How does Shakespeare create a gripping and exciting opening to Romeo and Juliet in the whole of Act 1?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The beginning of the play grabs our attention with a prologue explaining that it is a tragic tale.  Then, from the very beginning the play is exciting.  We start out in Act 1 with a witty and bawdy conversation between the servants, and then a swordfight started between servants who insult one another.


The quarrel is between our masters and us their men.


'Tis all one. I will show myself a tyrant. When I have

fought with the men, I will be civil with the maids; I will(20)

cut off their heads. (enotes etext pdf p. 9-10)

Gregory points out that the feud extends far beyond the members of the family to everyone associated with them, including their servants. 


Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them;

which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.


Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?(40)  (p. 10)

Sampson deliberately causes the fight with an insult.  The large swordfight in the market serves the purpose of exposition, drawing the reader or viewer in and showing that the feud is a deep one.  Even servants will kill each other at the drop of tiniest insult.

The suspense continues in Act 1 by introducing the daydreaming Romeo and his playful friends, sweet and pampered Juliet, and the ball.

At the ball, we see the young lovers meet.  It is love at first sight.  They are thrilled with each other, but neither knows who the other really is at first.  When Romeo learns Juliet’s name, he is horrified.


Is she a Capulet?(125)

O dear account! my life is my foe's debt. (p. 33)

Yet they both continue with their romance anyway.  The reader and view know that there is more murder, mayhem and romance to come as Act I ends, and therefore we are excited to keep going and see how the story ends.

Page number references are from the enotes extext pdf available on the first link.

beccalyons98 | Student

In the beginning of the Act, the chorus tells about the terrible feud between the two families, Capulet and Montague. They do not want anything to do with each other. The two families are supposed to stay away from each other and never talk. This makes the reader want to keep reading because they would want to know what happens to these two families. Also, two people from the different families fall in love, so how is that going to happen? What is going to happen? The readers are compelled to keep reading because of how interesting the introduction is.

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Romeo and Juliet

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