Romeo and Juliet Act 2 - Scene 1 Summary

Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

Read on for a summary of Act 2 Scene 1 of Shakespeare's famous tragedy about star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. It is followed by a short quiz to check your understanding.

Scene Synopsis

Act 2 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet is very short but can be a bit confusing, as there are some allusions, or references, to other works that may be unfamiliar to the reader. It functions as a transition between the scene of the Capulet's party, where Romeo and Juliet meet, and the famous balcony scene, where Romeo sneaks below Juliet's bedroom balcony to catch another glimpse of his beloved.

The scene takes place outside at night, after the Capulet's party. Romeo does not want to leave, saying 'Can I go forward when my heart is here?' He cannot imagine leaving Juliet, so he quickly sneaks over the wall that surrounds the Capulet's property to find her. His friends, Benvolio and Mercutio, come out and look for him.

Benvolio calls out for Romeo but Mercutio casually assumes that he must have been smart and gone home to go to bed. Benvolio, however, is sure that Romeo is up to no good and thinks he saw him sneak over the wall. He tells Mercutio to call out for him, thinking Romeo might respond to him instead. He is afraid that Romeo will get himself into trouble if he lingers at the Capulet's house.

Mercutio then calls out for Romeo, saying he will try to summon him like one would summon a spirit. He makes references to Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and Cupid, her son who shoots arrows to pair up lovers, and finally Rosaline, the woman Romeo was in love with before he met Juliet. Mercutio and Benvolio are not aware of Romeo's rapid change of heart and that he is now in love with Juliet, but referring to Rosaline serves to remind him (and us as readers) of how fleeting his emotions can be. Romeo does not answer.

Benvolio warns Mercutio that his words might make Romeo angry, but Mercutio dismisses his concern. Benvolio says that Romeo is hiding in the dark because his love is blind, so darkness is the appropriate place for him to be.

Mercutio makes several vulgar sexual references then decides to give up on luring Romeo out of the darkness. He decides it's time to go to bed, and Benvolio follows, agreeing that there is no point in working so hard to find Romeo if he does not want to be found. The two men exit the scene, heading to bed after a long night. This signals the end of the scene.

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