Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Romeo and Juliet (1968)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Romeo and Juliet (1968, UK/It.)

In director Franco Zeffirelli's Shakespearean enduring classic romance-drama - a tragic love story of "star-crossed lovers" filmed on location in Italy; it was the most commercially successful Shakespeare film and its most entertaining, refreshing and natural rendition - a passionate celebration of young love:

  • the film's prologue (a voice-over by narrator Laurence Olivier, uncredited) - told about the ongoing, bloody feud between two important families in Renaissance Verona and the poignant premonition that "star-crossed lovers" [Romeo - son of the Montague family, and Juliet - daughter of the Capulet family] would die by the tragedy's end, finally bringing about the reconciliation of the two bitter, warring families: "Two households both alike in dignity, In fair Verona where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny. Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life; Whose misadventured piteous overthrows Do with their death bury their parents' strife"
  • the opening sword-fighting street brawl in the city of Verona between representatives of the families of the Montagues and the Capulets - Tybalt (Michael York), Lady Capulet's fiery nephew (and Juliet's cousin) on one side, and Benvolio (Bruce Robinson), nephew to Montague on the other; the forbidden feud was broken up by the arrival of The Prince (Robert Stephens) on horseback with a fanfare of trumpets; he announced that the penalty for further fights and violations of the peace would be death
  • the introduction of Romeo Montague (Leonard Whiting) - sad, love-sick son walking by himself through the city streets, holding a flower

Romeo Montague (Leonard Whiting)

Count Paris (Roberto Bisacco)

Juliet Capulet (Olivia Hussey)
  • as preparations were made for the evening's costume dance and feast among the Capulets, Count Paris (Roberto Bisacco) mentioned his intentions to marry Juliet, the 14 year-old daughter of Lord Capulet (Paul Hardwick)
  • in the next sequence, the introduction of the humorous old Nurse (Pat Heywood) for the Capulets, and the young and beautiful teenaged Juliet Capulet (Olivia Hussey) herself - first framed in a courtyard window; her mother Lady Capulet (Natasha Parry) asked her daughter if she was romantically interested in Paris: "Can you love the gentleman?...Speak briefly, can you like of Paris' love?", but Juliet was unsure
  • on their way to the Capulet's evening ball, Romeo and some of his friends were planning to crash the festivities wearing disguises; as they strolled along, Mercutio (John McEnery), a friend of the Prince's, delivered a fanciful, imaginative Queen Mab speech about "the fairies' midwife," who knew about the waking and sleeping, troubling dreams of men
  • during a marvelously-choreographed sequence of dance at the ball, Romeo was immediately startled, entranced, and smitten by the lady Juliet engaged in a hand dance - he exclaimed: "Forswear it sight, for I ne'er saw true beauty till this night"; although Romeo was recognized, Lord Capulet allowed him to remain although Tybalt voiced his objection
Love at First Sight
  • a young boy Leonardo (Bruno Filippini) entertained by singing "What Is A Youth?": ("What is a youth? Impetuous fire. What is a maid? Ice and desire. The world wags on. A rose will bloom It then will fade So does a youth. So do-o-o-oes the fairest maid...")
  • Romeo circled around the perimeter of the crowd during the song, took Juliet's hand from behind a pillar, and spoke his first words to her about his passion - she responded equally as they sensually pressed their hands together in the famous scene
  • after interlocking palms and hands, they also dared to kiss each other (Romeo: "Sin from my lips! O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again"); separately, both Romeo and Juliet realized that they had fallen in love with someone in their family's enemy camp: (Juliet: "Oh! Prodigious birth of love it is to me that I must love a loathed enemy")
Interlocking Hands and Kisses
  • the classic balcony scene: in the secluded Capulet garden later that evening, Romeo saw Juliet upon her balcony in front of her illuminated windows - he began to utter his famous soliloquoy: "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? is my lady, oh, it is my love. O that she knew she were...."; and then he heard Juliet thinking to herself: "Ah, me! O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I'll no longer be a Capulet...'Tis but thy name that is my enemy. Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What is Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; so Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title. Romeo, doff thy name, and for that name which is no part of thee, take all myself." (She embraced herself)
  • when she realized he was in her presence, she asked if he would swear that he loved her; fearing that she had been too forward and "too quickly won," she promised to deny her strong, profuse feelings of love so that he could woo her more formally; she admitted that she should have been more restrained about confiding her "true love's passion" but her love was still innocent and true; Romeo swore his love for her by the moon, but Juliet didn't want a variable love characterized by the changing phases of the "circled orb"; she only wanted him to "swear by thy gracious self." Romeo complied: "If my heart's dear love, I swear! Oh, Juliet!" - and they hugged and kissed passionately
  • Juliet wished to say good night (and she sweetly kissed Romeo good-night) while fearing for his safety, and also so that the bud of their blossoming love would have time to bloom and grow into a "beauteous flower," but Romeo wished for her to remain a bit longer so they could exchange loving vows; she pleaded that she had already given her vows from her boundless bounty, as she confessed: "My bounty is as boundless as the sea. My love as deep. The more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite"
  • at the end of their evening, Juliet whispered that if Romeo wished marriage, he should send word (of where and when) the next day by messenger; he climbed the tree one more time to kiss her - and they were still kissing as dawn's light arrived; as he slipped down from the balcony - they extended their hands out to each other, as she said goodbye: "Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow"
  • the wedding scene at the altar of the chapel the next day, arranged secretly by Romeo's confessor and father figure, Friar Laurence (Milo O'Shea), with the assistance of Juliet's bawdy Nurse
  • on the afternoon of his marriage, a violent altercation arose in the street between Tybalt and Romeo (with his best friend Mercutio), leading to Mercutio's accidental death; in retaliation, Romeo fought against Tybalt and killed him; Juliet was stunned to learn of Tybalt's death - and that "Romeo's hand shed Tybalt's blood"; the Prince banished the newly-wed Romeo from Verona, forever to be exiled and never to return: "And for that offence, immediately we do exile him hence. Let Romeo hence in haste, else, when he's found, that hour is his last"
  • before Romeo's flight from Verona to the nearby town of Mantua, the controversial scene of the brief nudity of the couple on their wedding night (the next morning) in Juliet's bedchamber; in a few long-held shots, Romeo lay naked in bed with Juliet, and then stood by a sunlit window; there was a split-second instant of topless Juliet hastily rolling out of her shared bed
The 'Morning After' A Hasty Marriage
  • Juliet's parents were unaware of the secret marriage between Juliet and Romeo, and she was forced to agree to her parents' wishes for an arranged marriage to Paris; Lord Capulet threated to disown Juliet and never look at her again if she disobeyed; at the same time, she and Friar Laurence schemed to have Romeo and Juliet meet after a daring hoax; Juliet was to assent to an arranged marriage to Paris, but then the day before she would swallow a potion that would make her appear in a death-like sleep for 42 hours; then, following her burial in the Capulet family tomb, the plan was for her to escape with Romeo

Juliet's Faked Death and Funeral

Balthasar's News to Romeo in Mantua That Juliet was Dead
  • due to bad timing, and Romeo's servant Balthasar (Keith Skinner) bringing news to him that Juliet was dead (before Romeo was able to be alerted to the Friar's hoax by his courier), Romeo rushed back to Juliet's tomb and discovered his 'dead' Juliet - but still with color in her cheeks: ("Ah, dear Juliet, why art thou yet so fair? Shall I believe that unsubstantial Death is amorous, and that the lean abhorred monster keeps thee here in dark to be his paramour?...)
  • in a very dramatic sequence, he sobbed, took one last look, gave her one last embrace, and a final kiss to seal his "dateless bargain to engrossing death": ("Eyes look your last. Arms, take your last embrace. And lips, o you the doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss a dateless bargain to engrossing death"); he removed poison that he had brought, toasted to his love, swallowed the kiss of poison, and kissed her hand before falling beside her: "Here's to my love! Thus with a kiss, I die."
Romeo's Speech and Self-Poisoning
  • shortly later, Juliet slowly awakened from 'death' (her hand opened) and she asked Friar Laurence about Romeo's whereabouts: "O comfortable friar, where is my lord? I do remember well where I should be, and there I am. Where is my Romeo?"
  • after the Friar fled in fear, she saw Romeo's body on the floor and the poison vial in his hand; she chided Romeo for not leaving enough poison for her; when she kissed his lips to see if there was any remaining poison left on them, she found that his lips were "warm": ("What's here? Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end. (She tried to drink from the poison vial) O churl! Drunk all, and left no friendly drop to help me after! I will kiss thy lips. Haply some poison yet doth hang on them to make me die with a restorative. Thy lips are warm. Oh, no, no!"); pathetically, she cried out: "Oh, no, no!" - due to ill-timing, she knew he died only a few moments earlier
  • hearing more sounds of the watchmen, Juliet came to her own triumphant, tragic and fateful end; faithful till death, she picked up Romeo's dagger, stabbed herself in the chest, and inevitably joined her love in marriage-death - she crumbled over his body: "Then I'll be brief. O happy dagger! This is thy sheath. There rust and let me die"
Juliet's Speech and Suicidal Stabbing by Romeo's Dagger
  • to the sound of tolling bells, the final somber and climactic epilogue included the double funeral procession of the corpses of the two dead teens, who were carried up church steps to be laid in front of the Prince, who chastised everyone and pronounced judgment on the two feuding families: ("Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague! See what a scourge is laid upon your hate; That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love; And I, for winking at your discords too, Have lost a brace of kinsmen; All are punished. All are punished! (ECHO: punished!))"
  • the epilogue's off-screen narration ended the film: ("A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun for sorrow will not show his head, For never was a story of more woe, Than this of Juliet and her Romeo")

Opening Brawl Between Tybalt and Benvolio - the Montagues and Capulets

The Prince (Robert Stephens)

The Nurse (Pat Heywood)

Lady Capulet (Natasha Parry)

Mercutio's 'Queen Mab' Speech

The Balcony Sequence

Friar Laurence (Milo O'Shea)

The Wedding

The Altercation in the Streets Between Tybalt, Mercutio, and Romeo

Mercutio's Death Scene

Tybalt's Death by Romeo's Sword

Romeo Banished by the Prince

Juliet's Scheming Plot with Friar to Take 'Death' Potion

The Double Funeral Ceremony

The Prince's Pronouncement of Final Judgment: "ALL ARE PUNISHED!"


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