Romeo and Juliet Act 5 - Scene 1 Summary

Instructor: Meredith Spies

Meredith has studied literature and literary analysis, holding a master's degree in liberal arts with a focus on depictions of femininity vs masculinity in literature and art.

This lesson is a summary of act 5, scene 1, of ''Romeo and Juliet''. This scene is one of the most important in the play as the fates of the main characters are finally set into motion.

Leading to Resolution

As the final act in the Romeo and Juliet, act 5 contains more action than previous acts and leads to the resolution, or ultimate ending, of the plotlines. Scene 1 contains elements that would be typical of a farce (misunderstandings, missed connections) but due to the nature of the play, they serve to underscore the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo Receives Terrible News

Romeo wakes from a dream in which he is dead but Juliet awakens him with a kiss. This is a grim bit of foreshadowing. He contemplates his plan with Juliet, their love for one another, and love as an abstract concept, but is interrupted by his servant Balthasar. Not only is there no message from Friar Laurence, the lovers' confidant in their plans to elope, but Juliet has died and is laid in the Capulets' tomb, according to Balthasar's observation. Balthasar is unaware that what he saw was obfuscation and that Juliet was faking her own death. Romeo therefore believes that Juliet is truly dead and he cracks.

Romeo Makes a Deadly Plan

Romeo instantly plans to kill himself and die next to Juliet. He orders Balthasar to bring him paper and ink (for a suicide letter to Romeo's father), and to hire some horses for the journey to Verona. Balthasar notes that Romeo looks 'pale and wild,' but Romeo insists he is fine, so Balthasar leaves .

Once alone, Romeo has a soliloquy, or speech expressing his inner thoughts, in which he vividly describes his plans to take poison beside Juliet's corpse and die next to her. He expresses his plans to purchase the poison from an impoverished apothecary, going into great detail about the man's appearance and how he looked gaunt (very like a death-figure). Selling poison was worth a death sentence in Mantua, where they lived, but he is sure the man will sell it to him because Romeo would offer a great deal of money, and the apothecary is so poor.

Romeo Starts to Carry Out His Plan

Romeo proceeds to search for the apothecary and, when he finds him, Romeo works to persuade him to sell him the poison for his plan. Romeo's descriptions of the apothecary draw comparisons to earlier scenes in the play, such as the Capulets' ball (Romeo's description of the apothecary is similar to the mask Romeo wore to the ball), and also underscore the apothecary's poverty. He offers the apothecary forty gold coins for the strongest poison he can produce. Romeo invokes brutal imagery, saying he needs a poison so strong it could work quickly: 'as violently as hasty powder fired doth hurry from the fatal cannon's womb.' Romeo has taken a war-like attitude toward life at this point in the play, defying it to keep hold of him.

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