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Romeo and Juliet Act 1 - Scene 1 Summary

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
This lesson discusses Act 1, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's play, ''Romeo and Juliet.'' The scene introduces the reader to the Capulets and the Montagues, two prominent and rival families in Verona. Read the lesson and test yourself with a quiz!

Wherefore Art Thou?

Some of the most recognized characters in Shakespeare can be found in his play Romeo and Juliet, which tells the story of two teenagers from rival families who fall in love and try to escape together, with tragic consequences. The beginning of the story shows the enmity between the house of Capulet and the house of Montague, and how everyone, down to the servants of the houses, is dead set against each other. Act 1, Scene 1 sets the stage for one of the most well known cases of teenage angst in the canon of English literature.

Romeo and Juliet Title Page
Title Page of Romeo and Juliet

Summary of Act One, Scene One

The scene opens with Sampson and Gregory, two servants from the house of Capulet, walking in the streets of Verona. They are being loud and obnoxious, talking trash about the house of Montague. As the men continue, they encounter a couple of Montague servants. One of the Capulet servants, Gregory, bites his thumb at the Montague servants, an insult immediately understood by the other party. Benvolio, the nephew of Montague, comes upon the scuffle and tries to break it up. Tybalt, Lady Capulet's nephew, arrives and makes it worse, trying to provoke Benvolio into a bigger fight.

A crowd gathers to watch the brawl, and the heads of the families, Lords Capulet and Montague, arrive with their wives. They too want to get in on the fighting action, but their respective ladies prevent this. Prince Escalus comes upon the scene and scolds both families harshly, saying that their fighting has gotten seriously dangerous and has to stop. The prince also instates a death sentence on anyone who breaks the peace again with such fighting. He leaves with the Capulets. Benvolio remains to speak with his aunt and uncle, explaining what happened to cause the fight in the first place.

Lady Montague asks Benvolio if he knows where her son, his cousin Romeo, is and what he is up to. Benvolio tells his aunt that he saw Romeo walking before dawn, but did not speak to him because Romeo looked upset about something and seemed to want to be left alone. Lord and Lady Montague confide in Benvolio. They tell him that Romeo has been upset about something for some time but has refused to tell anyone his problem. While they are talking, Romeo heads in the group's direction. Lord and Lady Montague leave Benvolio to find out what is going on with Romeo.

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