Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Act I, Scene 5

Summary

In the main hall of the Capulet house, three servants are rushing about, clearing away dinner so that the dancing can begin. Capulet and a cousin (also named Capulet) sit and watch the dancing and try to guess how long it has been since they themselves danced (about thirty years).

Meanwhile, Romeo spies Juliet and is immediately entranced. He asks one of the servants who she is, but the servant doesn’t know her name. As he stands talking to himself, Tybalt overhears, identifies Romeo by his voice as a Montague, and calls for his sword. Capulet stops him, ordering Tybalt not to start a fight in the middle of the party.

While Capulet and Tybalt argue, Romeo has sought out Juliet. He and Juliet trade an extended metaphor comparing Romeo to a religious pilgrim and Juliet to an image of a saint at a shrine. They kiss, and the Nurse interrupts them, telling Juliet her mother is looking for her; this is how Romeo learns Juliet is a Capulet. Shortly thereafter, Juliet asks the Nurse to find out who Romeo is, only to learn that he is a Montague.

Analysis

Romeo and Juliet’s first lines to each other form a sonnet of the same rhyme pattern as the sonnet spoken by the Chorus in the Prologue – the first sonnet we have heard since the Chorus. The similar form of Romeo and Juliet’s sonnet and the Chorus’s sonnet link the overarching theme of passionate love developed in the Prologue with the first meeting of the doomed lovers.

The scene also contains additional instances of the servants’ concerns differing drastically from those of the upper classes. The servants at the beginning are rushing to clear the plates and wash the pans, while the Capulets discuss dancing. When Romeo asks a servant for Juliet’s name, the servant doesn’t know it; Juliet may be one of the main characters in the play and the only person who will shortly matter to Romeo, but the servant, who works in Juliet’s household, doesn’t even know who she is.

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