Key players

  • Sampson/Gregory: Servants to Capulet
  • Abraham/Balthasar: Servants to Montague
  • Benvolio: Nephew of Montague, Romeo’s friend
  • Tybalt: Nephew of Lady Capulet
  • Capulet: Head of household feuding with Montagues
  • Lady Capulet: Wife of Capulet
  • Prince (Escalus): Prince of Verona
  • Montague: Head of household feuding with Capulets
  • Lady Montague: Wife of Montague
  • Romeo: Son of Montague

Summary of key events

  • Two servants from the house of Capulet (Sampson and Gregory) deliberately initiate a fight with two servants from the Montague house (Abraham and Balthasar)
  • Benvolio, a close friend to Romeo and nephew of Lord Montague, arrives and tries to stop the fight: “Part fools!/Put up your swords; you know not what you do”
    (page 15: lines 62-63)
  • As Benvolio attempts to keep the peace, Tybalt, nephew to Lord Capulet, comes upon the scene and demands to duel with the passive young Benvolio. Reluctantly, Benvolio draws his sword and they fight (page 15-17: lines 64-70)
  • The fiery citizens of Verona become involved and a vicious brawl ensues. Capulet and Montague arrive, and immediately join in the clash, while their wives look on in fear.

Act I, Scene 1

  • Prince Escalus happens upon the scene and is shocked and outraged at such behaviour from his subjects. His guards break up the fight and he chastises all those involved, exclaiming: “You men, you beasts!” (page 17: line 81)
  • The prince declares that any further public disorder will result in the execution of the participants: “If ever you disturb our streets again your lives shall pay the forfeit of peace (page 17: lines 94-95)

Act I, Scene 1

  • The crowd disperses along with Lord Capulet and his family, leaving behind Montague, Lady Montague, and Benvolio. Their attention turns to their son Romeo, who has been depressed of late (pages 19-21)
  • Benvolio asks Lord Montague if he knows what is troubling his son, but he has no answer.  All he knows is that Romeo has been seen walking the streets in the early mornings: “With tears augmenting the fresh morning’s dew, adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs.” (page 19: lines 129-130)

Act I, Scene 1

  • Benvolio sees Romeo coming and requests that Montague and his wife step aside so he can talk to Romeo alone and uncover the reason for his melancholy (page 21: lines 153-154)
  • After asking many questions Benvolio finally learns that Romeo is sad because he is in love with a woman, Rosaline, who has taken a vow of chastity and refuses to return his affection (pages 21-25)

Act I, Scene 1

  • Benvolio suggests to Romeo that he should forget Rosaline and look for romance elsewhere.
  • Romeo insists that no woman could ever compare to Rosaline, for she is a ravishing beauty.
  • He insists that to forget Rosaline would be impossible: “Thou canst not teach me to forget” (page 25: line 234)

Figures of Speech/Literary Terms

  • Oxymoron: linking contradictory terms
  • During his conversation about Rosaline with Benvolio, the use of oxymorons only serve to strengthen Romeo’s heartbreak:
  • O brawling love! (line 173)
  • O loving hate! (line 173)
  • O heavy lightness! (line 175)
  • Feather of lead (line 177)
  • bright smoke (line 177)
  • cold fire (line 177)
  • sick health (line 177)

Figures of Speech/Literary Terms

  • Pun:  The humourous use of a word or phrase so as to emphasize or suggest its different meanings or applications, or the use of words that are alike or nearly alike in sound but different in meaning; a play on words.
  • Some examples of puns:
  • I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible
    to put down.
  • After my ear operation I feel sound.
  • I’ve failed the mathematics test so many times I lost count.
  • John Deere’s manure spreader is the only equipment the company won’t stand behind.

Puns in the opening scene:

  • Lines 1-4: “On my word, we’ll not carry coals. No, for then we should be colliers. I mean, an we be in choler, we’ll draw. Ay, while you live, draw your neck out o’ the collar.”
  • An obscure series of puns dealing with 1) to carry coals: to do a menial job; to endure insults; 2) colliers: coal sellers, therefore endurers of insults; 3) choler: anger; 4) to draw: to carry; also to draw a sword; and 5) collar: hangman’s noose
  • Lines 21-24: “When I have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the maids; I will cut off their heads. The heads of the maids? Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maiden-heads; take it in what sense thou wilt.”
  • More sexual punning involving sexual assault on women and male boasts about virility. The suggestion is that male bravery is connected with sexual mastery over women as well as with the ability to fight.

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