Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Act I, Scene 2

Summary

At the house of Capulet, Lord Capulet and Paris, a local count, are discussing Paris’s interest in marrying Capulet’s only daughter, Juliet. Capulet approves of Paris’s interest and announces plans to throw a party that night, so that Juliet and Paris can meet one another in a socially-approved setting. Capulet gives the guest list to one of the servants and sends him to invite the guests listed in it to the party. But, since the servant cannot read, he is forced to stop the first people he can find – who turn out to be Benvolio and Romeo – and ask them to read the guest list to him.

Romeo reads the guest list and discovers that his crush Rosaline has been invited to the party. Although the servant has told them the party is being thrown by the Capulets and no Montagues are invited, Romeo and Benvolio decide to go to the party anyway – Benvolio to convince Romeo that there are plenty of other women in the world, and Romeo to see Rosaline.

Analysis

Paris and Capulet’s scheming over Juliet’s marriage raises the dramatic stakes: the audience knows that Paris is not the one with whom Juliet is destined to fall in love, but the play has established that Juliet is not free to marry whom she chooses. Like many young ladies of her social class, whom Juliet marries will be chosen for her by her father and prospective husband. In addition, Capulet specifies that even if Juliet finds a young man she likes, Capulet will only allow a marriage to go forward with his consent – and the audience knows that Capulet is least of all likely to consent to his only child marrying a Montague.

Scene II also develops a recurring motif within the play: the division between the concerns of the upper and lower classes. While Capulet and Paris hatch elaborate marriage and party plans, the servant has a much more basic problem: he cannot even read.

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