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Act I, SCENE 3

Summary

This scene is a purely domestic one set in Capulet's house. Capulet informs his wife of Paris' proposal for Juliet and instructs her to prepare Juliet accordingly. Lady Capulet goes off to find her daughter. The Nurse calls for Juliet at the top of her voice. As Juliet enters, Lady Capulet tells her that at age fourteen she is now old enough to marry. The Nurse interrupts and swears that Juliet will not be fourteen until August 1st, two weeks in future. Juliet then answers her mother by saying that she has not thought of marriage. Her mother, in turn, instructs her to start thinking seriously about it, adding that many "ladies of esteem" in Verona were already mothers at her age. Next, she informs Juliet about Paris' interest in marrying her. Lady Capulet also states her approval of this young nobleman of rank and wealth. Juliet replies that she will try to like Paris in order to win her mother's approval. A servant enters and announces the arrival of the guests for the party. Lady Capulet bids Juliet to go at once to meet Count Paris.



Notes

This scene introduces Juliet as a seemingly innocent, submissive girl. First, the audience hears her parents talking about her; much like Romeo was discussed in the first scene before he was seen. Then, Juliet appears on the stage for the first time, a picture of beauty and politeness. Her youth is emphasized once again, with the nurse pointing out that she will not turn fourteen for another two weeks; Lady Capulet counters her youth by saying many young ladies of her age are already mothers. When her mother tells Juliet she should begin thinking about marriage, specifically to Count Paris, Juliet seems obedient. She says she will try to like him. If she were totally obedient and docile, however, she would willingly accept


the marriage as a final arrangement with no thought or input. She does not give her full consent. Shakespeare is foreshadowing the rebelliousness in Juliet's character that will clearly emerge when she marries Romeo, a Montague, without her parent's knowledge or approval.


The idea of marriage is completely foreign to Juliet. Totally pure and innocent, she has never even been in love. The Nurse, however, is not so innocent, and, as always, speaks what is on her mind. She tells Juliet she would jump at the chance to go to bed with handsome Paris. Love and sex are one in the same to her, and she expresses that feeling clearly. Although she is often vulgar in her language, she never intends to be offensive; she only suffers from speaking before thinking, and her words are often very humorous. As a result, the down-to-earth Nurse, who genuinely cares for her charge Juliet, is truly one of the most clever and bawdy of all of Shakespeare's characters. She delights the audience throughout the play and serves as a comic relief and contrast to the intense tragedy.

The audience also learns more about Paris and Lady Capulet in this Scene. She is still a young woman; probably not even thirty years of age, since young ladies tended to marry in their early teens. Her marriage, obviously arranged by her family and not by love, was to a much older gentleman. It is not surprising, therefore, that she finds Count Paris a very suitable match for her lovely young daughter. He is handsome, wealthy, and noble of birth; he is also young in age (if not in actions). It is no wonder that she encourages Juliet to go and find this gentleman at the feast.

Table of Contents

Act I, SCENE 4

Summary

Benvolio, in rounding up his party of masked guests to attend the dance, has included a new character in the group--Mercutio, known for his wit and love of adventure. The guests are accompanied by torchbearers to light the way and drummers to announce their coming. The maskers are expected to announce their presence with a short speech, after which the host would welcome them and invite them to participate in the dance. Romeo is worried about making a speech and being discovered. Benvolio, however, dismisses the idea, adding that they will dance awhile and then leave. Romeo says that he wants to enter as a torchbearer, for he only wants to look on. Mercutio insists that he must dance, but Romeo declares that his soul is too heavy for dancing. He says that he has been too sorely wounded by Cupid's arrow to soar high. Mercutio grows impatient with his friend, but he prefers jesting and exchanges puns with Romeo. Romeo tells him of a dream in which he was warned of death if he goes to the dance. Mercutio ridicules dreams and their interpretations. Benvolio is annoyed over the delay caused by his friends. He orders the drummers to beat the drums and announce their arrival at the party. Romeo joins in the festivities, but his mind is not at ease.

Notes

This scene introduces Mercutio. He is a contrast to the moody Romeo in his wit and excitement. He has been included in Capulet's list of guests since he is not a Montague; but he is a friend of Benvolio and Romeo, both Montagues. He prefers to accompany them as a masker, for it gives him an opportunity to display his wit and enjoy the fun. Mercutio directs his wit at Romeo, trying to laugh him out of his moodiness. While coaxing Romeo to enter the Capulet's ball, Mercutio delivers the famous Queen Mab speech. This speech does not appear to have any bearing upon the development of the play; but it is a superb piece of poetic wit describing the occupations of Queen Mab, a mischievous "fairy- midwife", an ironic juxtaposition of words. Fairies are lovely, delicate creatures, while midwifes are usually old and haggard beings that deal with the pain and blood of childbirth. Through the speech, Mercutio is trying to show Romeo just how fanciful and unrealistic is his love for Rosaline. Dramatically, it lengthens the suspense of the audience.

Finally, Romeo is persuaded to enter Capulet's house in the hope of meeting Rosaline. He, however, has no desire to take part in the dance, for he is in a love-lorn state. His moodiness has made him subject to bad dreams, and he feels that some evil, some untimely death may befall him if he goes to the ball. Thus, this scene foreshadows the future tragedy of the play through the fears of Romeo. The suggestion of doom in the scene is in sharp contrast to the playful mood created by Mercutio.

Benvolio's impatience at Romeo's hesitation to enter the ball is revealed. He is anxious to put his plan for Romeo to the test; Romeo must participate in the ball in order to see the other beauties and forget his love for Rosaline. At the end of the scene, Benvolio gives quick orders to the drummer to lead the way to the party. Romeo follows.

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