such.
- Spared by the Adaptation:
- Some film versions and some productions leave Paris and Lady Montague alive since their deaths have little impact on the plot.
- In the Spaghetti Western adaptation, The Fury Of Johnny Kid, the characters based on Romeo and Juliet live — but everyone else dies, mostly by each other's hands (with a lone gunslinger cleaning out the rest).
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.