In the age of Shakespeare, the actors of the Globe Theatre are rehearsing for what is probably the first performance of Romeo and Juliet. As the enthusiastic audience pours in and the lights dim, the Verona market place slowly looms out of the darkness.
The market place gets populated, and members and servants of the Capulet and Montague Houses start a fight. Swords are soon drawn, and many are killed in the fray, which is eventually halted by the Duke of Verona.
In the bustling kitchen of the Capulet House a cheeky Juliet teases her Nanny. The dignified and solemn Lady Capulet surprises her daughter with a gift, but, at the same time, points it out that Juliet is no longer a child.
Party guests are entering the Capulet house. Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio, disguised in masks, are planning to gatecrash the ball. Before entering, they witness a sinister apparition, as the Witch Queen Mab asks them for a dance. At the ball, Romeo and Juliet fall in love at first sight. Juliet meets Paris, her appointed fiancé, but his advances evoke a chilly response from her side. Tybalt recognises the unwelcome guests and reacts with a wild rage, but Capulet, head of the house, pacifies him. Mercutio's frolics do little to calm Tybalt down - he gets more and more offended. At the end of the ball the guests leave. Romeo climbs the wall of the Capulets' orchard, and on the balcony of the empty house he sees Juliet in a reverie. The lovers engage in a sweet embrace.
Merry crowds revel in Verona's market place, with religious processions, jugglers, and a mob hungry for entertainment. Juliet's Nanny, dressed up top elegantly, brings her young lady's message to the group of clowning youths. Romeo follows the Nanny to Friar Laurence's cell, where the lovers get married.
In the market place Tybalt searches for Mercutio, yearning to return the previous night's prank. Mutual insults are performed, followed by a clash of swords in which Tybalt, a skilled fencer, mortally wounds the everfooling Mercutio. Even while dying, Mercutio continues to act, but before death finally fights him down, he curses both families. Romeo, wild with rage, sets off after Tybalt, and kills him in a fierce fight. After the duel, Romeo's friends make him escape from the Duke's fury and the expectable heavy sentence.
Romeo finds temporary refuge in Friar Laurence's cell, where Juliet's invitation finds him.
After their nuptial night, Romeo must bid his angry-but-loving wife farewell.
Juliet refuses the pressure by her parents' that she marries Paris. Desperate and left without support, she flees to Friar Laurence's cell.
Friar Laurence beseeches Heaven for help in vain. There only seems to be one way out: he persuades Juliet to drink a magic liquor that will make her seem dead.
Returning to her chamber, Juliet seemingly consents to marrying Paris. When all leave, she drinks the poison, and the next morning is found dead in her bed.
A gloomy funeral procession accompanies Juliet to the Capulets' crypt. Heartbroken, her parents and Nanny bid her final farewell. Soon after the mourners have left, Romeo turns up. He thinks his love truly dead, and commits suicide to follow her. Friar Laurence arrives too late; the awaking Juliet finds her Romeo dead, and in endless desperation stabs herself with Romeo's dagger.
The crypt expands into a cosmic space, the bier rises into the starry light, and crowds of Romeos and Juliets dance around the passed away lovers.
The group of Romeos and Juliets are converted into the Globe's audience, and Shakespeare's actors, including Romeo and Juliet, thank for their applause. The performance at the Globe is over.