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Chronology

[The action begins shortly before 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning in the middle of July and ends at dawn the following Thursday. Often in Shakespeare's tragedies it's difficult -- and not important -- to know just when things happen, but in Romeo and Juliet the time of events is very precisely accounted for. The only discrepancy is in the matter of the sleeping potion. Friar Laurence tells Juliet that she will awake forty-two hours after she takes it, but on Wednesday morning he sees her asleep from the potion and that evening, about twenty-four hours after she has taken the potion, he expects her to awake soon, and she does.]
Some Time in the Recent Past:
The feud flares up:
  • Chorus: Two households, both alike in dignity,
    In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
    From ancient grudge break to new mutiny . . . . (Prologue 1-3)
    .

  • Prince Escalus: Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word,
    By thee, old Capulet, and Montague,
    Have thrice disturb'd the quiet of our streets . . . .    (1.1.89-91)

  • Romeo suffers for love of Rosaline
    The First Day (Sunday, a little more than two weeks before Lammas-tide, August 1):
    Before dawn: Benvolio and Romeo wander in the woods Morning (shortly before 9:00 a.m): Prince Escalus breaks up a brawl between the Capulets and Montagues, orders Capulet and Montague to confer with him. Morning(shortly after 9:00 a.m.): Benvolio tries to counsel Romeo about his hopeless love for Rosaline. Afternoon: Capulet returns from his conference with Prince Escalus and invites Paris to his feast. Late Afternoon: Lady Capulet and the Nurse discuss Juliet's age. Lady Capulet tells Juliet that Paris wants to marry her. Evening: Romeo and his friends go to Capulet's house. Night: Romeo jumps the wall into Capulet's garden, hides from Benvolio and Mercutio.

    Late night to shortly before dawn: Romeo and Juliet exchange vows of love, plan to be married the next day.

    The Second Day (Monday):

    Dawn: Friar Laurence gathers herbs. Romeo asks the Friar to marry himself and Juliet.

    9:00 a.m.: Juliet sends the Nurse to Romeo.

    Noon: The Nurse finds Romeo, who tells her to tell Juliet to meet him at Friar Laurence's cell that afternoon.

    Early Afternoon: Romeo and Juliet are married.

    An Hour Later: Tybalt kills Mercutio, and Romeo kills Tybalt.

    Shortly Before Nightfall: Juliet longs for Romeo to come to her, then learns that Romeo is banished. The Nurse promises to send Romeo to Juliet that night.

    Night: Friar Laurence sends Romeo to Juliet.

    Late Night: Capulet arranges for the wedding of Juliet to Paris three days hence, Thursday.

    The Third Day (Tuesday):
    Dawn: Romeo, after spending his wedding-night with Juliet, departs for Mantua.

    Sometime During the Day: Friar Laurence hears from Paris that he and Juliet are to be married on Thursday. Paris, encountering Juliet at Friar Laurence's cell, reminds her that they are to be married on Thursday. Friar Laurence gives Juliet the sleeping potion and tells her the rest of his plan.

    Late Afternoon: Juliet tells her father that she has repented her opposition to the marriage to Paris, and Capulet moves the wedding up a day, from Thursday to Wednesday, which is the next morning.

    Night: Juliet takes the sleeping potion.

    The Fourth Day (Wednesday):

    Dawn: Everyone in the Capulet household, having been up all night preparing the wedding feast, is still at it when Paris arrives and the Nurse goes to wake Juliet.

    Sometime During the Day: Romeo hears from Balthasar that Juliet is dead and determines to join her in death that night.

    Evening: Friar Laurence learns from Friar John that the letter to Romeo was never delivered and realizes he must go Juliet's tomb alone, because she will awake within three hours.

    Night to Dawn: Paris comes to Juliet's tomb. After Romeo kills Paris and commits suicide, Friar Laurence, coming to take Juliet away, discovers the bodies of Paris and Romeo. Paris' Page leads the Watch to Juliet's tomb. Prince Escalus arrives at the tomb, then Montague and the Capulets. Prince Escalus, after conducting an investigation, sends everyone away.

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