Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Anne Muir. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.
Today Spotlight presents a classic of English literature. It is the story of William Shakespeare’s play ‘Romeo and Juliet’. The story is told by Nick Page.
The story takes place many years ago. It is about two young people, Romeo and Juliet, who fall very much in love. But their families hate each other. Sometimes the men from the families even fight in the streets.
As the story opens, Romeo and Juliet have never met. Juliet’s parents organise a party at their home. Romeo and his friends hear of the party. They decide to join in. But they wear clothes that hide who in fact they are.
When they arrive, there is music and food. Juliet’s family and their friends are dancing and talking. They do not know that there are strangers in the house.
During the party, Romeo sees Juliet across the room. He likes her and is attracted to her. He says
“I never saw true beauty till this night.”
He does not know who she is but he goes to talk with her. He finds that she is also attracted to him. They are falling in love.
However, after Romeo leaves the house, Juliet finds out who he really is. This is a great shock to her. She finds she is in love with the son of her father’s great enemy.
“My only love, sprung from my only hate.”
But Juliet and Romeo are so in love that they do not feel the sharp hate that separates their families. They cannot tell their parents about their love, and they can never meet except in secret. Later that night Romeo climbs over the wall around Juliet’s house. He hides and waits until she comes to her window. When she appears he thinks that she is as beautiful as the sun rising in the morning.
“It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”
He watches her. She looks sad, standing with her head in her hands.
“See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I could touch that cheek.”
Then he hears her speaking to herself. She says that it is Romeo that she loves. His family name should not be a problem.
“What’s in a name?
That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo moves from where he was hiding, and speaks to Juliet. He tells her that he would change his name if she wanted him to. She is shocked that he has put his life at risk by climbing into her family’s property, but she understands how very much he loves her.
They both know the danger they are in, but they also know how strong their love is for each other. They decide to visit their priest, Friar Laurence, and ask him to marry them, in secret, in the church, without their families knowing.
They are married the next morning. Romeo and Juliet are united, as husband and wife; but the family fights continue.
On the street, Romeo’s great friend Mercutio is attacked by Tybalt. Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin. Romeo tries to stop the fight, but Tybalt kills Mercutio with his sword. Romeo, in sudden anger, kills Tybalt. He knows he will be arrested, so he runs away, and hides in Friar Laurence’s church.
Friar Laurence suggests Romeo travels to another city and promises to send him news about what is happening at home. Friar Laurence hopes he can ask the Prince of their city to forgive Romeo, so that he can come back to Juliet.
Juliet cannot stop crying. Her family thinks it is because of her cousin, Tybalt’s, death. Really, it is because her new, secret, husband has had to run away.
Then her father tells her something he has been planning for some time. He wants her to marry an important friend of his, named County Paris. She objects very strongly but her father will not take ‘no’ for an answer. He insists that she will soon be married to Paris. Juliet cannot tell him that she is already married to Romeo. She runs to Friar Laurence and tells him about this new great problem, and asks for his help.
Friar Laurence gives her a special drug. When she drinks it, she will fall into a deep sleep for almost two days. It will make her seem to be dead.
She goes back home and seems to agree to her father’s order that she must marry County Paris. The night before the wedding is to take place, she drinks Friar Laurence’s drug. The next morning – she does not wake up. Everyone thinks she is dead, and instead of a wedding there is a funeral. Juliet is placed in the large tomb where all her family are buried.
Friar Laurence sends a messenger to Romeo to tell him of this plan, and calls him to travel back. He says that they will go to the tomb together; and they will be there when Juliet wakes from her deep sleep. Then the two loving young people can escape. They can make a new life away from the city – and away from the hate between their families.
But, everything does not go as Friar Laurence planned. His messenger does not reach Romeo. Instead, Romeo just hears the tragic news that Juliet has died and is being buried. He is very sad and decides he does not want to live without Juliet. He buys a strong poison, and makes his way, in secret, back to the city and direct to the tomb. He breaks in and finds Juliet lying there. Like everyone else he also thinks she is dead. He says he will not leave her.
“I will stay with you
And never from this palace of dim night
Depart again: here, here will I remain.”
He drinks the poison he has brought with him, and dies. Soon, Juliet wakes from her deep sleep, and finds Romeo’s dead body next to her.
“What’s here? A cup closed in my true love’s hand?
Poison I see has been his timeless end”
She looks to see if there is any poison left for her to drink. There is not. The bottle is empty. So she takes Romeo’s knife and kills herself.
The Prince, and Romeo and Juliet’s parents, are called. Friar Laurence is asked to explain what has happened. This tragic event makes the parents understand how damaging their hate is. They promise in future to be brothers and not enemies.
They see that is was their hate that led to the deaths of their children, lying there in the tomb.
The Prince describes the tragic end of the story in the last words of the play:
“Never was a story of more woe,
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo”