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Act 1, scene 1

The color-coded boxes under "Analysis & Themes" below make it easy to track the themes throughout the work. Each color corresponds to one of the themes explained in the Themes section of this LitChart.

Summary


Analysis & Themes


Two Capulet servants, Gregory and Samson, enter. They brag about what they would do if they saw a Montague.

The Montague-Capulet feud is immediately established as a social force in Verona.

 

Suddenly they see Abraham, a Montague servant. They want to fight, but don't want to start the fight so that the law is on their side. Samson insults Abraham by biting his thumb. Abraham draws his sword.

Law and honor introduced as additional social forces at play in Verona.

 

Benvolio arrives and tries to stop the fighting. Tybalt arrives and insults Benvolio and all Montagues. Soon they're all battling. Montague and Capulet also try to join the fight, but their wives hold them back.

The Montague-Capulet feud is as passionate among the nobles as among the servants. Tybalt established as a hothead.

 

The brawl halts only when Prince Escalus arrives with members of the Civil Watch. Escalus proclaims that any Montague or Capulet who disturbs the peace in the future will be put to death.

As the only government official in the play, Prince Escalus comes to symbolize the law.

 

As Benvolio and Montague discuss the fight a little later, Lady Montague says she's glad that Romeo, her son, wasn't involved. Benvolio says that just before dawn he saw Romeo looking melancholy in a grove of sycamore trees. None of them know why Romeo has seemed so sad recently. Just then they see Romeo approaching. Montague and Lady Montague exit, to let Benvolio speak with Romeo alone.

Love makes Romeo a loner–out of the social world. Love also makes Romeo frequent the pre-dawn darkness. Though his family doesn't know why Romeo's sad, the play gives a clue through a bad pun. Sycamore = sick amour (or "sick love").

 

Benvolio learns from Romeo that he is in love with Rosaline, a woman who has taken an oath of chastity. Romeo makes poetic pronouncements about love, and speaks in clichés about its paradoxes: "feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health" (1.1.174).

Romeo's clichéd talk of love mimics Petrarchan poems about unrequited love. Romeo isn't actually in love—he's trying to be an unrequited lover.

 

Benvolio advises Romeo to find someone else to love. Romeo walks off, saying that he can't forget Rosaline. Benvolio vows to help him forget her.

Of course, the audience knows Romeo is wrong: the play's title makes it clear Juliet is his fate.