CST's Short Shakespeare! productions offer a perfect introduction to the Bard—for audiences of all ages. Experience all the passion and drama of Shakespeare’s great love story in this 75-minute abridged production. After the performance, audiences are welcome to join the cast for a post-show discussion.
Recommended for ages 10 and up.
Approximate running time: 75 minutes (no intermission), plus 15 minute post-show discussion
Funding courtesy of The Trust for Courtyard Theater Programming, established by a generous leadership grant from the McCormick Tribune Foundation.
Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet is presented in the Jentes Family Auditorium.
In Verona, the Montague and Capulet families are enemies, and have been for longer than anyone can remember. The Prince decrees that the violence between these two proud households must end—under penalty of death.
Life in Verona goes on and, for some sport, the young Montague men decide to drop in at Lord Capulet's party—in disguise. Romeo, Montague's only son, sees Capulet's daughter Juliet there, and the two fall in love. The next morning, Friar Laurence agrees to wed the young couple, hoping that this marriage will put an end at last to their families' discord. Sending word by Juliet's nurse, Romeo arranges to be married that same afternoon at Friar Laurence's cell. Their secret vows just made, returning from the Friar's, Romeo is confronted in the street by Tybalt, Juliet's cousin, who is enraged by the Montague's intrusion the night before. Romeo refuses to engage in a fight, but Mercutio takes up Tybalt's challenge. As Romeo tries to break the two apart, Tybalt stabs Mercutio, killing him. In blind rage, Romeo turns on his new kinsman, murdering him.
The Capulets demand Romeo's death, but instead the Prince banishes the young Montague from Verona. The next morning, Romeo takes his leave from Juliet after their wedding night spent secretly together. Moments later, Lady Capulet enters her daughter's room to bring news: Juliet's marriage to Count Paris is all arranged. Juliet begs her parents to reconsider, but her pleas are met with rage and an ultimatum. When her Nurse advises Juliet to forget Romeo, the young bride seeks out the Friar's counsel. His plan is desperate: instructing Juliet to take an herbal potion that will induce a deathlike state and thereby prevent her marriage to Paris, the Friar will send word to Romeo, who will rescue his bride from the Capulet tomb and return with her to Mantua until the two families can be reconciled.
The Friar's letter never reaches Romeo, who hears instead report of Juliet's death. Armed with poison, he approaches the Capulet tomb, where he must fend off another night visitor's violent assault. He kills his assailant before recognizing him as Paris. Finding Juliet's lifeless body among the corpses, he swallows poison to be reunited with his love. Moments later as Juliet awakes from the potion's trance, she looks upon her husband and refuses to leave with the Friar; with Romeo's dagger, she takes her life. Too late to save their children, the Montagues and Capulets vow to end their hatred.
– Contributed by the CST Education Department
A Scholar’s Perspective
Peter Holland can remember when he viewed Romeo and Juliet as the great tragedy of adolescent passion. Now, with his own teenagers, he admits feeling sorrier for their parents at times.
Romeo and Juliet is a familiar story for many reasons—not only as Shakespeare's best-known play, but also because the play has thematic roots in myths as old as storytelling itself.
Marriage in Shakespeare's England
As Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, social norms in Early Modern England were changing: with the Renaissance came a more exalted view of the individual, and a centuries-old view of marriage as a property exchange began, slowly, to be based instead on free will.
The Meaning of Banishment
Romeo responds to the Friar's harsh rebuke that banishment is worse than a sentence of death. In Renaissance Europe, to be banished from a town meant to live unprotected.
Shakespeare's heroes and heroines imagine something extraordinary and seek to transcend the compromises of the familiar. We admire that imaginative leap while at the same time acknowledging its impossibility.
John Gielgud directed and played Mercutio, Laurence Olivier played Romeo, Peggy Ashcroft played Juliet, and Edith Evans, the Nurse. Olivier and Gielgud, each fascinated with both Romeo and Mercutio, switched roles after six weeks.
Scholars, Authors and Artists on Romeo and Juliet
Bernard Shaw, David Bevington, W.H. Auden and Mark Lamos are among the luminaries who, through the centuries, have expressed their points of view about Shakespeare's tragedy.
A portal to the world of Shakespeare, these selected internet sites lead further into the exploration of Shakespeare in performance, his life and times, the original texts, and much more.
See who’s who among the actors, with their bios, headshots and resumes.
The Creative Team
See who’s who on the creative team—the director, designers and other artists who contribute to the creation of the world of the play.
A Conversation with Director Amanda Dehnert
Amanda Dehnert is making her directorial debut this season at both Chicago Shakespeare and the Stratford Festival. Learning Programs Manager Jessica Hutchinson and Director of Education Marilyn Halperin met with Amanda Dehnert in October 2007 about her adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and her plans for her Short Shakespeare! production here at CST.