Romeo and Juliet
Author: William Shakespeare
Grade Level Equivalent:
Guided Reading Level:
Drama, Theater, Musicals
The Montagues and the Capulets are sworn enemies, and their mutual hatred has cost many lives. Trying to put an end to the violence, the prince decrees that the punishment for such fighting shall be death.
At a party, Romeo, the only child of Lord Montague, falls hopelessly in love with Juliet, the only child of Lord Capulet. By the next daybreak, Romeo and Juliet have made a secret plan to marry. Friar Laurence, friend to both the Montagues and the Capulets, agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet and hopes that their union will end the hatred between the two families.
After the wedding, violence again breaks out between the Montagues and the Capulets. Romeo tries to avoid it, but in the end he has killed Juliet's cousin, and is subsequently exiled from the city as punishment for his crime.
Lord Capulet, without knowing that Juliet has married, arranges for her to marry another. Juliet constructs a desperate plan with the help of Friar Laurence: she will take a potion which will make her appear to be dead, and Friar Laurence will get word to Romeo that he should sneak back to the city to meet his wife when she awakes. But Friar Laurence's message never reaches Romeo.
When Romeo hears that Juliet is dead, he buys a vial of poison and goes to Juliet's tomb to bid farewell to his beautiful wife before he kills himself. By the time Juliet awakes, Romeo is gone.
In her despair, Juliet plunges a dagger into her chest. Only now do the Capulets and the Montagues put their hatred aside to make room for their shared grief at the loss of their only children, and the victory of death over love.
Shakespeare's most famous tragedy is filled with many compelling themes, such as passion, risk, and revenge, which are sure to spark interest in young readers.