Romeo and Juliet Commentary provides a comprehensive
description of every act with explanations and translations
for all important quotes.
We learn that this play will be a tragedy and that
the children (Romeo and Juliet) of two feuding families
both alike in virtue, will both love and die...
Setting the scene, we learn by choir of "Two households,
both alike in dignity," (two households or families
of equal status), (Line 1) in the fair city of Verona.
The "ancient grudge" (feud) between these two families
has now developed to "new mutiny," involving "civil
blood", a reference to increasing violence between the
two families on Verona's streets.
The Prologue outlines the life of the play. We learn
that, "From forth the fatal loins of these two foes"
(from the loins of these two opposed families / from
their children), a reference to the heads of the two
families, "A pair of star-cross'd lovers [Romeo and
Juliet] take their life; / Whose misadventur'd piteous
overthrows" results in the burial of these two lovers
and "their parents' strife" (their parent's grief),
The Prologue explains that the audience will follow
"The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love," (the
sad events of their death marked love), the ongoing
rage of their parents and ultimately their tragic death.
In the Prologue, we are told to be patient; "What here
shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend" (Line 13).
Act I. Scene I. - Verona. A Public place.
Romeo: "she'll not be hit / With Cupid's arrow; she
hath Dian's wit...."
Sampson and Gregory, servants to the Capulets and
Abraham and Balthasar, servants to the Montague family
start a street fight, which is joined by Benvolio (Montague)
and Tybalt (Capulet). Escalus, Prince of Verona declares
a death penalty for further fighting. We learn Romeo
is lovesick; Rosaline will not requite (return) his
love. His friend Benvolio tells Romeo to look at other
Sampson and Gregory, servants of the Capulet family
discuss their hatred of the Montague family. Gregory
mocks Sam's heroism. Abraham and Balthasar, servants
of the Montague family arrive. Both sides wish to fight,
but neither wishes to be responsible for starting the
When Sam (Capulet) says he serves a man better than
Abraham (Montague), a fight follows. Benvolio enters,
telling both parties to stop fighting: "Part, fools!"
(Line 68). Tybalt arrives, challenging Benvolio to fight.
He refuses and now the fighting turns into a major brawl.
Capulet and wife and Montague and wife arrive at the
The Prince arrives, stating that he has had enough
of these "civil brawls," (public brawls), (Line 95),
adding that any further fighting (it has happened three
times already) which disturbs the peace will result
in death: "Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace"
he darkly warns (Line 103).
Montague asks Benvolio what happened and Lady Montague
asks of Romeo's whereabouts. Benvolio answers that Romeo
is much troubled and Montague explains how, "Many a
morning hath he there been seen, / With tears augmenting
[adding to] the fresh morning's dew, / Adding to clouds
more clouds with his deep sighs:" (Line 136).
Romeo meets up with Benvolio.
Benvolio asks what is troubling Romeo. We learn that
Romeo is saddened by the rejection of his love (Rosaline,
mentioned later) adding that "she'll not be hit / With
Cupid's arrow; she hath Dian's wit;" (she will not be
hit by Cupid's arrow or fall in love with me; she has
the wit and elusiveness of Diana, the goddess of hunting)
and that she will remain chaste (pure), (Line 214).
Benvolio advises Romeo to forget this girl, telling
him to "Examine other beauties" (look at other beauties
/ girls), (Line 233). Romeo dismisses this as impossible,
telling Benvolio "thou [you] canst [can] not teach
me to forget [Rosaline]" (Line 243).
Act I. Scene II. - The Same. A Street.
Capulet reveals that the elder members of the Capulet
and the Montague families can easily keep the peace;
the difficulty lies with the young. Capulet is keen
for Paris to marry his daughter Juliet and plans a party
later that night. Romeo and friends decide to turn up
uninvited, Romeo hoping to see Rosaline, the object
of his affection...
Capulet explains to his guest, Paris that both he and
Montague are bound by the same penalty not to fight.
As such, he reasons it is easy "For men so old as we
to keep the peace" (for men as old as Montague and I
to keep the peace), (Line 3). Paris asks Capulet on
whether he will be accepted to marry Capulet's daughter
Juliet (Line 6). Capulet initially says no, his daughter
has "not seen the change of fourteen years; [is
not yet fourteen]" (Line 9) but eventually agrees
so long as Paris can win Juliet's "heart,"
and then her consent, advising the young Paris to woo
(court) his daughter gently (Line 14-36).
Speaking to a servant, we learn that Capulet plans
a party to be held that very night. The Servant, now
sent by Capulet to send out invitations in Verona cannot
read and so cannot match the names on his list with
the people he has been sent to invite to the party.
The Servant happens upon (finds) Romeo and Benvolio.
Romeo, pretending he is not a Montague, reads the invitation
given freely by the Servant.
Benvolio mentions that the fair Rosaline will be there
(Line 88). This gets Romeo's attention; Rosaline is
the girl who would not requite or return Romeo's love.
Benvolio again tells Romeo that he will soon forget
her, such will be the beauty of the many guests at the
party. Romeo decides to attend the Capulet's party.
Act I. Scene III. - The Same. A Room in Capulet's
Juliet: "I'll look to like, if looking liking move...."
Lady Capulet discusses the idea of marriage to the
young Paris with Juliet. Juliet keeps her options open.
The Nurse wishes Juliet every possible happiness...
Lady Capulet calls for her daughter Juliet. Lady Capulet
asks Juliet's nurse to leave them to discuss matters
in private. The Nurse recalls her fond memories of Juliet
as a child (Lines 16-54). The Nurse recalls that once
when her husband crassly asked if Juliet would "fall
backward" (lie on her back, a crude reference to intercourse),
when she had more wit or was older (Line 42) Juliet
replied "'Ay'" (yes), (Lines 48-57).
Now alone with her daughter, Lady Capulet discusses
the idea of marriage and specifically with the young
Juliet will consider it, "I'll look to like, if looking
liking move; / But no more deep will I endart mine eye
/ Than your consent gives strength to make it fly" by
which Juliet means she will consider it if she likes
Paris but ultimately will only marry him if her family
approves or gives her the strength to make this idea
fly (Lines 97-102).
A Servant arrives, requiring Lady Capulet's attention
for the upcoming party.
The Nurse now famously wishes her young charge (Juliet)
well, saying, "Go, girl, seek happy nights to happy
days" (go girl, seek happy nights to follow happy days
/ be happy), (Line 106).
Act I. Scene IV. - The Same. A Street.
Mercutio: "If love be rough with you, be rough with
love; / Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down."
Mercutio attempts to cheer a lovesick Romeo up,
telling him to be rough with love if need be.
Accompanied by "five or six Masquers," or
masked friends, Mercutio tries to cheer Romeo up, encouraging
him to dance at Capulet's party (a masked ball). Politely
declined, Mercutio makes an observation of his good
friend's character: "You are a lover; borrow Cupid's
wings, / And soar with them above a common bound" (Line
17). Mercutio and Romeo trade viewpoints on the nature
of love (Lines 23-29).
When Mercutio implies that love is tender, Romeo disagrees,
asking, "Is love a tender thing? it is too rough, /
Too rude, too boisterous; and it pricks like thorn"
Mercutio advises Romeo then to fight fire with fire:"If
love be rough with you, be rough with love; / Prick
love for pricking, and you beat love down" (Line 28).
The two now don masks to conceal their identities. Romeo
is enthusiastic about this part, saying "I dream'd a
dream to-night" (Line 50). Mercutio now tortures Romeo
with a completely meaningless anecdote about Queen Mab
Act I. Scene V. - The Same. A Hall in Capulet's
Romeo: "Did my heart love till now?"
At the Capulet's party, Romeo disguised by a masque
(mask), falls in love with Juliet on sight. Capulet
stops Tybalt from attacking Romeo at his party, telling
him there will be other opportunities. Both Romeo and
Juliet learn that they are each enemies to the other's
Capulet welcomes his guests (Lines 20-36). Romeo now
sees the fair Juliet. "What lady is that which doth
enrich the hand / Of yonder knight?" (Who is the lady
that enriches the hand of that knight?) Romeo asks (Line
45). The Servant he asks says he does not know.
Romeo is in love:
O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright.
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night / Like a
rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear; / Beauty too rich for
use, for earth too dear! So shows a snowy dove trooping
with crows, / As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I'll watch her place of stand, / And,
touching hers, make blessed my rude hand. (Lines 48-55)
Gazing upon Juliet, Romeo wonders if he has ever truly
loved as he does now: "Did my heart love till now? forswear
it, sight! For I ne'er [never] saw true beauty till
this night" (Line 57).
Meanwhile Tybalt has noticed Romeo's presence at the
party; "This, by his voice, should be a Montague. Fetch
me my rapier, boy" (this by his voice, must be a Montague.
Fetch me my rapier boy), (Line 58).
Capulet however, will not have a fight involving a
man (Romeo) who is well respected and considered "well-govern'd"
(well-controlled/ self disciplined) at his party (Line
Warning Tybalt not to ignore his wishes, Capulet tells
Tybalt to bide his time, "be patient, take no note of
him [Romeo]: / It is my will; the which if thou [you]
respect, / Show a fair presence and put off these frowns,
/ An ill-beseeming semblance [a bad look] for a feast"
(Line 75). Tybalt resists this wish but angrily does
as he is told (Lines 78-96).
Romeo now before Juliet, makes his introduction: "If
I profane with my unworthiest hand / This holy shrine
[Juliet], the gentle sin is this; / My lips, two blushing
pilgrims, ready stand / To smooth that rough touch with
a tender kiss" (Line 97).
Juliet replies to her humble pilgrim, "Good pilgrim,
you do wrong your hand too much, / Which mannerly devotion
shows in this; / For saints have hands that pilgrims'
hands do touch, / And palm to palm is holy palmers'
kiss" (Line 101).
Continuing this saint and sinning theme, Romeo kisses
Juliet (Lines 106-111). Romeo then asks for his sin
again so that he might once more kiss his fair Juliet.
Juliet tells Romeo that "You kiss by the book" (Line
Presently Juliet's nurse tells her charge that her
presence is required by her mother. Romeo learns from
the Nurse that Juliet is from the Capulet family. "O
dear account! my life is my foe's [enemy's] debt" he
exclaims (Line 123).
Capulet finishes his party. Juliet now asks the identity
of her pilgrim from the Nurse (Line 132). The Nurse
tells him it is Romeo, "The only son of your great enemy"
(the Montagues), (Line 141). Juliet now remarks that
"I must love a loathed enemy" (Line 145).