What is Sampson from Romeo and Juliet like, personality-wise? 

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Sampson is actually afforded the first line in act 1, scene 1. As a servant, he is a devout supporter of the Capulets—or so he boisterously claims. He threatens to draw his sword when the Montagues approach and "bite[s] his thumb" at them to insult them, provoking a fight. His...

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Sampson is actually afforded the first line in act 1, scene 1. As a servant, he is a devout supporter of the Capulets—or so he boisterously claims. He threatens to draw his sword when the Montagues approach and "bite[s] his thumb" at them to insult them, provoking a fight. His friend and fellow servant Gregory tries to calm him down, reminding him that if he goes too far, he'll be stuck trying to get his "neck out of collar" (i.e., face a hanging). After all, social rank is quite important to this society, and the Montagues surely aren't going to be insulted by a servant, let alone one from the Capulet household.

Sampson also has a crude tongue as he talks about thrusting Montague women against the wall and even beheading them after raping them. Again, Gregory tries to tame his angry passions. Gregory also exposes another personality characteristic of Sampson—he has a tendency to flee from conflict:

To move is to stir, and to be valiant is to stand.
Therefore if thou art moved thou runn'st away. (1.1.8–9)

Sampson doesn't deny this but insists that, if a Montague approaches him, he will stand and fight. However, when Abraham arrives and Sampson attempts to insult him by biting his thumb, Abraham directly asks if he is trying to engage in conflict. Sampson retreats, saying:

No, sir. I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite
my thumb, sir. (1.1.47–48)

Sampson is full of words and anger, but he isn't necessarily a man of action in the end. Although he is loyal to the Capulets and their quarrels, he prefers to be the passionate voice in the background.

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Sampson is a loyal servant of the house of Capulet, so much so that he makes their feud with the Montagues his own. Technically, it's really none of his business, but he likes the feeling of being part of something bigger. It makes him feel like a somebody in a society in which he's quite low down on the social ladder.

His service to the Capulets gives him the gumption to insult the Montague family. But as subsequent events prove, he's all talk and no action. Sampson likes playing the tough guy, but it's all just an act. Wisely, he walks back his inflammatory remarks when some actual members of the Montague family arrive. He'd much rather provoke a conflict and get his fellow-servant Gregory to do the dirty work for him. When Sampson says, in effect, that he has Gregory's back, we don't really believe him. When all's said and done, he's just a loudmouth.

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Sampson, a servant of the house of Capulet, appears primarily in Act 1, Scene 1.  From the beginning, we see him as a crass trash-talker, but one whose talk is bigger than his actions.

Right from the outset of the play, Sampson launches into a mini-tirade about the Montagues.  A few lines later, when members of the house of Montague actually arrive, Sampson states to Gregory, a fellow servant, "I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague's" (Act 1, Scene 1, line 11).  During Shakespeare's time, sewage ran down the center of the street.  To "take the wall" was to walk closer to the wall, sending the other person closer to the sewage.  Thus, Sampson was basically saying that he would push the Montagues toward raw sewage.  He later discusses the Montague women in particularly crass terms -- even making a rape comment.

Yet when the Montagues approach, Sampson changes his tune.  He comments that he wants the members of the Montague house to start any fighting, and manages only to "bite his thumb."  While this is essentially the Romeo and Juliet version of a middle finger, it is far tamer than the trash-talking that immediately preceded it.

 

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