Enter Sampson and Gregory:
Sampson and Gregory, servants of the house of Capulet, go out looking for trouble. Enter Abraham and Balthasar: Sampson and Gregory almost pick a fight with Abraham and Balthasar, servants of the house of Montague. Enter Benvolio:Seeing a Capulet kinsman, Sampson and Gregory start to fight with Abraham and Balthasar. Benvolio tries to stop the fight, but Tybalt enters and attacks Benvolio. The citizens of Verona attack both the Capulets and Montagues. Capulet and Montague try to join the fight, but are restrained by their wives. Enter Prince Escalus with his Train:Prince Escalus stops the riot, threatens everyone with death, and takes Capulet with him. Exeunt all but Montague, Lady Montague, and Benvolio:Benvolio tells how the brawl started, then Lady Montague asks where Romeo is, and Benvolio answers that he was up before dawn, wandering in the woods. The Montagues say that Romeo is afflicted with strange sorrows, and Benvolio offers to find out what's wrong with him. Enter Romeo:Seeing Romeo coming, Montague and Lady Montague leave Benvolio alone to speak with their son. Benvolio soon discovers that Romeo's problem is that he loves a woman who doesn't return his love. Benvolio tries to get Romeo to say who it is he loves, but Romeo won't. Benvolio also tries to get Romeo to solve his problem by looking for another woman, but Romeo seems determined to love and suffer.
Enter Sampson and Gregory:
The opening stage direction reads, "Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, of the house of Capulet, armed with swords and bucklers (1.1.1,s.d.). As viewers of the play, we don't know that Sampson and Gregory are of the house of Capulet, but their clothes tell us they are servants of some great man. To make a big impression, rich men dressed their servants in uniforms, called "liveries." Present-day street gangs wear "colors" for similar reasons. Sampson and Gregory's swords and bucklers (small round shields) are important, too. Gentlemen wore swords, but servants usually didn't, and bucklers were used only for individual combat. (For some interesting background on the Elizabethan use of the sword and buckler, see the review of Jill L. Levenson's "'Alla Stoccado carries it away': Codes of Violence in Romeo and Juliet.") In short, we know at first glance that Sampson and Gregory are looking for trouble. It won't be long before these two will find the trouble they are looking for, but in the meantime we will see that Shakespeare doesn't glamorize violence. Sampson is a boasting fool, and Gregory is more interested in wordplay than swordplay. Any feud in which these two are involved can only be silly and stupid. In the opening moments of the scene, Sampson talks tough, and Gregory makes jokes at his expense. It takes time to explain jokes, so you may find this section of the summary slow going. Try to keep in mind that things actually move quickly. In less than three minutes of stage time Tybalt will be trying to kill Benvolio. Sampson says, "Gregory, o' my word, we'll not carry coals" (1.1.1), and Gregory replies, "No, for then we should be colliers" (1.1.2). The modern equivalent of "carry coals" is "take guff," but Gregory pretends not to understand, and says that if they carried coals, they would be coal miners. Sampson, apparently not bright enough to understand Gregory's little joke, explains himself: "I mean, an [if] we be in choler, we'll draw" (1.1.3). To be "in choler" is to be angry, and Sampson means that if they are angry they'll draw their swords from their scabbards. Gregory answers with two puns: "Ay, while you live, draw your neck out o' the collar" (1.1.4). He's saying that Sampson will not draw his sword, but draw his neck out of the hangman's collar (i.e.,noose). Gregory's point is that Sampson, despite his tough talk, isn't likely to do anything that will get him in trouble with the law. (Later in the scene we'll see that Gregory is right about Sampson.) Insisting that he's a scary guy,...
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