Act I - Scene I

Veron. A public place.

Enter Sampson and Gregory with swords and bucklers of the house of Capulet.

SAMP:
Gregory, on my word, we'll not carry coals.
GREG:
No, for then we should be colliers.
SAMP:
I mean, an we be in choler, we'll draw.
GREG:
Ay, while you live, draw your neck out of the collar.
SAMP:
I strike quickly, being moved.(5)
GREG:
But thou art not quickly moved to strike.
SAMP:
A dog of the house of Montague moves me.
GREG:
To move is to stir, and to be valiant is to stand.
Therefore, if thou art moved, thou runn'st away.
SAMP:
A dog of that house shall move me to stand. I will(10)
take the wall of any man or maid of Montague's.
GREG:
That shows thee a weak slave; for the weakest goes to
the wall.
SAMP:
'Tis true; and therefore women, being the weaker
vessels, are ever thrust to the wall. Therefore I will push(15)
Montague's men from the wall and thrust his maids to
the wall.
GREG:
The quarrel is between our masters and us their men.
SAMP:
'Tis all one. I will show myself a tyrant. When I have
fought with the men, I will be civil with the maids; I will(20)
cut off their heads.
GREG:
The heads of the maids?
SAMP:
Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads. Take
it in what sense thou wilt.
GREG:
They must take it in sense that feel it.(25)
SAMP:
Me they shall feel while I am able to stand; and 'tis
known, I am a pretty piece of flesh.
GREG:
'Tis well thou art not fish; if thou hadst, thou hadst
been poor-John. Draw thy tool! Here comes two of the
house of Montagues.(30)

Enter two other Servingmen, Abram and Balthasar.

SAMP:
My naked weapon is out. Quarrel! I will back thee.
GREG:
How? turn thy back and run?
SAMP:
Fear me not.
GREG:
No, marry. I fear thee!
SAMP:
Let us take the law of our sides; let them begin.(35)
GREG:
I will frown as I pass by, and let them take it as they
list.
SAMP:
Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them;
which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.
ABR:
Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?(40)
SAMP:
I do bite my thumb, sir.
ABR:
Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
SAMP:

Aside to Gregory.

Is the law of our side, if I say ay?
GREG:

Aside to Sampson.

No.
SAMP:
No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir; but I bite my(45)
thumb, sir.
GREG:
Do you quarrel, sir?
ABR:
Quarrel, sir? No, sir.
SAMP:
But if you do, sir, I am for you. I serve as good a
man as you.(50)
ABR:
No better.
SAMP:
Well, sir.

Enter Benvolio.

GREG:

Aside to Sampson.

Say ‘better.’ Here comes one of
my master's kinsmen.
SAMP:
Yes, better, sir.(55)
ABR:
You lie.
SAMP:
Draw, if you be men. Gregory, remember thy swash-
ing blow.

They fight.

BEN:
Part, fools!

He beats down their swords.

Put up your swords. You know not what you do.(60)

Enter Tybalt.

TYB:
What, art thou drawn among these heartless hinds?
Turn thee, Benvolio! look upon thy death.
BEN:
I do but keep the peace. Put up thy sword,
Or manage it to part these men with me.
TYB:
What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the word(65)
As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee.
Have at thee, coward!

They fight

Enter an officer, followers of both houses, and three or four Citizens with clubs or partisans.

CITIZENS:
Clubs, bills, and partisans! Strike! beat them
down! Down with the Capulets! Down with the
Montagues!(70)

Enter Old Capulet in his gown, and his Wife.

CAP:
What noise is this? Give me my long sword, ho!
WIFE:
A crutch, a crutch! Why call you for a sword?
CAP:
My sword, I say! Old Montague is come
And flourishes his blade in spite of me.

Enter Old Montague and his Wife.

MON:
Thou villain Capulet!—Hold me not, let me go.(75)
M.WIFE:
Thou shalt not stir one foot to seek a foe.

Enter Prince Escalus, with his Train.

PRINCE:
Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace,
Profaners of this neighbour-stained steel—
Will they not hear? What, ho! you men, you beasts,
That quench the fire of your pernicious rage(80)
With purple fountains issuing from your veins!
On pain of torture, from those bloody hands
Throw your mistempered weapons to the ground
And hear the sentence of your moved Prince.
Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word(85)
By thee, old Capulet, and Montague,
Have thrice disturb'd the quiet of our streets
And made Verona's ancient citizens
Cast by their grave beseeming ornaments
To wield old partisans, in hands as old,(90)
Canker’d with peace, to part your canker'd hate.
If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.
For this time all the rest depart away.
You, Capulet, shall go along with me;(95)
And, Montague, come you this afternoon,
To know our farther pleasure in this case,
To old Freetown, our common judgment place.
Once more, on pain of death, all men depart.

Exeunt all but Montague, his Wife, and Benvolio.

MON:
Who set this ancient quarrel new abroach?(100)
Speak, nephew, were you by when it began?
BEN:
Here were the servants of your adversary
And yours, close fighting ere I did approach.
I drew to part them. In the instant came
The fiery Tybalt, with his sword prepar'd;(105)
Which, as he breath'd defiance to my ears,
He swung about his head and cut the winds,
Who, nothing hurt withal, hiss'd him in scorn.
While we were interchanging thrusts and blows,
Came more and more, and fought on part and part,(110)
Till the Prince came, who parted either part.
M. WIFE:
O, where is Romeo? Saw you him to-day?
Right glad I am he was not at this fray.
BEN:
Madam, an hour before the worshipp'd sun
Peer'd forth the golden window of the East,(115)
A troubled mind drave me to walk abroad;
Where, underneath the grove of sycamore
That westward rooteth from the city's side,
So early walking did I see your son.
Towards him I made; but he was ware of me(120)
And stole into the covert of the wood.
I, measuring his affections by my own,
Which then most sought where most might not be found,
Being one too many by my weary self—
Pursu'd my humour, not pursuing his,(125)
And gladly shunn'd who gladly fled from me.
MON:
Many a morning hath he there been seen,
With tears augmenting the fresh morning's dew,
Adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs;
But all so soon as the all-cheering sun(130)
Should in the farthest East begin to draw
The shady curtains from Aurora's bed,
Away from light steals home my heavy son
And private in his chamber pens himself,
Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out(135)
And makes himself an artificial night.
Black and portentous must this humour prove
Unless good counsel may the cause remove.
BEN:
My noble uncle, do you know the cause?
MON:
I neither know it nor can learn of him.(140)
BEN:
Have you importun'd him by any means?
MON:
Both by myself and many other friends;
But he, his own affections’ counsellor,
Is to himself—I will not say how true—
But to himself so secret and so close,(145)
So far from sounding and discovery,
As is the bud bit with an envious worm
Ere he can spread his sweet leaves to the air
Or dedicate his beauty to the sun.
Could we but learn from whence his sorrows grow,(150)
We would as willingly give cure as know.

Enter Romeo.

BEN:
See, where he comes. So please you, step aside,
I'll know his grievance, or be much denied.
MON:
I would thou wert so happy by thy stay
To hear true shrift. Come, madam, let's away,(155)

Exeunt Montague and Wife.

BEN:
Good morrow, cousin.
ROM:
Is the day so young?
BEN:
But new struck nine.
ROM:
Ay me! sad hours seem long.
Was that my father that went hence so fast?(160)
BEN:
It was. What sadness lengthens Romeo's hours?
ROM:
Not having that, which, having, makes them short.
BEN:
In love?
ROM:
Out—
BEN:
Of love?(165)
ROM:
Out of her favour, where I am in love.
BEN:
Alas that love, so gentle in his view,
Should be so tyrannous and rough in proof!
ROM:
Alas that love, whose view is muffled still,
Should without eyes see pathways to his will!(170)
Where shall we dine? O me! What fray was here?
Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.
Here's much to do with hate, but more with love.
Why then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
O any thing, of nothing first create!(175)
O heavy lightness! serious vanity!
Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.(180)
Dost thou not laugh?
BEN:
No, coz, I rather weep.
ROM:
Good heart, at what?
BEN:
At thy good heart's oppression.
ROM:
Why, such is love's transgression.(185)
Griefs of mine own lie heavy in my breast,
Which thou wilt propagate, to have it prest
With more of thine. This love that thou hast shown
Doth add more grief to too much of mine own.
Love is a smoke rais'd with the fume of sighs;(190)
Being purg'd, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;
Being vex'd, a sea nourish'd with lovers’ tears.
What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.
Farewell, my coz.(195)
BEN:
Soft! I will go along.
An if you leave me so, you do me wrong.
ROM:
Tut! I have lost myself; I am not here:
This is not Romeo, he's some otherwhere.
BEN:
Tell me in sadness, who is that you love?(200)
ROM:
What, shall I groan and tell thee?
BEN:
Groan? Why, no;
But sadly tell me who.
ROM:
Bid a sick man in sadness make his will.
Ah, word ill urg'd to one that is so ill!(205)
In sadness, cousin, I do love a woman.
BEN:
I aim'd so near when I suppos'd you lov'd.
ROM:
A right good markman! And she's fair I love.
BEN:
A right fair mark, fair coz, is soonest hit.
ROM:
Well, in that hit you miss. She'll not be hit(210)
With Cupid's arrow. She hath Dian’s wit,
And, in strong proof of chastity well arm'd,
From Love's weak childish bow she lives unharm'd.
She will not stay the siege of loving terms,
Nor bide th’ encounter of assailing eyes,(215)
Nor ope her lap to saint-seducing gold.
O, she's rich in beauty; only poor
That, when she dies, with beauty dies her store.
BEN:
Then she hath sworn that she will still live chaste?
ROM:
She hath, and in that sparing makes huge waste;(220)
For beauty, starv'd with her severity,
Cuts beauty off from all posterity.
She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair,
To merit bliss by making me despair.
She hath forsworn to love, and in that vow(225)
Do I live dead that live to tell it now.
BEN:
Be rul'd by me: forget to think of her.
ROM:
O, teach me how I should forget to think!
BEN:
By giving liberty unto thine eyes.
Examine other beauties.(230)
ROM:
'Tis the way
To call hers, exquisite, in question more.
These happy masks that kiss fair ladies’ brows,
Being black puts us in mind they hide the fair.
He that is strucken blind cannot forget(235)
The precious treasure of his eyesight lost.
Show me a mistress that is passing fair,
What doth her beauty serve but as a note
Where I may read who pass'd that passing fair?
Farewell. Thou canst not teach me to forget.(240)
BEN:
I'll pay that doctrine, or else die in debt.

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. Notice that the last two lines of this scene end in a rhyming couplet. This rhyme signals to the audience and the stage hands that the scene has come to an end. Couplets were used to provide closure to a poem or resolve an exchange. In this couplet, Benvolio gets the last word and directly contradicts Romeo's statement that no one can turn his head. The order of this rhyme suggests that Benvolio is right and Romeo is wrong, and foreshadows Romeo and Juliet's meeting.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Notice how clunky Romeo's metaphors are when he talks about love. Romeo's discourse imitates poetry and the sonnet tradition in which a poet would catalogue a woman's beauty and perfection in 150 14-line poems. This type of speech suggests that Romeo is less in love with Rosaline and more in love with the pose of melancholic love. He likes to hear himself poetically talk about the pain he is feeling.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Diana is the Roman god of the hunt and chastity. In the Diana Acteon myth, Acteon, a young hunter, sees Diana bathing naked by accident while out hunting with his dogs. To punish him for his sight, Diana turns Acteon into a stag, and he is then torn apart by his own dogs. In comparing Rosaline to Diana, Romeo makes her both unattainable and dangerous to love. He uses this allusion to elevate his own love to the level of mythic stories.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. In our first introduction to Romeo, he is already in love with a woman. His grief is "too much of mine own" because his love is unrequited: he loves a woman who does not return, or acknowledge his love. Because Romeo's love comes from himself rather than the woman, he seems to be in love with the idea of love. In introducing this character in this way, Shakespeare positions the romance in the play as Romeo's education on what love really is.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Shakespeare creates a microcosm within this line that represents the larger themes at work within the play. Love and hatred are intimately bound together and interchangeable in this line. Throughout the play Shakespeare blurs the lines between love and hatred to show that the two seemingly opposing feelings different sides of a single feeling.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Montague describes common characteristics associated with love sickness. Love sickness was a commonly accepted malady in Shakespeare's time that would infect lovers who experienced unrequited love. It was believed to be a serious illness that could lead to serious health issues, even death.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. "Canker'd" here means rusted. The Verona's swords are rusted because the city has not been at war with another city for so long. However, citizens must use these rusted swords to break up the "canker'd" hate of the two families. This second use of "canker'd" means festering, rotting, or infected rather than rusted. Shakespeare uses two meanings of the same word in one line to show how fast the feud is infecting the peace. While the peace is at first affected by benign rust, by the end of the line it is infected by a pestiferous sore.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Shakespeare adapted this word, which previously meant either ill-mixed or deranged. Here "mistempered" means the weapon was made for an evil purpose. In this way, Shakespeare paints the feud as so bad that it infects even the fundamental characteristics of the weapons used to carry it out.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. With this poignant metaphor, the Prince demonstrates the nonsensical violence in which both families take part. In this metaphor, the Montagues and Capulets fight to quench their rage with bloodshed, not because they have a particular reason to hate each other. This makes the feud a result of the participant's bloodlust.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. A "long sword" is a weapon that belongs to a skilled warrior of distinction. Calling for this sword demonstrates Capulet's power and position. However, his wife's comment that a crutch would be more fitting shows that Capulet is old and not fit to continue fighting. His desire to take up arms in the street demonstrates how deep the hatred between the two families is; it reaches back for generations and from the bottom to the top of both clans.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. These are all types of weapons used in and before Shakespeare's time. This short catalogue demonstrates the length of the feud and the state of perpetual warfare in which the citizens live. This outburst from the citizens shows the audience that they are fed up with this feud between the Montagues and Capulets, in much the same way many neighborhoods dislike gang violence today.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. "Heartless hinds" is a metaphor that compares Sampson and Gregory to deers without a stag to lead them. Notice that Tybalt enters the fray when Benvolio steps in to stop it. While Tybalt will not fight the lesser members of the Montague clan, Benvolio is Romeo's cousin and therefore a worthy opponent because of his elevated social class. Notice how the class system is embedded within this conflict.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. Gregory and Sampson are Capulets. Their "master" is Lord Capulet and Tybalt is his nephew. Tybalt's close familial relationship to the Capulets makes him the head of the Capulets in this scene. Notice that before we see Juliet, the romantic protagonist of this play, we see hot-tempered Tybalt, leader of the young men who battle in the streets.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. In Shakespeare's time this was a serious insult, similar to showing someone your middle finger in modern times. While Gregory threatened to frown, Sampson escalates the insult towards the Montagues. Here we see not only the intensity of the hatred between the two families but also the competition among kinsmen that continuously escalates the feud.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. Penis jokes were common in the theater of Shakespeare's time. Notice that the penis and the sword here are conflated. Shakespeare begins his play showing the intense hatred between the two houses in this feud. Notice that the feud is discussed using sexual organs and sexual violence. This clownish word play begins to introduce a main theme explored in this play about how love and violence problematically exist in the same space and influence each other.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. Notice that taking one's virginity and taking one's life here are viewed as the same thing. In a story about tragic love that ends in the lover's death, this is an interesting place to start the story. This rude play on words becomes a fitting way to foreshadow the ending and problematize the love that this play will depict before we have even met the couple.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. Sampson conflates fighting with sexual violence here in order to demonstrate his dominance over the Montagues. By "thrusting his maids to the wall," he means he will rape Montague women, and by "pushing the men away from the wall" he means he will take the virginity that belongs to Montague men for himself. Notice that this love story begins in a place in which women are violently treated as objects that demonstrate male physical prowess and status within the feud.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. Elizabethan streets sloped down away from the wall towards a central canal where refuse flowed. Socially superior members of society would walk against the wall where it was safer and cleaner. With this assertion, Sampson claims that he is socially superior to the Montagues. There is also a violent sexual innuendo that implies raping the men and women of the Montague clan as a woman's virginity was referred to as the "wall."

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. In this context "moved" means to react to an insult. It also plays on fencing terminology in which "moved" means being forced to retreat backwards by a frontal attack. The play on words establishes these characters as clown characters. Shakespearian drama often uses clowns to underscore or demonstrate the main conflict of the play in a way that is easily accessible and entertaining to the audience.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. This play on words references the four humors, the dominant medical theory used to explain dispositions and diseases in Shakespeare's time. It was believed that the four humors had to be in proper balance because imbalance would cause extreme emotions. Too much of the "choleric" humor caused anger. With this play on words the characters move between social stereotypes that mock coal miners and medical knowledge.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. "Carry coals" was a popular phrase used by dramatists in Shakespeare's time that meant to put up with insults. Coal carriers were considered menial workers, meaning that calling someone a coal carrier was a way of insulting their social status.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff