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Act II, Scenes 1–2: Summary and Analysis

Prologue

Like Act I, Act II begins with a prologue. This prologue summarizes the events of Act I, explaining that Romeo’s desire for Rosaline has now been supplanted by his love for the beautiful Juliet, who loves Romeo in return. The Chorus states that the hatred between the Montagues and the Capulets will make it difficult for Romeo and Juliet to meet again; however, the strength of their love will help them to overcome these practical barriers.

Act II, Scene 1

Act II opens outside the wall of Capulet’s orchard, only moments after the end of Act I. Romeo enters alone. Deciding that he cannot yet go home, he leaps over the orchard wall to seek out Juliet once more. Benvolio and Mercutio then enter and begin calling out for Romeo, whom they know must be close by. Frustrated that Romeo will not respond to their calls, Mercutio mockingly references Rosaline, but even this does not elicit a response from Romeo. Eventually, the two men give up and decide to return home.

Act II, Scene 2

Romeo is now in the Capulet orchard. Having heard Mercutio’s teasing, Romeo comments that it is easy to poke fun at someone’s pain when you have never felt the same kind of pain yourself. Suddenly, Juliet appears at a window in the house. Looking up at her, Romeo compares her beauty to the radiance of the sun and her eyes to the brightest of stars. He wonders whether he should talk to her, but then Juliet (unaware that Romeo is present) begins to speak, lamenting the fact that Romeo is a Montague. Juliet says she wishes that Romeo would change his name, vowing that she would deny hers if he swore his love to her. Hearing this, Romeo suddenly announces his presence, surprising Juliet. Romeo claims that love is what led him to Juliet’s window, and when Juliet reminds him that he will be killed if anyone from her house sees him, Romeo responds that he fears her rejection more than their swords. Juliet admits that she is embarrassed that Romeo overheard her declarations of love; she hopes that Romeo will not think she is too easily won or that her love is not serious just because she cannot play coy. Romeo eagerly tries to reassure her by swearing his love, but Juliet interrupts him. Worried that everything is happening so quickly, she suggests that they give their love more time to blossom. Romeo protests, claiming that Juliet is leaving him unsatisfied, and they eventually pledge their love for one another. The Nurse begins to call for Juliet, prompting her to briefly disappear inside. When she comes back out, Juliet tells Romeo that if his intention is to marry her, then she will send a messenger to him tomorrow to find out where and when he would like to have the wedding. The Nurse starts calling Juliet away again. Before she goes back inside, Juliet warns Romeo that if his intentions are not honorable, then he must leave her to her grief. After a moment, Juliet reappears one more time to find out when she should send her messenger. Romeo tells her to send word at nine the next morning, and the two lovers exchange a few more romantic words before finally saying goodnight. As Juliet retreats back inside, Romeo plans to go visit his friar (priest) to tell him what has happened. 

Analysis

Unlike the prologue at the beginning of Act I, the prologue of Act II recaps events that have already come to pass. It builds suspense by highlighting the dilemma that Romeo and Juliet face, leaving the audience eager to see how the two young lovers will attempt to overcome these obstacles. Act II begins right where Act I left off: Romeo and his friends are outside the Capulet house, having just left the party. Romeo’s decision to jump over the wall and abandon his friends recalls his antisocial behavior from Act I. This time, however, Romeo isolates himself for love rather than out of sorrow. Indeed, the orchard wall becomes a literal representation of Romeo’s increasing isolation from his friends—remember, as far as Benvolio and Mercutio know, Romeo is still...

(The entire section is 1,630 words.)