Two Capulet servants (Sampson, and Gregory) are hanging out, trash-talking the Montagues. Soon enough, a few Montagues servants (including Abram) show up. Sampson tries to get the Montagues to start a fight by giving them the "Elizabethan Finger" - he bites his thumb at them - The fighting starts. As Benvolio tries to stop the fight, Tybalt joins right in. After many minutes of fighting, Prince Escales stops the fight and separates the Montagues from the Capulets. All the while, no one knows where Romeo is. Romeo we find has been moping about in a "grove of sycamore" (sick amour = love sick) Romeo loves Rosaline, but she does not love him back. Benvolio soon tells Romeo to forget about Roseline and that he should look at other girls, but Romeo thinks no one will compare. Benvolio disagrees and says he'll make Romeo forget his crush or die trying.
At the Capulet house, Paris asks Lord Capulet for permission to marry Juliet, but Capulet insists that Paris should be patient, since Juliet is only fourteen. Capulet wants Juliet to be able to pick who she would like to marry, but he suggests to Paris that he should try to impress Juliet at a masked ball that the Capulets are hosting that evening. Capulet then hands his servant Peter a list of names and orders the man to invite everyone on the list to the party. Out on the streets, Peter runs into Romeo and Benvolio, who are talking about Rosaline. Peter cannot read, so he asks them to help him make sense of the list. Romeo and Benvolio discover that Rosaline will be at the Capulets' party. They decide to attend - even though it is a Capulet party, they will be able to disguise themselves by wearing masks.
At the Capulet party, when Juliet arrives, Lady Capulet tells Juliet about Paris's intention to marry her. The mother describes Paris as beautiful, comparing him to a fine book that only lacks a cover. Juliet does not promise anything to her mother, but she does agree to study Paris that night.
Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio walk through the streets to the Capulets' party. Romeo remains depressed over Rosaline, so Mercutio tries to cheer him up with a story about Queen Mab, a fictitious elf who infiltrates men's dreams.
At the party, Romeo mopes in the corner, away from the dancing. Suddenly, he notices Juliet, and falls in love with her immediately.
Tybalt overhears Romeo asking a serving man about Juliet, and recognizes the masked man's voice. However, before Tybalt can create a scene, Lord Capulet reminds him of the prince's prohibition of public fighting, and orders the boy to stand down. Romeo approaches Juliet and touches her hand. They speak together, and Romeo eventually earns Juliet's permission for a kiss. However, before they can talk further, the Nurse calls Juliet to see her mother. After Juliet leaves, Romeo asks the Nurse her name, and is shocked to learn that his new object of desire is a Capulet. As the party winds down, Juliet asks her Nurse about Romeo. When she learns about Romeo's identity, she is heartbroken to find out that she has fallen in love with a Montague.
Out in the street, Romeo escapes from Mercutio and Benvolio. Benvolio finally gets tired of searching for Romeo, and they leave.
Meanwhile, Romeo has succeeded in leaping over the Capulets' garden wall and is hiding beneath Juliet's balcony. She soon appears and delivers her famous soliloquy, asking "Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?". She wishes that Romeo's name were different, so that they would not be enemies. Romeo overhears her speech, which confirms his own feelings. He interrupts Juliet to confess his own love. Juliet warns Romeo to speak truthfully, since she has fallen in love with him and does not want to be hurt. Romeo swears his feelings are genuine. The Nurse calls to Juliet, who disappears momentarily. She comes back out and insists that if Romeo truly loves her, he should propose marriage and plan a meeting place for them. The Nurse calls Juliet a second time, and she exits. Romeo then leaves.
At the chapel, Friar Laurence is collecting herbs. Romeo arrives and confesses his new love for Juliet. He asks the Friar to marry them. Though the Friar is surprised that Romeo has forgotten Rosaline so quickly, he is nonetheless delighted, because Romeo and Juliet's love presents an opportunity to end the feud between the Montagues and Capulets.
Out in the street the next day, Benvolio tells Mercutio that Romeo hasn't come home from the party last night. He also says that Tybalt has sent Romeo a threatening message. When Romeo joins them, Mercutio mocks him. Nurse and Peter arrive and ask to speak with Romeo. Mercutio makes sexual jokes about the Nurse, but eventually leaves with Benvolio. The Nurse explains that Juliet will meet Romeo and marry him. Romeo proposes they meet that afternoon at Friar Laurence's chapel.
Back in the Capulet palace, Juliet eagerly waits for the news from Nurse. When Nurse eventually arrives, she comically refuses to give Juliet any information about Romeo. Finally, the Nurse tells Juliet about the plan for her to meet Romeo at Friar Laurence's chapel.
At the chapel, Romeo and Friar Laurence wait for Juliet to arrival. Juliet soon appears, and Friar Laurence brings them into the church to be married.
On the streets, Benvolio and Mercutio wait around for Romeo to meet them. Tybalt sees them first, and start a fight. Tybalt makes it clear that he is looking for Romeo, he wants to punish him for sneaking into the Capulets' masked party the previous day. Romeo arrives, overjoyed with his recent marriage, insisting he will not hate the Capulet house. Tybalt is unsure how to deal with Romeo. However, Mercutio challenges Tybalt to a duel, so he draws his sword and attacks Mercutio. Romeo attempts to intervene, holding Mercutio back. While Romeo is restraining him, Tybalt stabs Mercutio and then leaves quickly.
Mercutio is mortally wounded. Benvolio soon returns with news that Mercutio has died. Romeo vows revenge on Tybalt, who soon reappears. Romeo and Tybalt duel, and Romeo kills Tybalt. He then flees quickly after Benvolio warns him that the Prince will come soon. The Prince, followed by the Montague and Capulet families, arrive. Benvolio tells him the entire story, but the Prince refuses to hold Romeo blameless. Instead, he banishes Romeo from Verona, insisting he will die if he does not obey.
Nurse enters, sad and speaking unclearly; Juliet can only discern that someone has died and that someone has been banished. As she did in the previous scene, the Nurse refuses to tell Juliet what she knows. Instead, she allows Juliet to believe that Romeo has been killed. When Nurse finally tells the truth, Juliet immediately criticizes Romeo over his violence. Juliet complains about Romeo's banishment, and claims that she would rather have both her parents killed then see Romeo suffer. Nurse promises to find Romeo - she knows he is hiding with Friar Laurence - and bring him to Juliet's bed that night. Juliet gives Nurse a ring for Romeo to wear when he comes to see her.
In the chapel, where Romeo is hiding, Friar Laurence informs him about his punishment, adding that he should be happy that the Prince didn't sentence him to death. Romeo considers banishment a fate worse than death, since it will separate him from his Juliet. Nurse arrives to find Romeo collapsed on the ground, crying. She tells him to stand, but he is so upset that he prepares to stab himself. She snatches away his dagger, and Friar Laurence begs Romeo to look at the bright side - at least he and Juliet are both still alive. The Friar then convinces Romeo to visit Juliet that night, and to escape to Mantua in the morning.
At the Capulet household, Lord and Lady Capulet and Paris prepare for bed; they have been up all night mourning Tybalt's death. They discuss Juliet's extreme depression which they believe to be the result of losing her cousin, Tybalt. Partly because he believes it will soothe her sadness, Lord Capulet decides right then that Juliet will marry Paris, and that the wedding will take place later that week. He orders Lady Capulet to inform Juliet about the matter, and then leaves for bed.
Lady Capulet tells Juliet about the plans for her marriage, believing it will cheer her daughter up. However, Juliet refuses. Then, Lord Capulet enters, and grows furious at her refusal. He calls Juliet "young baggage," and demands she prepare for marriage on the upcoming Thursday. Lady Capulet refuses to comfort Juliet, and even the Nurse betrays her, insisting that Paris is a fine gentleman worthy of her hand. Juliet orders the Nurse to leave, and prepares to visit Friar Laurence for advice. As the Nurse leaves, Juliet calls her many names.
At the chapel, Paris speaks to Friar Laurence about his wedding with Juliet. Juliet, in search of Romeo, arrives at the chapel and finds Paris there. She is forced to speak with him, and he behaves arrogantly now that their wedding is set. However, Juliet asks Friar Laurence if she can speak to him alone. When the Friar assents, Paris is forced to leave. Friar Laurence proposes a plan to help Juliet reunite with Romeo. The Friar will give Juliet a special potion that will effectively "kill" her for 42 hours; she will look make no signs of life. Following their family tradition, her parents will place her body in the Capulet vault. Meanwhile, Friar Laurence will send a letter to Romeo, telling him of the plan so that he can meet Juliet in the tomb and then lead her away from Verona. Juliet approves of the plan.
Happy to know that she will be reunited with Romeo, Juliet returns home and apologizes to her father for her disobedience. He frogives her, and instructs her to prepare her clothes for the wedding, which is now going to happen the next day. Lord Capulet then sets out to find Paris to deliver the good news about Juliet's change of heart.
Juliet convinces Lady Capulet and the Nurse to let her sleep alone that night. She then drinks the Friar's potion and falls to her bed, motionless.
When the Nurse arrives to fetch Juliet the next morning, she finds Juliet's lifeless body. Lady Capulet soon follows, and is devastated over her daughter's "suicide". When Lord Capulet finds out his daughter is dead, he orders the the wedding music to shift into funeral dirges. The grieving family prepares to move Juliet's body to the Capulet tomb as soon as possible.
Romeo wanders the streets of Mantua, Balthasar arrives from Verona with the news of Juliet's "suicide".
Romeo immediately orders Balthasar to prepare a horse so he can rush to Verona and see Juliet's body. Meanwhile, he writes a letter for Balthasar to give to Lord Montague, explaining the situation. Finally, before he leaves Mantua, Romeo buys some poison from a poor Apothecary.
Back in Verona, Friar John, who was supposed to deliver the letter to Romeo telling him about the plan, apologizes to Friar Laurence for being unable to complete the task. Apparently, during his journey, some people believed that Friar John carried the plague and locked him in a house.
Friar Laurence realizes that this ruins his plan, so he immediately orders a crowbar so that he can rescue Juliet from the Capulet tomb.
Mournful Paris guards at Juliet's tomb so that no one will rob the vault. Romeo and Balthasar arrive, and Paris tries to restrain Romeo, who is focused on breaking into the tomb. Paris recognizes Romeo as the man who killed Tybalt, and believes that he has come to abuse Juliet's corpse. Their argument escalates into a sword fight, and Romeo kills Paris.
Romeo opens the tomb and finds Juliet's body. Devastated, he sits next to her and drinks the Apothecary's poison, kisses Juliet, and then dies. Friar Laurence arrives at the Capulet tomb to find Paris's body outside the door. As planned, the potion wears off and Juliet awakens in the tomb, finding Romeo's dead body beside her. When she sees the poison, she realizes what has happened. She kisses Romeo in hopes that the poison will kill her as well, but it doesn't work. From outside the tomb, Friar Laurence begs Juliet to exit the vault and flee, but she chooses to kill herself with Romeo's dagger. After, Prince Escalus arrives, with the City Watchmen. Lord Montague announces that Lady Montague has died from a broken heart as a result of Romeo's banishment. Friar Laurence then explains what has happened to Romeo and Juliet, and Balthasar gives the Prince the letter from Romeo, which confirms the Friar's tale. To make amends for Juliet's death, Lord Montague promises to have a golden statue of her for all of Verona to admire. Lord Capulet promises to do the same for Romeo. The Prince ends the play by celebrating the end of the feud.