Romeo and Juliet

Summary

 
Act I, Scene ii

 
Paris asks Capulet for his daughter Juliet's hand in marriage. Capulet replies that she is still too young to be married, but nevertheless invites Paris to try to woo her at a banquet he is holding that night. He gives a servant a list of guests and tells him to take an invitation to each of them. The servant is illiterate, and so goes about trying to find someone to read the list for him. He runs into Romeo and Benvolio, who are still discussing Romeo's unrequited love. The servant gets Romeo to read the guest list for him, and then tells him about the banquet. Benvolio convinces Romeo to go along with him to the banquet to compare the other beautiful women there with the one he is pining for: Rosaline, a niece of Capulet.

Act I, Scene iii

 
Lady Capulet, Juliet, and the Nurse talk about the possibility of Juliet being married to Paris. Lady Capulet encourages Juliet to consider him as a potential husband when she sees him at the banquet. The Nurse is completely taken with the idea, but Juliet is not especially enthusiastic.

Commentary

 
These two scenes introduce Paris as Capulet's pick for Juliet's husband and, more broadly, establish the theme of parental influence over a child's happiness. In the last scene, it was shown how the hatred Capulet and Montague bear for each other flows down to affect the rest of their households and results in violent conflict, but here the influence is more subtle and mundane. Paris is a nobleman and a worthy choice to be Juliet's husband; there is no reason why she should not want to marry him. Capulet himself defers to her ability to choose for herself ("My will to her consent is but a part"), but his power to force her into a marriage if he feels it necessary is implicitly present. It is significant that Paris speaks to Juliet's father before he ever shows her any indication of his feelings, and apparently before he even gets to know her particularly well. Lady Capulet, for her part, offers her entire support to her husband's plan for their daughter, and begins to put pressure on Juliet to think about Paris as a husband before Juliet begins to think about marriage at all on her own. Juliet even says to Lady Capulet in scene 3 how important her influence is to her in this matter: "I'll look to like, looking liking move; / But no more deep will I endart mine eye / Than your consent gives strength to make it fly."

Thus parental influence in this tragedy becomes a tool of fate: Juliet's arranged marriage with Paris, in addition to the Capulets' feud with the Montagues, will eventually bring about the deaths of the two lovers, and both are laid in place before Romeo and Juliet even meet. Indeed, when Nurse recounts her husband's innuendo about Juliet falling on her back when she comes of age, she shows that Juliet has been viewed as a potential object of sexuality and marriage even since she was a toddler. In broad terms, her fate to someday be given away in marriage has been set since birth.


Summary

 
Act I, scene iv

 
Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio stand outside the entrance to Capulet's masquerade banquet. Romeo complains again of the pains of love, and his friends try to cheer him up and encourage him to dance and be merry. Mercutio delivers a lengthy digression on Queen Mab, the fairy midwife who causes lovers to dream of love; Romeo prophesies his own death as a result of events which will take place at the banquet, but goes in with his friends regardless.

Act I, scene v

 
Romeo sees Juliet for the first time at the banquet, and is so overwhelmed with her beauty that he renounces his love for Rosaline. Tybalt recognizes his enemy's voice and calls for his sword, planning to do away with him right there on the dance floor, but Capulet restrains him, ordering him to ignore the intrusion in the interest of peace. Romeo goes to Juliet, touches her hand, flatters her, and they kiss twice. They are parted by the Nurse, who reveals to each the other's identity. They are both quite upset to discover that their new love is a child of their