Act I Summary

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Act I, prologue
Fiddler on the Roof opens outside dairyman Tevye’s house in the village of Anatevka, Russia, in 1905. Tevye addresses the audience, telling them that tradition keeps balance in their lives. Everyone has a role in village life, both Jews, such as matchmakers and rabbis, and non-Jews, such as the Russian officials. As long as people stay in their place and do not bother each other, Tevye says everything will be all right.

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Act I, scene 1
In the kitchen of Tevye’s house, his wife Golde and his daughters prepare for the Sabbath. Yente the village matchmaker comes to visit. She tells Golde that she has a husband for the eldest daughter, Tzeitel: Lazar Wolf, the butcher. Lazar is an older man, a widower. Golde is unsure about the match because Tevye wants his daughter to marry a learned man. Still, Golde agrees to arrange a meeting between her husband and Lazar.

Not knowing the details of their mother’s conversation, Tzeitel’s sisters tease her about Yente finding her a husband. It is implied that Tzietel is only interested in Motel, a young, impoverished tailor. Hodel, the next oldest, is interested in the Rabbi’s son. The sister’s sing the song ‘‘Matchmaker, Matchmaker,’’ in which they hope to find the perfect man.

Act I, scene 2
Tevye arrives home just in time for Sabbath, the beginning of the Jewish holy day. His horse threw a shoe, and he had to make deliveries by foot. Tevye talks directly to God, saying that he wishes he was wealthy so he could better support his family. He sings the song ‘‘If I Were a Rich Man.’’

The villagers come to Tevye’s house, demanding their dairy orders. One has a newspaper which says the Jews were all evicted from a nearby village. The men worry. A newcomer to the village, a young man named Perchik, tells them that they should know more about the outside world. After filling the villagers’ orders, Tevye invites Perchik to stay with them for Sabbath dinner. Perchik will teach Tevye’s daughters in exchange for the hospitality.

Act I, scene 3
Tevye and Perchik enter the house. The daughters greet their father enthusiastically. Motel arrives, and Golde invites him to stay for supper as well. While the daughters and guests wash up for the meal, Golde tells Tevye that Lazar Wolf wants to meet with him. Golde does not tell him why, and Tevye is convinced Lazar wants his new milk cow.

Tzeitel tells Motel that Yente had visited earlier. Tzeitel worries that a match has been made for her, but Motel assures her that he will be able to buy a sewing machine and impress her father enough to earn her hand in marriage. Tzeitel wants Motel to ask her father for permission immediately, but Motel is afraid. Still, Motel agrees to talk to him. Motel tries to bring up the subject, but the group gathers around the table to say Sabbath prayers, and he does not get a chance.

Act I, scene 4
Tevye meets Lazar at the Inn. Before Tevye comes, Lazar brags to everyone present that he will probably be married. When Tevye comes, the conversation is tense. Lazar assumes that Tevye knows what the meeting is about, but Tevye still believes the discussion regards his cow. When the truth comes out, Tevye is upset. He does not like Lazar, but he reasons that the butcher does have a steady income. Tevye agrees to the match. Lazar tells everyone around them. Even the Russians are happy for him.

Act I, scene 5
Outside of the Inn, the celebration continues. A Russian official, the constable, tells Tevye that their district will have to undergo a ‘‘little unofficial demonstration’’ to impress an inspector who may come through. He tells Tevye as a courtesy to warn the others, because he wants no trouble between them.

Act I, scene 6
Outside Tevye’s house, Perchik is giving a lesson to three of Tevye’s daughters. Golde calls the girls away as they are needed to begin Tevye’s work because he is...

(The entire section contains 1763 words.)

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