The servants of the feuding Capulet and Montague families trade insults on the streets of Verona. The prince of Verona, having grown tired of their continual public brawls, decrees that the next member of either family to provoke a fight will be put to death.
Romeo Montague is infatuated with a girl named Rosaline, so, he and his friends decide to invite themselves to a ball where Rosaline is expected to be present. Unfortunately, the ball is hosted by their sworn enemy, Lord Capulet. In order not to provoke trouble, the young intruders go in disguise. However, all thoughts of Rosaline flee as Romeo falls instantly in love with Juliet, daughter of Capulet, and she with him. In only a moment's time, however, they discover each other's identity. Their love is forbidden.
As Romeo and his friends make their way home, they pass by the home of the Capulets, and Romeo, unable to restrain himself, climbs the garden wall just as Juliet appears on her balcony. They declare their love for one another, seal their love with a kiss and vow to meet the next day.
Romeo turns to his old friend Friar Lawrence and tells him of his intention to marry the daughter of his family's enemy. The friar agrees to marry the young couple as quickly as an opportunity provides itself. Meanwhile, Juliet sends her nurse to make the necessary arrangements, and that afternoon Romeo and Juliet are secretly married in Friar Laurence's cell.
Romeo soon finds himself in the middle of a fight between Mercutio (his cousin) and Tybalt (Juliet's cousin). He tries to be a peacemaker and put a stop to the fighting, but his interference succeeds only in getting Mercutio mortally wounded. Romeo, furious at the death of his friend and kinsman, challenges Tybalt and kills him. The situation is now desperate, and Romeo turns again to his friend, the friar, who informs him that the prince, having learned of his fight with Tybalt, has banished him to Mantua.
Juliet's nurse arranges for the newlyweds to spend Romeo's last night in Verona together in Juliet's bedroom. Unaware of her marriage to Romeo, Juliet's parents set about arranging her marriage to Paris, a noble kinsman.
The next morning, Romeo leaves for Mantua and a horrified Juliet, learning of the marriage plans, flees to Friar Lawrence, who offers a drug that will give her the appearance of death for two days. He assures her that he will get word to Romeo who will rescue her from the Capulet burial vault and take her to Mantua. She agrees to the plan and takes the potion before going to bed. Juliet's nurse finds her apparently dead the next morning.
Romeo, still in Mantua, hears of Juliet's reported death, but the messenger from Friar Lawrence never arrives to tell him the truth. Distraught with grief, he purchases poison and hurries back to Verona and the tomb. Here, Romeo is confronted by Paris, and, in the ensuing fight, kills him. In the vault, Romeo finds his apparently dead wife, drinks the poison, and dies by her side.
Friar Lawrence arrives just as Juliet awakes and tries to draw her away from the tomb, but flees when he hears voices approaching. Juliet attempts to join her dead husband by drinking the poison he brought but, finding the vial empty, kills herself with his dagger.
The feuding families arrive at the vault to find their children dead. They realize, too late, what their hatred has caused and vow to end the feud. The prince observes that because of their foolish hatred, “all are punished.”