What gesture does Sampson make toward Abram in Romeo and Juliet?  

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the opening scene of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet two servants from the House of Capulet are walking through the streets of Verona. They are suggesting different ways to insult their Montague opponents and cause a fight. One insult involves raping the Montague women and another involves a derogatory hand gesture. For a reason Shakespeare never reveals, the Montagues and Capulets are embroiled in a bitter feud. The feud would have been fought by, not only the family members themselves, but also by their servants.

When the servants of Montague come into view, Sampson "bites his thumb" at the Montague servant Abram, which is an insulting gesture. It could be likened to the modern gesture involving one's middle finger. Sampson says, 

Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at
them, which is disgrace to them if they bear it.
Of course, the insult works and the men end up fighting. During the scene, the audience is introduced to two principal characters, Benvolio, who tries to stop the fight, and Tybalt, who helps instigate the eventual brawl. The scene provides exposition as it introduces the audience to the "rancor" between the two families.
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Romeo and Juliet

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