Romeo and Juliet Summary by Michael McGoodwin: Part One

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Romeo and Juliet Summary by Michael McGoodwin: Part One

Post by Rachid Amri on Fri Feb 22, 2008 12:04 am

Prologue
The chorus announces [in English sonnet form] that the lovers are destined to die in order to bury their parent' strife ("A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;/Whole misadventured piteous overthrows/Doth with their death bury their parents' strife."

Act I
Act I Scene 1

Verona Italy, a public place. Samson and Gregory are servants in the household of the merchant family Capulet and speak with punning comic and crudely bawdy wordplay. Samson boasts that he will not endure insults from the Montagues, that women are the weaker vessel, etc. Two servants, Abraham and another, belonging to the Montague household (the opposing merchant family) appear. Samson makes taunting gestures and provokes a fight. Benvolio (Montague's nephew and Romeo's friend, "Benvolio") arrives and tries to stop it, but Tybalt (nephew of Lady Capulet, Capulet's wife) enters with sword drawn and forces Benvolio to fight. Citizens join in the fray, as does old Capulet and Montague. Finally, Prince Escalus of Verona [who functions as a governor or mayor] arrives and stops the fighting. He condemns the three public disturbances that the feuding families have caused to date, and declares that future offenders will be executed. He takes Capulet away to hear more of his intentions and leaves Montague behind.

Montague wants to know who started the fight, which Benvolio recounts. Montague's wife asks where Romeo is, and Benvolio tells of seeing him walking early in the morning and ducking into a grove of sycamores. Montague comments he has seen him weeping there many times, and that he spends his days brooding in his room. Neither his father nor Benvolio seem to know the cause.

Romeo [who Streitberger suggests is about 16] arrives and talks alone with Benvolio. He is sad, in love but out of favor with his beloved. He speaks of his frustration in oxymorons of "O brawling love! O loving hate,/O anything of nothing first create,/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." Benvolio is sympathetic and wants to know who the woman is. She is fair, Romeo says, with Diana's wisdom, but pledged to chastity, unwilling to be seduced even by gold [Romeo speaks of the waste resulting from lack of procreatl also expressed in the early sonnets]. Benvolio advises he open his eyes to other women, but Romeo says none can compare to her.

Act I Scene 2
Verona, a street. Capulet speaks with County Paris [i.e., Count Paris] about his interest in marrying Juliet. Juliet is 13 ("she hath not seen the change of fourteen years"), and Capulet initially suggests they wait. She is Capulet's only child still living. Paris seems to be in a hurry to marry her. He agrees to the suit provided Juliet is willing. He is having a feast that night. He gives the invitation list to his illiterate servingman and they walk away.

Benvolio is still counseling Romeo to find another woman. The servingman asks Romeo and Benvolio to read to him the names on the list. Romeo plays with him initially, then agrees to read the list aloud--it includes Mercutio [a kinsman to the Prince and Romeo's friend], Rosaline [whom Benvolio already seems now to know is Romeo's love object], and Tybalt. He suggests that Romeo go to this party to see "all the admired beauties of Verona" and compare Rosaline to the others. Romeo is sure none could match Rosaline, but will go along to rejoice in the sight of Rosaline.

Act I Scene 3
Capulet's house. Juliet's nurse talks to Juliet's mother Lady Capulet (Juliet is also present). The nurse is bawdy and earthy in her speech and preoccupied with sex. Juliet will be fourteen on Lammas Eve (i.e., c. Aug 1) and it is now mid-July. Her own daughter Susan is dead, and she fondly recalls nursing and weaning Juliet (whom she calls ladybird) and her now deceased husband's joking remark that Juliet would someday fall backwards (i.e., for sex) rather than forwards as she had just done. Lady Capulet asks Juliet how predisposed she is to marrying Paris. Juliet has not dreamed of such an honor, but agrees to assess him at the upcoming feast. The guests are arriving.

Act I Scene 4
Verona, near Capulet's house. Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio assemble with several other masquers. Benvolio suggests they forego the traditional announcement of their arrival. Romeo is "heavy" and has a soul of lead and volunteers to bear the light. He wonders at the difficulty of love and Mercutio has a bawdy response. They apply their masks. Romeo plans to be a passive bystander. Romeo says he has had a dream, and Mercutio responds he has had one also. He describes how Queen Mab [the Fairy Queen, a ?Celtic name] gallops through lover's brains to cause them to dream of love, causes other kinds of dreams in other types of persons, teaches maids "first to bear, making them women of good carriage", and in some instances produces cruel consequences [hers is a darker vision of a Fairy Queen than Titania]. Romeo dismisses Mercutio's fanciful speech and fears some ominous consequence from the evening's activity, but leaves his fate in God.

Act I Scene 5

Capulet's house. Four servingmen converse humorously and prepare for the feast. Capulet, Lady Capulet, the guests, and the masquers enter. Capulet welcomes the masquers and jokes that any ladies not dancing have corns. Dancing begins. Capulet speaks to a second Capulet [possibly his uncle] about their own long-past masked dancing days. Romeo inquires of a servant who Juliet is and says out loud "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!/.../Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!/For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night." Tybalt recognizes his voice and calls for his rapier. Capulet stops him from fighting and tells him to leave Romeo alone, commenting hospitably "Content thee, gentle coz, let him alone;/'A bears him like a portly gentleman,/And, to say truth, Verona brags of him/To be a virtuous and well-governed youth". Tybalt is angry but Capulet insists he endure Romeo's presence and Tybalt withdraws in anger. Romeo addresses Juliet, taking her hand and wishing to kiss it. They speak in sonnet form and in the metaphor of pilgrims and saints, Juliet is encouraging, and Romeo kisses her, a "trespass sweetly urged". But Juliet comments he kisses "by the book" [i.e., he speaks as in the Petrachan sonnets rather than more down to earth]. Nurse calls Juliet to her mother, and speaks to Romeo, telling him Juliet is the daughter of Lady Capulet, causing Romeo to despair. Benvolio says it is time to go. Capulet hospitably invites them to stay but relents after someone whispers something to him.
Juliet is left with Nurse, and asks the names of the departing men: son of Tiberio, Petruchio. Then she asks Nurse to find out the name of the man who would not dance, and she returns to say he is Romeo. She laments "My only love sprung from my only hate!/Too early seen unknown, and known too late!/Prodigious birth of love it is to me/That I must love a loathed enemy."

Act II
Act II Scene 0

Chorus tells in sonnet form how Rosaline is forgotten, now that Romeo has a new love, and that the lovers will overcome the obstacles preventing their meeting.

Act II Scene 1
Verona, outside Capulet's walled orchard. Romeo has disappeared from Benvolio and Mercutio. Benvolio has seen Romeo leap the Capulet's orchard wall and Mercutio speaks in humorously poetic images of conjuring up Romeo, invoking Rosaline's eyes and speaking bawdily of her, assuring Mercutio that Romeo would not be angry to hear his joking remarks (e.g., "I conjure thee by Rosaline's bright eyes,/By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,/By her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh/And the demesnes that there adjacent lie...") and continues on with joking about how Romeo wishes Rosaline were like an medlar fruit [also called "open-arse", eaten when partially rotten, resembling vulva], and he a poppering pear [phallic in shape].

Act II Scene 2
Inside the Capulet orchard. Romeo is now left alone after hiding from his friends. He sees a light in Juliet's window, and compares her to the sun: "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?/It is the east, and Juliet is the sun./Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,/Who is already sick and pale with grief/That thou her maid art far more fair than she./Be not her maid, since she is envious;/Her vestal livery is but sick and green/And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off." Here he seems to suggest she not be a votary to the chaste Diana, since Juliet is fairer than Diana and Diana is envious of Juliet; also their uniforms are so pale and anemic like moonlight. He compares her eyes to stars and her to an angel [again using speech more typical of Petrachan sonnets than teen romance]. She speaks out, not knowing he is there, asking why he is named Romeo and a Montague, wants him to change his name, confessing her love. When he appears to her, she warns him that he will be killed if discovered there, but he is fearless and poetic in response. She asks if he loves her and worries if she seems too readily yielding to him. He tries to swear by the moon, but Juliet [is impatient with his flowery language and] does not want him to swear by the inconstant moon but only by himself if at all. Juliet notes how rash this has all been but says "This bud of love, by summer's ripening breath,/May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet." He pledges to marry her and she agrees to send word to him tomorrow to pursue this. Nurse calls to Juliet. She compares him to a wanton's bird kept on a short thread and bids Romeo goodbye: "Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow/That I shall say good night till it be morrow."

Act II Scene 3
Near Friar Laurence's cell, perhaps in the monastery garden. Friar Laurence ("FL") gathers herbs and flowers and reflects on the opposed grace and rude will found in men, as in his poisonous herbs. Romeo enters. He wants the friar to marry him and Juliet. FL is amazed that Romeo has so rapidly dropped his love for Rosaline. He sees that the marriage may turn the feuding families rancor to love.

Act II Scene 4
Verona, street. Mercutio tells Benvolio that Romeo did not come home last night and they wonder where he is. Tybalt has sent a challenging letter to Romeo's father. Mercutio refers to Tybalt as a Prince of Cats [Tybalt was the name of same in Reynard the Fox]. Mercutio makes much word play, joking about fencing, etc. Romeo enters, and the bawdy banter continues as Mercutio questions him where he has been, etc. (e.g., "this driveling love is like a great natural that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole").

Nurse appears with servant Peter, and Mercutio aims his bawdy comments at her. Mercutio and Benvolio leave. Nurse is incensed at Mercutio, says she "will take him down", and is irritated that Peter did not stand up for her. The bawdy continues. She questions whether Romeo is dishonorable and plans merely to seduce Juliet. He tells her to arrange for Juliet to meet him at FL's that afternoon when she comes to be shrived (confessed and absolved) and they will be married. Romeo also says his man will bring a rope ladder to her for him to use to get to Juliet's room. Nurse informs Romeo that Paris is a contender who "fain would lay knife aboard".

Act II Scene 5
Outside Capulet's house, perhaps the garden or orchard. Juliet waits impatiently for the coming of the night. Nurse and Peter arrive. She complains of her aching back and bones, shortness of breath, etc. and greatly delays responding to Juliet's urgent entreaty for her news. Finally she tells Juliet to go to FL to make shrift and meet Romeo there to wed, saying "But you shall bear the burden soon at night"

Act II Scene 6
Friar Laurence's cell. Romeo awaits Juliet eagerly, but FL cautions against violent delights and counsels moderation. Juliet arrives and Romeo greets her lovingly. FL proceeds to "incorporate two in one".

and her Romeo."

Rachid Amri
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