Romeo And Juliet Analysis Of Act I

Analysis of Act I Scene V

Act I Scene V is a very relevant scene in the play. It contains Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting, which is of course an important event.

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The scene begins merrily and busily, the servants are rushing around preparing things, and serving, as servants tend to do. Capulet greets all the guests warmly and in good humour. He makes a joke about how if a Woman won’t dance, she must have corns:

“She that makes dainty, she, I’ll swear, hath corns…” (Capulet, line 19-20)

Capulet joking with his guests shows he is in a good mood and intends this to be a good party.

Perhaps Capulet starts to feel his age around line 35. Whilst talking to a relative they discuss when they last wore masks, Capulet is told it was longer than he thought. In act I scene I, he asks for his sword to join in the brawl, but his wife tells him basically he is too old. Perhaps Capulet is now feeling somewhat sadder as he remembers better days. Maybe this makes him more willing to not cause trouble when Romeo’s presence is bought to light later.

Romeo went to the feast because Benvolio persuaded him to do so. He found out the Romeo was longing for Rosaline, and suggested they go to the feast so that Romeo could compare other women with Rosaline. Romeo agrees to go, but probably only because he knows Rosaline will be there, and he just wants to see her. This is similar to what Lady Capulet told Juliet to do at the feast; Juliet was asked to go to the feast, look at Paris, and see what a great Husband he would be. However, neither Rosaline or Paris feature in the scene. It is love at first sight for Romeo and Juliet and Shakespeare doesn’t confuse the matter by giving them the chance to make comparisons.

Romeo sees Juliet for the first time at the feast. He describes her as “a snowy dove trooping with crows.” He is saying here that she stands out from all the other women as a dove would stand out from crows. Earlier, in Act I Scene II, Benvolio says something similar to this comparison when he is trying to persuade Romeo to go to the party:

“…And I will make thee think thy swan a crow.” (Benvolio, line 87)

This is in fact exactly what happens. When Romeo says that Juliet is a “dove trooping with crows”, he is saying that every other woman in the room is a crow compared to Juliet, including Rosaline. So now, as Benvolio said, he thinks Rosaline (his “swan”) to be a “crow”.

Also he immediately distinguishes his feelings for Juliet from those he had for Rosaline: “Did my heart love till now?” (line 52). He is saying there that what he feels for Juliet is greater than he felt for Rosaline. It is like he didn’t love Rosaline at all compared to Juliet now.

Romeo Likens Juliet to a jewel in an Ethiop’s ear, and says that “she doth teach the torches to burn bright”. The first of those examples is a lot like the one saying how Juliet is like a dove and the other women are crows. An Ethiop being a black person, a jewel would probably stand out clearly against the dark background of the ear. In the same way, Juliet seems to stand out from the other black crows like a white dove would. What Romeo says about Juliet teaching the torches to burn bright suggests that she lights the room more than the torches do, and stands out more as well. It is like the torches, which provide the light and warmth, are humbled and forgotten by Juliet’s presence.

Immediately, conflict accompanies the love, when on line 54, Tybalt notices Romeo at the feast. He believes that Romeo has gate crashed to do some harm to his family, so he immediately asks for his rapier which shows he intends to fight Romeo there and then:

“Now by the stock and honour of my kin,

To strike him dead, I hold it not a sin.”(Tybalt, Line 57-58)

He mentions the honour of his kin, and that it will not be a sin to kill Romeo. He considers it to be right and just to kill him because of the family feud. Tybalt is stopped by his Uncle, Capulet, but he still wants to fight Romeo.

Clearly Tybalt is quick to anger, and will fight to uphold his family’s “honour” and to continue the feud. Another example of Tybalt’s temper can be seen in act I scene I. When the servants of the opposing Families begin a fight, Benvolio tries to stop it. Then Tybalt enters and immediately joins in the fight, as well as attacking Benvolio:

“What! Drawn, and talk of peace?? I hate the word, as I hate hell, all Montagues and thee.” (Tybalt, Act I Scene I, Line 63-64)

It is clear to see that Tybalt has quite a temper. The mood immediately becomes one of anger and rage. The feud between the Capulets and Montagues is brought to light once again, after the brief time when Romeo is watching Juliet, when the feud seems to be irrelevant.

Capulet tries to calm Tybalt by complementing Romeo and saying it is alright that he is at the party. Tybalt does not respond so Capulet keeps turning up the heat until he gets very angry with Tybalt and forces him to leave Romeo alone. The atmosphere is calm once more but now it will always be tarnished by Tybalt’s outburst, it will always be in the back of your mind. I think maybe the prince’s warning is influencing Capulet here. I think it is also to do with his age and how perhaps he has grown weary of the feud a bit. Both Capulet’s and Montague’s wives clearly do not support the fighting between the houses (during the street brawl in act I scene I, both men try to join in, and both wives stop them.). This may also influence Capulet. He probably also didn’t want to ruin his party with Tybalt fighting.

Tybalt is forced by Capulet to let the matter drop. But he refuses to let it end there:

“I will withdraw; but this intrusion shall, Now seeming sweet convert to bitter gall.” (Tybalt, lines 91-92)

Here it seems appropriate to mention the humours. In Elizabethan times, it was believed that food travels through the stomach to the liver. Here it was thought to be converted into four substances known as the humours. These liquids flowed to the heart, where they had an effect on the personality and character of the person. If the balance of the humours was not equal and one humour was in excess, it caused certain personality traits. The four humours and their effects on the person are:

Blood – Sanguine, optimistic, outgoing, jolly.

Phlegm – Phlegmatic, passive, calm, unemotional.

Choler / yellow bile – choleric, angry, impulsive, rash.

Melancholy / Black bile – melancholy, depressed, moody, unsociable, pessimistic.

Tybalt refers to choler on line 89: “Patience perforce with wilful choler meeting…” The choler he mentions is to do with anger and impulsive actions, which is exactly what is happening with him wanting to kill Romeo at the feast. Choler is also mentioned in Act I Scene I. Sampson and Gregory, servants of the Capulet family, are walking in the street before the brawl. Sampson says: “I mean, an we be in choler, we’ll draw” This means basically if they are in choler (that is, to be angry), they will draw (their swords). Humours are used in the play quite often and so it is useful to see their relevance, and how they are used.

It appears that Tybalt has backed down, but he in fact vows to exact his revenge upon Romeo, which he later tries to do.

Tybalt’s hate interrupting Romeo’s love for Juliet is representative of how the family feud comes between them both throughout the play, and leads to their suicides. It is in fact Tybalt’s revenge which sees Romeo exiled, which then leads on to them both committing suicide.

We are then made to forget the hustle and bustle of the party going on around them as Romeo and Juliet talk. Romeo takes Juliet’s hand and says:

“If I profane with my unworthiest hand

This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand

To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”

(act I scene 5, lines 93-96)

Romeo offers to pay the “fine” for touching her hand (“This holy shrine”) without her permission. He asks for her forgiveness by offering to “smooth the rough touch” of when he seized her hand without her permission, with a kiss. Juliet joins in Romeo’s game then refers to Romeo as a pilgrim, because a pilgrim would go to a shrine, just as Romeo touched Juliet and referred to her as a shrine. The rest of the sonnet uses these images and other religious ideas. Juliet resists Romeo’s obvious desire to kiss her, but she is willing really because they do in fact kiss.

This holy theme reflects the goodness and pureness of their love, which again contrasts with Romeo’s feelings for Rosaline which seemed to be little more than lust.

Romeo and Juliet’s conversation takes the form of a sonnet. A sonnet is a type of rhyme which takes the form abab cdcd efef gg, where each letter rhymes with itself. So the first line rhymes with the third, second with fourth, and so on. The last two lines rhyme with each other as well; they are a rhyming couplet. There are ten syllables in each line, and alternate syllables are emphasized, in the meter of iambic pentameter. This gives the sonnet a stress pattern which approximates English language speech.

Juliet is called away by her nurse, who Romeo then asks Juliet’s name. He finds out that she is a Capulet:

“O dear account! My life is my foe’s debt.”

(Romeo, Act I Scene V, line 118)

This means that he now owes his very life to Juliet, who (as a Capulet) is his foe.

Juliet still doesn’t know who Romeo is. She asks the nurse to find out who he is. But she asks about two other men first, so as not to make it obvious she is just interested in Romeo. When the nurse tells her he is a Montague, she is equally shocked:

“My only love sprung from my only hate!” (Juliet, Act I Scene V, line 18)

There is a sense of despair and disappointment for both of them I think. However, neither of them give up and try to move on. Also, the fact that neither of them knew each other’s name before they said what they did, and kissed, highlights the haste and suddenness of their love.

This scene is most importantly about Romeo and Juliet’s romance, but the way in which Shakespeare juxtaposes this with Tybalt’s aggression shows that it not only begins their love but also their downfall and death. Romeo and Juliet seek unity between themselves and thus also their houses, but Tybalt wishes to divide them. This mix between love and hate is what the whole play is all about.


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