Romeo and Juliet (Film 1968)

Romeo and Juliet (Film 1968) Summary and Analysis of Section 5: Romeo Leaves Verona - The End

Romeo dons a cape, climbs atop his horse, and takes off. Back in Juliet’s room, she weeps uncontrollably as her mother paces the room, promising vengeance for Tybalt’s death. The Nurse listens intently from behind a curtain as Lady Capulet promises to send a man to find Romeo in Mantua and poison him. She tries to cheer Juliet up by telling her that next Thursday she will marry Paris, but this only throws Juliet into hysterics. She wails that she won’t marry him as the Nurse tries to comfort her.

Out in the hall, Lord Capulet bids Paris a fond farewell, saying that the marriage is all set. When he’s gone, Lady Capulet tells Lord Capulet that Juliet refuses to marry Paris. This throws Lord Capulet into a rage, as he thinks Juliet is ungrateful for such an excellent groom. He barges into her room and tells her that she must marry Paris or else never look upon him again. He throws her against the wall and the Nurse steps between them to protect her. He tries to move her aside, but Lady Capulet intervenes as well to say he’s too angry. Juliet wails on the floor. Lord Capulet says that if Juliet won’t marry Paris, she can starve in the streets. He vows that he won’t break his promise to Paris and storms out of the room. Lady Capulet tries to leave too, and Juliet grovels at her feet and begs her not to go. Lady Capulet throws her off, saying she’s done worrying about her. Juliet then returns to crying in the arms of the Nurse. The Nurse tries to speak reasonably, saying Juliet should marry Paris since Romeo can’t come back to Verona. This stops Juliet’s crying as she withdraws, feeling betrayed. The Nurse goes on, saying that Paris is better than Romeo, which shocks Juliet. She asks if the Nurse is serious, and the Nurse hesitates and then says yes. Juliet feigns feeling better and says she’s going to confession. The Nurse is glad to hear it. Juliet sends her angrily off to tell her parents where she’s going.

Friar Lawrence is just bidding goodbye to Paris when Juliet arrives, draped in a dark veil. Paris greets her fondly, but she is withdrawn. He expresses excitement about their imminent marriage, and gives her a gentle kiss on the forehead before departing. Juliet runs immediately into the Friar’s chambers and begins wailing. The Friar says he already knows why she’s so upset. She begs for help at his feet. The Friar sees a flower in his basket and has an idea. He asks Juliet if she’s sure she can’t marry Paris, and she threatens to kill herself if she has to. He tells her to go home and make sure she’s alone in bed the following night. He gives her a vial to drink at that time which will slow her pulse so as to be undetectable. Her breathing will all but stop and her body temperature will drop, such that she appears to be dead. This illusion will last 42 hours, after which she’ll awaken as if she were sleeping. In the meantime, he’ll send a letter to Romeo to have him come for her so that they may escape and live together in Mantua. She begs for the vial, and he gives it to her and sends her off. He then takes the candle on his table and blows it out, seeming concerned.

Lord Capulet is in his office writing when Juliet comes in. He angrily asks where she’s been. She says she’s been repenting and that henceforth she’ll do what he asks. He’s overjoyed and embraces her. We then cut to her mother giving her a kiss with the Nurse beaming behind them. Juliet goes into her room alone, takes the vial from a drawer, prays for love to give her strength, and drinks it. She slides slowly out of frame.

Morning rises in Verona. Friar Lawrence hands a letter to Friar John to deliver to Romeo in Mantua. Friar John agrees and bids him goodbye.

From out in the courtyard of the Capulet house, we hear the Nurse scream. She runs out of Juliet’s room and sobs that Juliet is dead. Lord Capulet hears a servant repeat the news and comes running. Lady Capulet comes as well. They stop at her doorway and see Juliet lying limp in her bed. The narrator likens her death to an untimely frost.

We see Friar John walking with his mule, and then we switch to Juliet’s funeral. Pallbearers lay her body at the door to the grand Capulet tomb. The Friar smiles, but then catches himself and stops. In the nearby bushes, Balthasar, a friend of Romeo’s, watches in shock. Lady Capulet steps forward and places flowers in Juliet’s folded hands, crying softly. The pallbearers then cover her in a translucent sheet. Onlooking women throw flowers on her body as she is carried into the tomb. Balthasar takes off on his horse back to Mantua.

Balthasar finds Romeo, who asks how Juliet is. Balthasar shakes his head slowly and begins crying. He says that Juliet is dead, that he saw them lay her to rest in the Capulet tomb. Romeo looks up and says that he defies the stars. He takes off on his horse back to Verona with Balthasar on his own horse in tow. As they ride, they pass Friar John, who hasn’t yet reached Mantua with the letter for Romeo.

By nightfall, the two boys reach the tomb. Romeo tells Balthasar goodbye and Balthasar leaves with the horses. Romeo grabs a large rock and uses it to break open the door. He then takes a lit torch from beside the doorway and heads inside. Around the inner chamber are dozens of decayed bodies, and among them, an untouched Juliet lies still asleep. Romeo approaches and removes the sheet over her head. He remarks that she still looks beautiful even in death. He sees Tybalt lying beside her and asks his forgiveness for avenging his cousin. He then sobs at Juliet’s side, deciding to stay with her there forever. He gives her a final, tear-stained kiss and takes out a vial of poison. He toasts to Juliet, drinks it, and immediately gasps in pain. He grabs for her hand, kisses it, and then collapses, dead.

A lantern-bearing Friar Lawrence finds Balthasar near the tomb. Balthasar says he’s been there a half hour. The Friar fears something terrible has happened and enters the tomb to find Romeo’s body. He kneels and begins to cry. At the same time, Juliet stirs, grabbing at the sheet covering her, feeling her face, and opening her eyes. The Friar hears her awaken and attempts to distract her. She asks where Romeo is, but before he answers, they hear horns sounding outside. He attempts to get her up and out of the tomb, but she is drowsy and slow. The Friar reaches for his lantern to go, but Juliet suddenly spies Romeo and stops in her tracks. The Friar tries to get her to leave, but she refuses. He repeats over and over again that he dares no longer stay as the horns sound again, and flees the tomb. Juliet observes Romeo almost absent-mindedly, seeming not to process what she sees. She crouches down and inspects him, looking at his face, moving his head. She slowly shakes her head and sees the vial of poison in his hand. She tries to drink from it, but it’s completely empty. She tries to kiss his lips in case there’s some residual poison on his mouth, but there’s none. When she feels how warm his lips are, she begins to sob uncontrollably over his body.

She hears voices outside the tomb and knows they will soon come inside. She grabs Romeo’s dagger from his belt and, asking to die, shoves it into her stomach. She gasps in pain and lays her head down on Romeo’s chest. As she dies, her face appears almost relieved.

The next day, a bell tolls as both the Capulets and Montagues file to the church in mourning, with pallbearers carrying Romeo and Juliet’s bodies side by side. They ascend the stairs and lay them at the feet of the prince. He calls forward Lords Capulet and Montague and tells them that their feud is to blame for this, that all are punished now for their actions. The camera pans across the broken faces of Ladies Capulet and Montague, as well as the Nurse, who appears numb. The narrator returns to say that the loss of Romeo and Juliet ended their families’ feud that day. As the pallbearers lift the two and carry them inside, we see one final shot of the faces of Romeo and Juliet side by side. We then watch the procession, led by Lords Capulet and Montague, as it follow them inside, and the credits begin to roll across the screen.

Section 5 Analysis

Emotions rage and tragedy strikes in the film’s final section. Juliet is inconsolable with her Romeo gone, a fact that she masks by pretending to be upset about Tybalt—as the two tragedies are directly connected, she is able to take advantage of one to grieve openly about the other. When her father hears that she refuses to marry Paris, he demonstrates a similar level of uncontrollable emotion as Romeo and Juliet have, though his comes in the form of anger. The scene where he chastises Juliet demonstrates the chaos that ensues when multiple characters who are consumed by their feelings collide—Juliet can only cry hysterically as he fumes and yells, which gets them nowhere. Instances like these once again call for more reasonable voices in the form of the Nurse and even Lady Capulet coming between them to calm Lord Capulet down.

We see a critical shift in the relationship between Juliet and the Nurse at the end of this same scene. The latter has previously been actively complicit in Juliet’s deceptive relationship, playing messenger, covering for her, and generally being a reliable confidant. Her decision to implore Juliet to reconsider marrying Paris, however, on which she doubles down by insisting that Romeo isn’t that great, is a betrayal that Juliet cannot abide. From this moment, the Nurse becomes as much an enemy to Juliet as anyone. This will prove a turning point in the plot, for had the Nurse remained on good terms with Juliet, she may have been let in on the plan to fake her death, and subsequently been able to help ensure that it didn’t go awry (though of course one can’t know for sure). Instead, she’s left in the dark with the rest of her family, ultimately dooming both lovers.

It is likely no accident that the ultimate reason for Romeo and Juliet taking their own lives is a delayed letter arriving via Friar John. One interpretation of this is that the slightest of miscalculations is enough to doom these rash, overly passionate characters. Had Romeo not reacted so impulsively to Balthasar’s news by flying off to Juliet’s grave and downing poison within five minutes, he may have quickly learned that it was all an illusion, especially given that Friar Lawrence arrived at the grave less than 30 minutes after he did, and also that Juliet was going to wake up very soon. Where patience and calm would have spared him, Romeo’s impulsivity is his downfall.

One crucial difference between the 1968 film version of Romeo and Juliet and the original play is Paris’ absence from the story’s climax. In the play, Paris comes to grieve at Juliet’s grave site when Romeo arrives as well. The two get into a fight and Romeo kills him as he did Tybalt, yet another indication that “civil blood makes civil hands unclean,” and that no one will come out of this ordeal unscathed. In the film, however, director Franco Zeffirelli chose to strip away Paris’ greater involvement to focus the story on the two lovers. The film’s climax is therefore more straight-forward, choosing not to disrupt Romeo’s grief-stricken beeline to Juliet’s side.

Finally, as the prologue foretold, we come full-circle, and the narrator tells us that Romeo and Juliet’s deaths brought peace to the feuding families. Shakespeare’s tragedies are characterized by their dismal conclusions, but in this one we have a glimmer of hope—Romeo and Juliet may be gone, but their drastic actions and sudden loss were enough to shock their rash, stubborn relatives into sensibility, thus bringing peace to a town ravaged by their violence. There is little to be grateful for with so many young people dead (remembering Tybalt and Mercutio as well), but nonetheless, it’s an important final lesson about the corruption of ego and wrath, and provides an inkling of hope as the story comes to its bitter end.