What problem does the servingman have in Act I of Romeo and Juliet?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act I, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Capulet's servingman is tasked with delivering invitations to the party being held at Capulet's house. Lord Capulet says,

Go, sirrah, trudge about
Through fair Verona, find those persons out
Whose names are written there, and to them say
My house and welcome on their pleasure stay.
The servingman's problem is illiteracy, which would have been typical of lower class servants during the Renaissance. He is not able to read and so cannot decipher the names on the list he is given. In an example of plot expedience, the servingman comes across Romeo and Benvolio on the street. They have just been discussing Romeo's failed love for Rosaline.
 
Benvolio has advised Romeo to look at other women in Verona and to forget Rosaline. Romeo agrees to help the servingman by reading the list for him. On the list is Rosaline's name. Benvolio convinces Romeo that they should "crash" the party and he will show Romeo the other beauties of Verona. He says,
At this same ancient feast of Capulet’s
Sups the fair Rosaline whom thou so loves,
With all the admirèd beauties of Verona.
Go thither, and with unattainted eye
Compare her face with some that I shall show,
And I will make thee think thy swan a crow.
Of course, Romeo eventually meets Juliet at the party and totally forgets his earlier infatuation with Rosaline. 
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Romeo and Juliet

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