Capulet and Paris, a kinsmen of Prince Escalus, discuss Paris's wish to marry Capulet's daughter, Juliet. Capulet says Juliet is too young to marry—she's not yet fourteen. Still, he urges Paris to woo her and win her heart. After all, Capulet says, while he wants Juliet to marry Paris, it's more important that she want to marry him. Capulet invites Paris to the annual Capulet masquerade being held that night.
Capulet says he'll give Juliet the chance to accept or refuse Paris' marriage suit. Yet this generosity from Capulet suggests a deeper truth: if Capulet can give Juliet this power, he can also take it away.
As they exit, Capulet sends a servant, Peter, to deliver the rest of the invitations. But Peter can't read. Just then, Romeo and Benvolio happen along. Peter asks them if they'll read the list of invitations aloud for him. Romeo reads the list. In thanks, Peter invites them to the masquerade, as long as they aren't Montagues, of course. Peter exits.
The illiterate servant Peter is treated as a second-class citizen. First, he's given a task by his master that he can't accomplish, then he's tricked by Romeo and Benvolio. It's funny, but also shows how powerless Peter is.
Benvolio notes that Rosaline was one of the names on the list. He suggests they crash the party so Romeo can see his love isn't anything special compared to the other beauties there. Romeo agrees to go just to prove Benvolio wrong.
Again, the audience knows Romeo is wrong, and has probably already realized that Romeo will meet Juliet at the party. The audience has a fate's-eye view of the play.