Romeo & Juliet: What do we learn of Verona and its inhabitants in Act 1 Scene 1

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In Act 1 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet we are introduced to two servants of the House of Capulet, where the theme of tension between two families that have huge influence among the habitants of Verona is immediately shown: ‘The quarrel is between our masters and us their men”. The opening of Act 1 Scene 1 introduces both of the families that live in the area, the House of Capulet and the House of Montague.

Within the first few lines of Scene 1 we learn that there has been tension between two affluent families in Verona, and the introduction of the two characters Sampson and Gregory demonstrate how this tension between the two families has been spread to not only inhabitants of the city that hold higher places but also to some of the common people of Verona as well as they discuss their violent plans: ‘When I have fought with the men, I will be civil with the maids’. This also suggests that Verona is a place that is full of violence as there is a constant feud that is going on between these two families.

However, in contrast to the theme of violence placed on Verona and its inhabitants we learn that many of the inhabitants wish to have peace and get on with each other, including some of the servants for the families. This is shown when another character, Benvolio is introduced into the scene, and is shown to be against the violence: ‘Part, fools! Put up your swords! You know not what you do’. The general opinion of Verona’s inhabitants emphasises Benvolio’s actions when a police officer enters the scene along with some citizens shouting ‘Strike! … Down with the Capulets! Down with the Montagues!’, indicating that the general public opinion of the feud going on between the two families is negative and that most inhabitants want to be able to live in peace.

The arrival of the Prince to the scene continues to echo the general public opinion on the feud between the families: ‘Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace, Profaners of this neighbour stained steel…Capulet, and Montague, Have thrice disturbed the quiet of our streets’. The Prince’s speech shows us that the violence has been going on for a long time, and has involved the common people and not just the two families as the feud between them has gone on. We also learn from the speech that previously, Verona was a peaceful place that has been disturbed by violence multiple times due to the feud between the two families, and that this has forced the inhabitants of the city to become involved in the violence. It also suggests that the inhabitants of Verona are tired of having street violence all the time, and this is reflected by the Prince’s threatened punishment for the two families: ‘If you ever disturb our streets again, Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace!’

Act 1 Scene 1 introduces the two families and their on-going feud with each other, as well as the general opinion of the inhabitants of Verona about the violence that the feud has caused, with mostly negative reactions to the two families, though violence is repetitively spurred by a few people and common people have also been forced to be involved.

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