The setting is Verona, Italy, where two families, the Montagues and the Capulets, have long been involved in a bitter feud. Not all family members are equally committed to the fight between the families, and some of the cooler heads have tried to urge a stop to the fighting, but every clash between the families makes the feud that much worse. The Capulets and Montagues are both wealthy, well-established families, and their feud is creating repercussions throughout the city, as the violence has impacted the other residents and people are feeling compelled to choose sides. The fighting becomes worse when Tybalt, one of the Capulet cousins, comes to Verona. It escalates to a point that Prince Escalus, who rules Verona, has issued a decree that anyone disturbing the peace will be put to death.
When the audience is first introduced to Romeo Montague, he is not in love with Juliet. Instead, he is pining for a woman named Rosaline, who is not in love with Romeo. Romeo’s cousin Benvolio tells Romeo that he will find another woman whom he loves more than Rosaline, but Romeo does not believe him. Juliet is also facing her own romantic difficulties. Paris, who is related to the Prince, has asked Capulet for Juliet’s hand in marriage. Capulet is pleased with the match, but feels that, at 13, Juliet is too young to marry. Capulet asks Paris to wait two years before marrying Juliet. However, he invites Paris to a masquerade ball that he holds each year, with the hope that Paris can begin wooing Juliet at the ball. Benvolio and Romeo run into the Capulet’s servant, who is carrying a list of invitations for the masquerade. Knowing that most of the eligible women in Verona will be at the masquerade, Benvolio suggests that they crash the masquerade. Romeo sees Rosaline’s name on the list and agrees to go to the masquerade, hoping to have the chance to woo her at the ball. Juliet talks to her mother and her nurse about Paris, who she knows wants to marry her. At 13, Juliet has...
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