In Act I, scene 4 of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, what phrasing indicates the time of day?

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vangoghfan's profile pic

vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In Act I, scene 4 of William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare provides a number of indications of the time of the action.  Among those indications are the following:

  • The list of characters at the beginning of the scene includes “TORCH BEARERS,” already implying an evening setting.
  • Romeo specifically asks for a torch:

Give me a torch, I am not for this ambling:

Being but heavy, I will bear the light.

  • Mercutio says that by delaying they “burn daylight,” but then he quickly makes it clear that he knows that in the literal sense it is dark outside.
  • Romeo specifically says, “I dreamt a dream to-night” (emphasis added).
  • Benvolio mentions that at the party, “Supper is [already] done.”

The fact that the party occurs during the evening seems significant for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • It is, of course, an appropriate time for a party.
  • The presence of torches on stage would have been a vivid "special effect."
  • The contrast between the light of the torches and the supposed nighttime setting might have seemed symbolic of the play's emphasis on metaphorical light and metaphorical darkness.
  • The darkness makes an appropriate setting for the lengthy discussion of sleeping and dreaming.
schmiaah's profile pic

schmiaah | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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There are a few clues to point out that the time of day by Act 1 Scene 4 is sometime in the evening (perhaps in between 5-7 pm).  In Scene 1 we know it is morning (9am) as Benvolio states to Romeo, "But new struck nine" (156).  The play itself takes place over the course of a few days so jumping from Act 1 Scene 1 to Act 1 Scene 4 we know it has to take place in the same day, as earier events are recalled by Capulet speaking of the Prince's message (Scene 2).  Scene 3 ends with a servnat entering the Juliet's quarters and stating that the party is beginning at Capulet's house.  We know that the party will take place in the evening as we know supper will be served (Scene 3, Interaction between Clown and Romeo).  Act 1 Scene 4 is the scene in which Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio are conversing and Mercutio gives his famous Queen Mab speech.  Int he group aside from those three are others who are abeled as Torch Bearers.  If there was daylight, torches would be unneccessary, so we can assume that Act 1 Scnee 4 is taking place in the evening, just before supper would be served (in betwen 5 and 7 pm).

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