| Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare|
|by Edith Nesbit|
|Twenty stories from Shakespeare retold in lively prose. The author makes the complex language of Shakespeare's greatest plays accessible to young children by relating the stories that form the core of the plays. Her graceful, vivid retellings are the perfect introduction to Shakespeare's works. Ages 9-12 |
ROMEO AND TYBALT FIGHT.
ROMEO AND JULIET
NCE upon a time there lived in Verona two great families named
Montagu and Capulet. They were both rich, and I suppose they were
as sensible, in most things, as other rich people. But in one
thing they were extremely silly. There was an old, old quarrel
between the two families, and instead of making it up like reasonable
folks, they made a sort of pet of their quarrel, and would not
let it die out. So that a Montagu wouldn't speak to a Capulet if
he met one in the street—nor a Capulet to a Montagu—or if they
did speak, it was to say rude and unpleasant things, which often
 ended in a fight. And their relations and servants were just as
foolish, so that street fights and duels and uncomfortablenesses
of that kind were always growing out of the Montagu-and-Capulet
Now Lord Capulet, the head of that family, gave a party—a grand
supper and a dance—and he was so hospitable that he said anyone
might come to it except (of course) the Montagues. But there was
a young Montagu named Romeo, who very much wanted to be there,
because Rosaline, the lady he loved, had been asked. This lady
had never been at all kind to him, and he had no reason to love
her; but the fact was that he wanted to love somebody, and as he
hadn't seen the right lady, he was obliged to love the wrong one.
So to the Capulet's grand party he came, with his friends Mercutio
Old Capulet welcomed him and his two friends very kindly—and young
Romeo moved about among the crowd of courtly folk dressed in their
velvets and satins, the men with jeweled sword hilts and collars,
and the ladies with brilliant gems on breast and arms, and stones
of price set in their bright
 girdles. Romeo was in his best too,
and though he wore a black mask over his eyes and nose, everyone
could see by his mouth and his hair, and the way he held his head,
that he was twelve times handsomer than anyone else in the room.
Presently amid the dancers he saw a lady so beautiful and so lovable
that from that moment he never again gave one thought to that
Rosaline whom he had thought he loved. And he looked at this
other fair lady, as she moved in the dance in her white satin and
pearls, and all the world seemed vain and worthless to him compared
with her. And he was saying this, or something like it, when
Tybalt, Lady Capulet's nephew, hearing his voice, knew him to be
Romeo. Tybalt, being very angry, went at once to his uncle, and
told him how a Montagu had come uninvited to the feast; but old
Capulet was too fine a gentleman to be discourteous to any man
under his own roof, and he bade Tybalt be quiet. But this young
man only waited for a chance to quarrel with Romeo.
ROMEO AND JULIET
In the meantime Romeo made his way to the fair lady, and told her
in sweet words that he loved
 her, and kissed her. Just then her
mother sent for her, and then Romeo found out that the lady on
whom he had set his heart's hopes was Juliet, the daughter of Lord
Capulet, his sworn foe. So he went away, sorrowing indeed, but
loving her none the less.
Then Juliet said to her nurse:
ROMEO DISCOVERS JULIET.
"Who is that gentleman that would not dance?"
 "His name is Romeo, and a Montagu, the only son of your great
enemy," answered the nurse.
Then Juliet went to her room, and looked out of her window, over
the beautiful green-grey garden, where the moon was shining. And
Romeo was hidden in that garden among the trees—because he could
not bear to go right away without trying to see her again. So
she—not knowing him to be there—spoke her secret thought aloud,
and told the quiet garden how she loved Romeo.
And Romeo heard and was glad beyond measure. Hidden below, he
looked up and saw her fair face in the moonlight, framed in the
blossoming creepers that grew round her window, and as he looked
and listened, he felt as though he had been carried away in a
dream, and set down by some magician in that beautiful and enchanted
"Ah—why are you called Romeo?" said Juliet. "Since I love you,
what does it matter what you are called?"
"Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized—henceforth I never
will be Romeo," he cried, stepping into the full white moonlight
from the shade
 of the cypresses and oleanders that had hidden him.
She was frightened at first, but when she saw that it was Romeo
himself, and no stranger, she too was glad, and, he standing in
the garden below and she leaning from the window, they spoke long
together, each one trying to find the sweetest words in the world,
to make that pleasant talk that lovers use. And the tale of all
they said, and the sweet music their voices made together, is all
set down in a golden book, where you children may read it for
yourselves some day.
And the time passed so quickly, as it does for folk who love each
other and are together, that when the time came to part, it seemed
as though they had met but that moment—and indeed they hardly
knew how to part.
"I will send to you to-morrow," said Juliet.
And so at last, with lingering and longing, they said good-bye.
Juliet went into her room, and a dark curtain hid her bright window.
Romeo went away through the still and dewy garden like a man in
The next morning, very early, Romeo went to
 Friar Laurence, a
priest, and, telling him all the story, begged him to marry him
to Juliet without delay. And this, after some talk, the priest
consented to do.
So when Juliet sent her old nurse to Romeo that day to know what
he purposed to do, the old woman took back a message that all
was well, and all things ready for the marriage of Juliet and
Romeo on the next morning.
The young lovers were afraid to ask their parents' consent to their
marriage, as young people should do, because of this foolish old
quarrel between the Capulets and the Montagues.
And Friar Laurence was willing to help the young lovers secretly,
because he thought that when
 they were once married their parents
might soon be told, and that the match might put a happy end to
the old quarrel.
MARRIAGE OF ROMEO AND JULIET.
So the next morning early, Romeo and Juliet were married at Friar
Laurence's cell, and parted with tears and kisses. And Romeo
promised to come into the garden that evening, and the nurse got
ready a rope-ladder to let down from the window, so that Romeo
could climb up and talk to his dear wife quietly and alone.
But that very day a dreadful thing happened.
Tybalt, the young man who had been so vexed at Romeo's going to
the Capulet's feast, met him and his two friends, Mercutio and
Benvolio, in the street, called Romeo a villain, and asked him to
fight. Romeo had no wish to fight with Juliet's cousin, but
Mercutio drew his sword, and he and Tybalt fought. And Mercutio
was killed. When Romeo saw that this friend was dead, he forgot
everything except anger at the man who had killed him, and he and
Tybalt fought till Tybalt fell dead.
So, on the very day of his wedding, Romeo killed
 his dear Juliet's
cousin, and was sentenced to be banished. Poor Juliet and her
young husband met that night indeed; he climbed the rope-ladder
among the flowers, and found her window, but their meeting was a
sad one, and they parted with bitter tears and hearts heavy,
because they could not know when they should meet again.
Now Juliet's father, who, of course, had no idea that she was
married, wished her to wed a gentleman named Paris, and was so
angry when she refused, that she hurried away to ask Friar Laurence
what she should do. He advised her to pretend to consent, and
then he said:
"I will give you a draught that will make you seem to be dead for
two days, and then when they take you to church it will be to bury
you, and not to marry you. They will put you in the vault thinking
you are dead, and before you wake up Romeo and I will be there to
take care of you. Will you do this, or are you afraid?"
"I will do it; talk not to me of fear!" said Juliet. And she went
home and told her
father she would marry Paris. If she had spoken
out and told her
 father the truth . . . well, then this would
have been a different story.
Lord Capulet was very much pleased to get his own way, and set
about inviting his friends and getting the wedding feast ready.
Everyone stayed up all night, for there was a great deal to do,
and very little time to do it in. Lord Capulet was anxious to
get Juliet married because he saw she was very unhappy. Of course
she was really fretting about her husband Romeo, but her father
thought she was grieving for the death of her cousin Tybalt, and
he thought marriage would give her something else to think about.
Early in the morning the nurse came to call Juliet, and to dress
her for her wedding; but she would not wake, and at last the nurse
cried out suddenly—
"Alas! alas! help! help! my lady's dead! Oh, well-a-day that ever
I was born!"
Lady Capulet came running in, and then Lord Capulet, and Lord Paris,
the bridegroom. There lay Juliet cold and white and lifeless,
and all their weeping could not wake her. So it was a burying
that day instead of a marrying. Meantime Friar
 Laurence had sent
a messenger to Mantua with a letter to Romeo telling him of all
these things; and all would have been well, only the messenger
was delayed, and could not go.
But ill news travels fast. Romeo's servant who knew the secret of
the marriage, but not of Juliet's pretended death, heard of her
funeral, and hurried to Mantua to tell Romeo how his young wife
was dead and lying in the grave.
THE NURSE THINKS JULIET DEAD.
"Is it so?" cried Romeo, heart-broken. "Then I will lie by Juliet's
And he bought himself a poison, and went straight back to Verona.
He hastened to the tomb where Juliet was lying. It was not a
grave, but a
 vault. He broke open the door, and was just going
down the stone steps that led to the
vault where all the dead
Capulets lay, when he heard a voice behind him calling on him to
It was the Count Paris, who was to have married Juliet that very
"How dare you come here and disturb the dead bodies of the Capulets,
you vile Montagu?" cried Paris.
Poor Romeo, half mad with sorrow, yet tried to answer gently.
"You were told," said Paris, "that if you returned to Verona you
"I must indeed," said Romeo. "I came here for nothing else. Good,
gentle youth—leave me! Oh, go—before I do you any harm! I love
you better than myself—go—leave me here—"
Then Paris said, "I defy you, and I arrest you as a felon," and
Romeo, in his anger and despair, drew his sword. They fought,
and Paris was killed.
As Romeo's sword pierced him, Paris cried—
"Oh, I am slain! If thou be merciful, open the tomb, and lay me
 And Romeo said, "In faith I will."
And he carried the dead man into the tomb and laid him by the dear
Juliet's side. Then he kneeled by Juliet and spoke to her, and
held her in his arms, and kissed her cold lips, believing that
she was dead, while all the while she was coming nearer and nearer
to the time of her awakening. Then he drank the poison, and died
beside his sweetheart and wife.
ROMEO ENTERING THE TOMB.
Now came Friar Laurence when it was too late, and saw all that had
hap-  pened—and then poor Juliet woke out of her sleep to find her
husband and her friend both dead beside her.
The noise of the fight had brought other folks to the place too,
and Friar Laurence, hearing them, ran away, and Juliet was left
alone. She saw the cup that had held the poison, and knew how
all had happened, and since no poison was left for her, she drew
her Romeo's dagger and thrust it through her heart—and so, falling
with her head on her Romeo's breast, she died. And here ends the
story of these faithful and most unhappy lovers.
And when the old folks knew from Friar Laurence of all that had
befallen, they sorrowed exceedingly, and now, seeing all the
mischief their wicked quarrel had wrought, they repented them of
it, and over the bodies of their dead children they clasped hands
at last, in friendship and forgiveness.
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