What is a summary of Act 1 Scene 1 in Romeo and Juliet?

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clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This tragedy opens rather comically with a scene on the streets of Verona. When Sampson and Gregory (Capulet servants) see Abram and Balthasar (Montague servants), they discuss whether they will pick a fight with them. Going back and forth it is obvious both servants are a bit cowardly, but in the end the fight is begun when one "bites [his] thumb" (an offensive gesture) toward the enemy servants.

What starts as a petty fight of insults quickly escalates into a full blown street brawl which includes the servants as well as Benvolio and Tybalt and townspeople who take sides. The Prince of Verona finally enters to break up the fight. In so doing, he gives a short background speech which explains to the audience that these two families have been fighting needlessly for as long as anyone can remember. Here, he decrees punishment of death if anyone from either house again disturbs the peace.

The end of the scene then switches to Lord and Lady Montague speaking to Benvolio about Romeo, their son. They all discuss that Romeo has been depressed lately and no one knows why. Benvolio tells them that he will find out.

Benvolio speaks to Romeo and gets him to admit that he is depressed because Rosaline, his latest love interest, has expressed she wishes to become a nun. Romeo, acting somewhat childishly, dramatically announces that he'll never find someone who can take her place. Benvolio assures him that he can and will.