David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET: A Retelling in Prose — Cast of Characters, Prologue, and Act 1, Scene 1

Cast of Characters

Juliet — Capulet’s daughter


Romeo — Montague’s son


Mercutio — Kinsman to the Prince of Verona and friend of Romeo


Tybalt — Lady Capulet’s nephew and Juliet’s cousin


The Nurse — Juliet’s nursemaid


Friar Lawrence — A brother of the Franciscan order and Romeo’s confessor


Capulet — Juliet’s father


Paris — A noble kinsman to the Prince


Benvolio — Montague’s nephew


Lady Capulet — Juliet’s mother


Montague — Romeo’s father


Balthasar — Romeo’s servant


Apothecary — a chemist
(pharmacist)

Escalus — the Prince of Verona

Friar John — A brother of the Franciscan order


Lady Montague — Romeo’s mother


Peter — A Capulet servant attending the Nurse


Abram — A servant to Montague


Sampson — Servant of the Capulet household


Gregory — Servant of the Capulet household

Prologue

The Capulets and the Montagues — two families, very much alike in most respects — in the beautiful city of Verona, Italy, battle each other because of a long-standing feud. Because of this feud, the hands of the citizens of Verona become dirty with the blood of other citizens of Verona. The two families have given birth to two children — a boy named Romeo and a girl named Juliet — who become ill-fated lovers and commit suicide. The burial of these lovers also buries the quarrel between their two families. These lovers’ story is told in this book.

 — 1.1 —

On a street of Verona, Samson and Gregory, two servants of the Capulet family, walked and talked. They wore swords and carried small, round shields. Samson was in a mood to boast about his masculinity, and both were in a mood to make jokes.

Sampson said, “Gregory, you and I are not the type to take insults lightly.”

Gregory replied, “Neither of us is a lightweight.”

“If anyone should make us angry and choleric, we would draw our swords.”

“I definitely recommend that you not be collared by the city guards.”

Sampson said, “When I am moved by anger, I strike quickly with my sword.”

Gregory replied, “True, but it is best to not be quickly moved to strike.”

“Any member of the family of Montague can quickly move me to anger.”

“To quickly move is to run. A courageous man will stand and face the enemy. Are you telling me that when you meet a Montague you will run away?”

Sampson said, “A male Montague will move me to anger and a female Montague will make a certain part of my body move to make a stand. If we meet a Montague man on the street, I will make the Montague man walk in the gutter while I walk next to this wall.”

Gregory replied, “Doesn’t that mean that you are weak? The weaker sex walks on the side away from the street while the stronger sex walks next to the street. Members of the weaker sex will walk next to this wall.”

“You talk truthfully. Women are weak and need to be specially treated. If we meet a Montague man, I will push him into the gutter. But if we meet a Montague woman, I will nail her ass to this wall.”

“This feud is between the heads of the Capulets and the Montagues. And yet, the feud extends between other members of the two families and even to servants such as us.”

Sampson replied, “So be it. I will act like a tyrant. I will fight the Montague men, and then I will cruelly cut off the heads of the Montague maidens.”

“The heads of the maidens?” Gregory asked.

“Yes, the heads of the maidens, or better, I will break their maidenheads. Take it either way, but while I am alive, let no Montague hymen be unbroken.”

“If the Montague maidens take it, they will feel it inside them.”

Sampson said, “I will stand and deliver. Part of me will stand up, and I will deliver it to the Montague maidens. What I will deliver to the Montague maidens is a pretty piece of flesh.”

“It is good that you are flesh and not fish,” Gregory said. “If you were fish, you would be dried fish — dried and shriveled up.”

Gregory saw Abraham and Balthasar, two servants of the Montague family, and said to Samson, “Draw your sword. Here come two Montagues.”

“My naked sword is out of its scabbard, but if these two Montagues were Montague women and not Montague men, my sword is not the naked tool I would now be displaying. Pick a quarrel with these Montagues — I have your back.”

“In what way? Will you turn your back and run?”

“Don’t worry.”

“As long as I have youat my back, I worry.”

Sampson said, “Let’s not break the law. Let them start a quarrel.”

“I will frown as I pass by them,” Gregory said. “They can take it as they wish.”

“That’s not enough,” Samson said. “I will rub my nose with my middle finger. If they don’t start a fight, they will be thought to be cowardly.”

As Abraham and Balthasar neared them, Samson pulled his fingers into a fist, extended his middle finger, and rubbed the tip of his nose while staring at the Montague servants.

Abraham asked angrily, “Are you giving us the finger?”

“I am indeed giving the finger,” Samson replied.

“Yes, I can see that you are,” Abraham said, “but are you giving usthe finger?”

Samson asked Gregory, “Is the law on our side, if I say yes?”

“No,” Gregory replied.

Samson said to the Montague servants, “No, I am not giving you the finger, but I am giving the finger.”

Gregory said to the Montague servants, “Are you picking a fight with us?”

“A fight?” Abraham said. “No.”

“If you want to fight, I will fight you,” Sampson said. “My boss is as good as yours.”

“He is no better,” Abraham said.

Gregory said, “Say that our boss is better than his boss. I see a reinforcement coming: Benvolio, a relative of our boss.”

“You are wrong,” Samson said to Abraham. “Our boss is better than your boss.”

“You lie!” Abraham shouted.

“Draw your swords if you are men,” Sampson said. “Gregory, get ready to fight — you know how to cut and slash with your sword.”

Benvolio, a peacemaker, drew his sword and tried to stop the fight. He shouted, “Part, fools! Put up your swords; you know not what you do!” He used his sword to beat down their swords.

Tybalt, a Montague, came running with his sword drawn and said to Benvolio, “You have drawn your sword among these stupid servants. Turn, and face a worthy opponent. Turn, and face your death.”

“I do but try to keep the peace,” Benvolio said. “Put up your sword, or use it to help me separate these quarreling men.”

“What! You have drawn your sword, and you are talking about being a peacekeeper!” Tybalt mocked. “I hate the word ‘peace’ as I hate Hell, all Montagues, and you. Let’s fight, coward!”

Tybalt and Benvolio fought.

News of the fight spread quickly, and soon several Capulets and Montagues came running and started to fight. Some guards — officers of the law — also arrived.

A guard shouted, “Beat down the weapons of both the Capulets and the Montagues! Stop this fight!”

Old Capulet, the head of the Capulet family, heard the commotion. Still in his nightgown, he ran out of his house and shouted, “What noise is this? Give me my long sword!”

His much younger wife, Mrs. Capulet, said to him, “Why are you asking for a sword? You can get much more use out of a crutch!”

Old Capulet repeated, “Bring me my sword, I say! Old Montague has come, and he has drawn his blade in defiance of me.”

Old Montague and his wife arrived on the scene. Old Montague shouted, “Old Capulet, you are a villain!”

His wife grabbed onto him. He shouted at her, “Hold me not! Let me go!”

She told him, “You shall not stir a foot to seek a foe.”

The Prince of Verona and his armed bodyguards rode into the street. Prince Escalus wanted a peaceful city, and he was determined to have one, even if he had to threaten to torture and kill some people to get peace.

The Prince shouted, “Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace, you who coat your steel swords with your neighbors’ blood, listen to me! Either throw your weapons to the ground or be sentenced to death by torture.”

They threw down their weapons. The Prince was the ruler of the city, and if he ordered his bodyguards to kill someone, his bodyguards would instantly obey him.

The Prince continued, “Three brawls in the street have disturbed the peace of our city. Three brawls that were caused by words that dissipated into the air — words spoken by you, Old Capulet, and by you, Old Montague. Your airy words have caused you two old men of Verona to put aside your dignified and appropriate behavior and caused you to wield old weapons in your old hands. You are putting weapons that are rusty with peace and disuse in your arthritic hands to serve your hatred of each other. Listen to what I decree: If ever you or your families fight in our streets again, you will pay for your crime with your lives: If you fight, you die!

“Old Capulet, come with me now. Old Montague, come to me this afternoon. Meet me in old Freetown, the court where I make judgments.

“All of you, I order you to leave here. Leave peacefully and immediately, or die.”

Everyone left. Old Montague, his wife, and Benvolio walked away slowly together.

Old Montague asked Benvolio, “What happened? Who caused this newest fight in our ancient feud? Were you here when it happened?”

“Before I arrived, servants of the Capulet family and servants of our family were already fighting,” Benvolio said. “I drew my sword in an attempt to part them and reestablish the peace. But Tybalt of the Capulet family came running with his sword drawn. He shouted his hatred of me and other Montagues while he swung his sword around his head. His sword did not hurt the air, which hissed at him in scorn. Tybalt talks a good fight, but his talking is better than his fighting. He and I fought, and more and more people arrived and began fighting either for the Capulets or for our side. The Prince then arrived and stopped the fighting.”

Mrs. Montague said, “Where is my son, Romeo? Have you seen him? I am glad that he was not fighting here.”

“An hour before sunrise, I took a walk because my mind was troubled,” Benvolio said. “I saw your son walking in a grove of sycamore trees to the West of the city. I was walking toward him, but he saw me and walked away. I could tell that he wished to be alone, as did I. I did not go to him.”

Old Montague said, “Romeo has often been seen there before sunrise. His tears fall and are added to the morning dew. But as soon as the Sun begins to rise, my melancholy son returns home and shuts himself up alone in his room. He closes the windows and shuts out the sunlight, turning what should be a brightly lit room into an artificial night. His mood will stay black and ominous unless someone can find out what is bothering him.”

“My noble uncle, do you know the cause of Romeo’s depression?”

“I don’t know the cause, and he won’t tell me what is bothering him.”

“Have you tried to find out?”

“Yes, I have asked him,” Old Montague said. “So have many of my friends. But he keeps his thoughts private and won’t talk to us. His depression is like a worm that bites the bud of a flower and keeps it from spreading its petals and displaying its beauty to the Sun. I want to know what is bothering him so I can fix the problem.”

Benvolio said, “I see Romeo walking toward us now. Let me be alone with him. I will do everything I can to find out what is bothering him.”

Old Montague replied, “Good luck. I hope that he tells you what is making him depressed.”

He then said to his wife, “Let’s go away and leave Benvolio and our son alone.”

They left, and Benvolio walked toward Romeo.

“Good morning, Romeo,” Benvolio said.

“Is it still morning?”

“The clock just now struck nine.”

“Sad hours seem long,” Romeo said. “Was that my father who left just now?”

“Yes, it was. What sadness makes your hours seem long?”

“My sadness is that I do not have the thing that if I had it would make my hours seem short.”

“You sound as if you are in love,” Benvolio said.

“Out —”

“Of love?”

“Out of the favor of the person I love.”

“Being in love seems like a good thing, but all too often love is harsh.”

“Love is supposed to be blind, but it has made me its bitch — so, where do you want to eat?”

Benvolio was wise enough not to smile, but he thought, Romeo can’t be very deeply in love if he can still think of his stomach instead of the woman who does not love him although he thinks he loves her.

Romeo noticed blood on the ground and said, “Who has been fighting here? Don’t tell me. I can guess. It’s the feud. Here has been a battle among men who hate each other but love to fight each other. Here has been brawling love and loving hate. With these men, love and hate are entwined with each other. We might as well talk of creating something out of nothing! We might as well talk of heavy lightness and serious vanity! We might as well talk of beautiful forms that look ugly! We might as well talk of lead feathers and bright smoke and cold fire and sick health! We might as well talk of still-waking sleep. These fighting men know nothing of love. The love I feel makes me feel no love for this brawl.

“Benvolio, are you laughing at me?”

“No, Romeo. Instead, I weep.”

“Why?”

“Because you are unhappy.”

Romeo said, “Unhappiness is often the consequence of love. I have griefs to bear in my heart, and yet your grief becomes added to my griefs, although I already have too much grief to bear. What is love? Love is a smoke that rises with the sighs of lovers. When love is returned, you can see a fire burning in both lovers’ eyes. When love is refused, a sea is created with the rejected lover’s tears. What else is love? It is a most intelligent madness. It is a thing that chokes, and it is a thing that tastes sweet. Farewell, Benvolio.”

“Wait!” Benvolio said. “I will go with you. If you leave me now, you do me wrong.”

“I have lost myself,” Romeo said. “I am not Romeo — he is some other where.”

“Be serious,” Benvolio said, “and tell me who it is you love.”

“Shall I groan and tell you?”

“You need not groan,” Benvolio said, “but be serious and do tell me who it is you love.”

“‘Serious’ is a word that ought not to be used in front of a dying man who needs to make a will,” Romeo said, “but seriously, Benvolio, I love a woman.”

“When you said you loved someone, I did indeed think you loved a woman. I know you that well. Tell me more.”

“When you thought I loved a woman, you hit a bull’s-eye,” Romeo said. “She is indeed beautiful.”

“I have hit another bull’s-eye,” Benvolio said. “I also thought that she would be beautiful. If she is the target of your love, what kind of a marksman have you been?”

“The worst possible,” Romeo replied. “She is a target who will not allow herself to be hit with the arrow of Cupid. She wants nothing to do with romantic love. She is a follower of Diana, a virgin goddess, and she wishes, like Diana, always to remain a virgin. She vigilantly defends her chastity and wears metaphorical armor that defends her body from the arrows of Cupid. She will not listen to loving compliments. She ignores loving looks. She will not open her lap to receive gifts of saint-seducing gold. She is rich with beauty, but when she dies her beauty will be buried with her.”

“Then she has sworn always to remain a virgin?”

“She has, indeed,” Romeo said, “and so she is wasting her beauty. By remaining forever a virgin, she will never give birth to a daughter who will inherit her beauty. She is too beautiful and too intelligent and too fashionable to be allowed into Paradise after refusing to return my love. She should not receive eternal bliss as a result of making me despair. She has sworn never to love, and that is something she should never have sworn. By doing so, she has killed the best part of me, leaving only a husk to tell you my story.”

“Take my advice,” Benvolio said. “Forget about her.”

“Tell me how it is possible to do that.”

“Simply allow your eyes to look at other beautiful women.”

“If I do that, I will only remember the more her beauty,” Romeo said. “At masked balls, women put masks over their face but we remember that beauty lies underneath the mask. A man who goes blind will still remember the beauty that he has seen. Show me a beautiful woman, and I will simply remember the woman I love — a woman who is more beautiful than any woman you show me. You cannot teach me how to forget my love, so farewell, Benvolio.”

Romeo left, and Benvolio said, “You think I cannot teach how to forget your love, but I think I can.”

He walked after Romeo.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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