What happens after Sampson bites his thumb at Abraham in "Romeo and Juliet"?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After Sampson bites his thumb at Abraham, Abraham challenges him, asking if the insult was directed at him ("Do you bite your thumb at us, sir"? - I,i,46).  Sampson, who is a Capulet, wants to antagonize Abraham, who is a Montague, but not enough to really get in trouble, so after consulting with Gregory, he says he is indeed biting his thumb, but not at Abraham.  Benvolio, Sampson's kinsman, then enters, and now that the numbers are in their favor, he delivers a harsher insult, and the men start to fight, while Benvolio tries to stop them.  Tybalt, another member of the Capulet family, then enters, and, chiding Benvolio for trying to keep the peace, roars, "peace, I hate the word as I hate...all Montagues" - I,i,71).  Tybalt then proceeds to fight with Benvolio, calling him a coward for trying to appease their enemies.  With Tybalt participating, the skirmish, which had been half in jest to that point, becomes more serious.  Old Capulet himself then comes upon the scene and, to add to the tumult, asks for his sword.  Fortunately, the Prince arrives, breaking up the brawl with the threat of severe punishment.