Romeo and Juliet


Act 1

Act I: Prologue

The prologue opens with the Chorus describing what will occur in the play. The Chorus in Romeo and Juliet serves the same function as a chorus in traditional Greek tragedy; it narrates the action on stage and comments on that action. Thus, the Chorus lets the audience know that a tragedy is about to happen, and that the tragedy is unavoidable. It is the Chorus who first describes Romeo and Juliet as star-crossed. What is interesting is that, watching the play, one can see a number of instances in which Romeo and Juliet took actions that helped further the tragedy. While the characters in the play and the Chorus emphasize the role of fate, it seems very clear that they share some personal responsibility for how things happen. Hence, this prologue commentary is necessary to help establish them as victims of fate.

Act I: Scene 1

The true opening scene of the play commences with a fight between the Montagues’ and Capulets’ servants. Sampson, a Capulet servant, taunts the Montague servants with a thumb-biting gesture that is considered indecent. The servants engage in a volley of jokes and insults that are vulgar, which leads them to violence. It is important to realize that the play begins with this correlation between sex and violence, because the romantic love in the play brings about tremendous violence. This opening scene allows the audience to understand that violence will follow closely upon the heels of sexuality in this play.

What starts out as an insignificant fight prompted by a meaningless gesture becomes a large brawl. What is interesting is that the fight seems to be perpetuated by people outside of the family—namely, the servants. Benvolio, a Montague cousin, actually tries to stop the fight, but Tybalt, a Capulet, engages him in a fight. What begins as a minor dispute becomes increasingly larger, threatening the safety in the town. Both Capulet and Montague arrive on the scene, which does nothing to reduce the simmering tensions. Instead, Capulet calls...

Sign up to continue reading Act 1 >

Essays About Romeo and Juliet