Romeo and Juliet Act I, Scenes 3–5: Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Act I, Scenes 3–5: Summary and Analysis

Act I, Scene 3

Lady Capulet and the Nurse enter, followed by Juliet. Lady Capulet says she needs to speak to Juliet in private but almost immediately calls the Nurse back, acknowledging that the Nurse knows all their secrets anyway. Lady Capulet and the Nurse discuss Juliet’s age, and the Nurse goes off on a long-winded tangent about how a young Juliet once unwittingly participated in a sexual joke made by the Nurse’s husband. Juliet and Lady Capulet finally manage to change the subject, and Lady Capulet asks Juliet how she feels about marriage. Juliet responds that it is not something she has given much thought to, and Lady Capulet points out that many women Juliet's age are already married with children (in fact, Lady Capulet also married young). Lady Capulet informs Juliet that she needs to start thinking about marriage soon because Paris has taken an interest in her. Jumping in, the Nurse heaps praise upon Paris, and Lady Capulet stresses that the handsome Paris is the perfect man for Juliet. Obediently, Juliet agrees to consider him. The servant Peter enters. Announcing that the guests have arrived, he requests that the women follow him down to the party.

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Act I, Scene 4

Romeo, Benvolio, and their friend Mercutio enter. On their way to the Capulets' masked ball, the three young men discuss how best to explain their presence at the ball (remember that Benvolio and Romeo are Montagues and are not welcome to attend). Benvolio suggests that they keep a low profile and simply dance a bit before leaving. Still feeling melancholy, Romeo declares that he will not dance. The lively Mercutio pokes fun at Romeo, making sexual jokes out of Romeo’s love woes. Romeo brings up a recent dream he had and says he has a bad feeling about attending the party. In response, Mercutio launches into a speech about Queen Mab, a tiny fairy queen who visits people in their dreams. As he describes what Queen Mab does to dreamers, Mercutio gets more and more carried away until Romeo interrupts his speech: “Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace! / Thou talk’st of nothing.” Benvolio brings the conversation back to the matter at hand, and Romeo reiterates his trepidation about the party. After expressing his strange feeling that the events that transpire tonight will somehow lead to his “untimely death,” Romeo declares that his life is in the hands of fate and urges his friends onward.

Act I, Scene 5

Scene 5 opens in the Capulet house as the party begins. Lord Capulet reminisces about his youth and jokingly encourages everyone to dance. As the party goes on around him, Romeo spies Juliet from across the room and is instantly entranced by her beauty. As Romeo comments on Juliet’s loveliness aloud, Tybalt overhears and recognizes Romeo’s voice as the voice of a Montague. Incensed, Tybalt prepares to fight Romeo, but Capulet notices his rage and orders him to leave Romeo alone, noting that Romeo has a good reputation in Verona. Tybalt obeys but secretly vows to get revenge on Romeo. Meanwhile, Romeo approaches Juliet and grabs her hand. Their brief conversation is filled with references to religion as Romeo compares himself to a pilgrim and Juliet to a saint. After they exchange two kisses, Juliet is called away. From the Nurse, Romeo discovers that Juliet is a Capulet. Devastated by this revelation, Romeo allows Benvolio to lead him away from the party. As she sees him leaving, Juliet asks the Nurse to find out who he is and declares that she will feel like dying if it turns out that he is already married. The Nurse returns and reports that the young man is Romeo Montague, the only son of her family’s greatest enemy. Distraught, Juliet leaves the party with the Nurse.


Scene 3 introduces the characters of Juliet, the Nurse, and Lady Capulet. While Lady Capulet is Juliet’s actual mother, this scene shows us that the Nurse is the true maternal figure in Juliet’s life. The Nurse’s inappropriate and rambling story about young Juliet not only injects...

(The entire section is 1,999 words.)