Romeo and Juliet | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 1, Scene 2

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides in-depth summary and analysis of Act 1, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet | Act 1, Scene 2 | Summary



During a visit to the Capulet household, Paris, a count with high standing in the community, urges Lord Capulet to let him marry Juliet. Lord Capulet objects that Juliet is too young and inexperienced, but he changes his mind and invites Paris to the Capulets' masquerade ball that same evening. This gives Paris a chance to win Juliet's love rather than force her into a marriage. Lord Capulet gives his servant a list of guests to invite, but the servant cannot read.

When the servant runs into Romeo and Benvolio on the street, he asks for help reading the guest list. Romeo and Benvolio discover that Rosaline will be at the Capulets' festival. Benvolio sees an opportunity to distract Romeo with "some other maid." Romeo agrees to go but only because Rosaline will be there.


The audience first meets Juliet through the dialogue of two men. Her status is defined through her father and Paris's perceptions of her, underscoring her youth, gender, and lack of power resulting from both. Lord Capulet acts as though Juliet's happiness matters to him, but his arrangements with Paris suggest otherwise.

Lord Capulet introduces the theme of youth and age. Referring to the fight with the Montagues, Lord Capulet says "'tis not hard ... for men so old as we to keep the peace." He implies that it is the young men who are violent. This contrast between youth and age continues as Lord Capulet argues with the prince but backs down as if feeling old inspires him to give in to the younger Paris. He loosens his role of stern father and turns to exalting Juliet's value instead, comparing her to "fresh fennel buds." The fresh fennel, which signifies spring, the delights of Juliet's youth, and inheritance, is the first symbolic representation of plants in the play. Plantain leaves are also mentioned by Benvolio as a source of healing—though jokingly—for Romeo's lovesickness. They were often used in Shakespeare's time to help heal wounds.

The scene also explores female beauty and its relationship to love and power. For Benvolio, women's beauty distorts men's vision, meaning their ability to see clearly whom they love. For Romeo, Rosaline's beauty outshines all others, setting up an ideal of what a woman must be to be worthy of love. Lord Capulet, at his stage of life, describes women as "Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light."

Throughout the play most of the lines are in blank verse—unrhymed lines written in iambic pentameter. This means that each line has five feet, or units, that consist of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. The illiterate servant speaks in plain prose so that his lines demonstrate his low class and lack of education.

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