Why is there a party in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in act 1, scene 5?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are details of this party in several of the scenes that precede scene 5. In scene 2, the letter of invitation arrives, which is inadvertently read aloud by Romeo. This is ironic because Peter comments:

Now I’ll tell you without asking. My master is the great rich Capulet,...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

There are details of this party in several of the scenes that precede scene 5. In scene 2, the letter of invitation arrives, which is inadvertently read aloud by Romeo. This is ironic because Peter comments:

Now I’ll tell you without asking. My master is the
great rich Capulet, and if you be not of the house of
Montagues, I pray come and crush a cup of wine. Rest you
merry! (I.ii.83-86)

Of course, Romeo is of the house of Montagues, but that's just a minor detail to the group of friends, it seems. After all, Rosaline will be there. It seems that everyone who is anyone will be there based on the guest list and the fact that there will be wine and food for all.

From this, we can gather that Juliet's father has both wealth and prominent social standing, and he is funding a fun masquerade for his family and family friends.

In act 1, scene 3, Juliet's mother reveals another party guest: Paris. And it turns out that he has already asked for Juliet's hand in marriage. The Capulets seem to think this is a good match for their daughter, and Juliet's mother instructs her,

Can you love the gentleman?
This night you shall behold him at our feast.
Read o’er the volume of young Paris’ face
And find delight writ there with beauty’s pen. (I.iii.82-85)

A likely secondary reason for this party is to introduce Juliet to her soon-to-be-husband. At least, that is her mother's plan.

Of course, all conflict hinges on the events of this party unfolding. Romeo and Juliet fall in love at first sight here, and Tybalt becomes infuriated that a Montague has dared tried to crash the Capulet masquerade. This party is the pivotal point in the play upon which all other conflict is built.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Lord Capulet throws a party for his friends and family.

I guess you could say that in those days people threw parties all of the time. (We still do.)  It was something to do.  You did not need a reason.  If you were the head of your family and important to the village, you were expected to throw parties.

It was particularly a thing for a man with an unmarried daughter to do, to show off the young worthy daughter.  In fact, Capulet brings up the party and invites Paris to the party right after discussing whether or not Juliet is of marriageable age. 

This night I hold an old accustom'd feast,
Whereto I have invited many a guest,
Such as I love; and you, among the store,
One more, most welcome, makes my number more.
At my poor house look to behold this night
Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light … (Act 1, Scene 2)

Most of the Capulets seem to be invited to the ball. Juliet is there, of course, and so is Tybalt.  The girl Romeo has been wooing, Rosaline, is also there.  It is a Capulet ball.  Of course, as we know, Mercutio, Benvolio, and Romeo end up crashing the party, and that is where Romeo sees Juliet. 

Could he have seen Juliet somewhere else?  Possibly.  However, there is something enchanting about a party.  She was all decked out in her party best.  It was a fateful party indeed.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team