Romeo and Juliet Study Guide

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

In Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare's tragic plays, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet fall in love, despite the fact that their families are bitter enemies. Undeterred by this obstacle, the two begin a passionate romance that is interrupted by their feuding relatives. The lovers' final attempt to be together results in the death of them both, leaving their families, and the reader, to contemplate the power of love and question the meaning of violence.

Sampson and Gregory, two Capulet servants, discuss how much they despise the Montague family. The two make puns about how they would like to defeat the Montague men and sexually conquer the Montague women. Their banter is interrupted when they spot two Montague servants. Gregory and Sampson try to determine the best way to begin a fight without being held accountable, and Sampson decides to bite his thumb at the Montagues. As this is considered a strong insult, Abraham and Balthasar, the two Montague men, take offense and begin a verbal quarrel. Benvolio from the Montague side sees this fight and draws his sword to force peace upon both parties. When Tybalt from the Capulet side sees this, he draws his own sword and informs Benvolio that he hates peace as much as he hates all Montagues. A widespread fight breaks out and Lords Capulet and Montague attempt to enter the fray. Their wives force them to stay out of the brawl, a command which is soon reinforced by Prince Escalus. The Prince decrees that the Montagues and Capulets have disturbed the peace too many times, and future disturbances will be punished by death. With that, everybody leaves, except for Montague, Lady Montague, and their nephew, Benvolio.

Montague demands to know how the fight began, and Benvolio explains what happened. Lady Montague is less concerned with the fight than she is with her melancholy son, Romeo. She asks Benvolio if he has seen Romeo, and Benvolio says that he has seen his depressed cousin wandering among the sycamores outside the city. The Montagues are distressed over their son’s sadness and they confide that Romeo will not explain the source of his misery. When Benvolio sees his cousin approaching, he tells Lord and Lady Montague that he will find the source of Romeo’s problems. Romeo’s parents quickly leave, and Romeo approaches Benvolio. He informs Benvolio thathe is miserable because he is in love with a woman named Rosaline who does not return his affection. Furthermore, she does not return any man’s affection because she wants to live a life of chastity. Benvolio encourages Romeo to forget about Rosaline by focusing on other beautiful women. Romeo insists that there are no other women for him, and Benvolio vows to prove him wrong.

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