In Act 1 Scene 1, who are the characters introduced and what are their personalities?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first scene of Act I of "Romeo and Juliet" opens with two servants of the Capulet house, Sampson and Gregory, armed with swords and bucklers.  Gregory especially detests the feuding family, the Montagues, referring to Abraham of the Montague house as "a dog of the house of Montague" (l.10)  He affirms that the quarrel is between "our masters and us their men"(l.11); Sampson, too, is ready to fight, pulls his sword out to battle with Abraham and Balthasar, another servant of the Montagues. 

However, Benevolio, whose name suggests good (bene) arrives and urges the Capulet servants put up their swords: "...You know not what you do" (l.38). Meanwhile, a master swordsman with a violent temper, Tybalt of the Montague family appears and challenges Benevolio, saying, "As I hate Hell, all Montagues, and thee./Have at thee, coward!" (44*45)  Benevolio tries to tell Tybalt that he is trying to keep peace, but hot-headed Tybalt insists upon fighting Benevolio.  At this time, an officer and three or fouf citizens who are tired of this feud come into the scene.  Meanwhile, Lord Capulet has heard of the arguments and asks for his sword, but Lady Capulet mocks  her aged, choleric husband, telling him he should be asking for a crutch.

After her remark, Lord and Lady Montague appear and Lord Montague challenges his enemy:  "Thou villain, Capulet--Hold me not, let me go" (52-53).  His wife, Lady Montague, holds him back, saying "Thou shalt not stir one foot to seek a foe.  Then, the Prince appears, incensed at this of many disturbances by the families.  He issues an ultimatum to them: I f ever you disturb our streets again,/Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace./For this time, all the rest depart away..."(67-710.  He tells Capulet to come with him and Montague he instructs to come later.  Both are to be dealt with for disturbing the peace.

While Benevolio, and both Lady Capulet and Lady Montague seek peace and seem level-headed, the others are rash and quick-tempered.  Ladies Capulet and Montague seem to have acquired some wisdom from past experiences, too.

After all depart Romeo, distracted from his rejection by his love Rosaline, enters, sighing and languishing over his fate speaking in oxymorons:  "O anything, of nothing first create!/O heavy lightness!  serious vanity!"(149  -150)  Romeo is clearly depressed as he speaks of the blindness and cruelty of love.  His good friend, Benevolio, again seeks to reason with another person.  He is also worried about Romeo, but understimates how heartsick his friend is.  But, Benvolio vows to change Romeo's mind about his former love by getting him to go to a party and look and "Examine other beauties."

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Romeo and Juliet

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