Romeo and Juliet's First Meeting

Act 1 Scene 5 – Key Scene

The scene starts with the Capulet household getting ready for the ball. Romeo arrives and sees Juliet dancing with someone. Romeo is overheard talking about Juliet by Tybalt. Tybalt wants to remove Romeo from the party but Lord Capulet stops him. Romeo and Juliet meet and kiss each other before the Nurse calls Juliet away. Afterwards, they discover each other's true identity.

You can take a look at the whole scene here. Using the following steps, remember to look at it line by line and, if you’re looking at the scene for the first time, don’t worry if you don’t understand everything at once.

  • Look
    Take a look at the scene. Are they using prose or verse? Are there shared lines or couplets? Actors at the RSC often put the language into their own words to help them understand what they are saying. We’ve added some definitions (in green), questions (in red) and paraphrased some sections (in blue) to help with this. You can click on the text that is highlighted for extra guidance.

    If I profane with my unworthiest hand
    This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
    My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
    To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

    If I’ve offended you by touching your hand (which is like a holy place) with mine. My lips are ready to right that wrong with a kiss.

    Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
    Which mannerly devotion shows in this,
    For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
    And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.

    A person who takes a pilgrimage, or journey, to a sacred place, for religious reasons.

    Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
    Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

    In this first meeting both Romeo and Juliet use religious imagery to describe each other and their actions. How many examples of this can you find? How are we meant to feel about the two characters and their meeting?

    O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do:
    They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
    Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
    Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
    Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged.

    The last fourteen lines are a sonnet, shared by Romeo and Juliet. Sonnets are traditionally poems of love. Why do you think Shakespeare shares these lines between the two characters rather than one of them delivering the whole sonnet?

    Got rid of and made clean again.

    Kisses her.
    Then have my lips the sin that they have took.
    Sin from my lips? O, trespass sweetly urged!
    Give me my sin again.

    Romeo and Juliet share their first kiss in this meeting. Looking at the language they use to describe this moment, how do you think they both feel?

    Kisses her again.
    You kiss by th’book.

    Expertly, by the rules.

    Madam, your mother craves a word with you.
    JULIET stands aside.
    What is her mother?
    Marry, bachelor,
    Her mother is the lady of the house,
    And a good lady, and a wise and virtuous.
    I nursed her daughter, that you talked withal.
    I tell you, he that can lay hold of her
    Shall have the chinks.

    Her Mother is Lady Capulet, whose house you're in. She’s a good lady, very wise and respectable. I was her daughter’s nurse, the girl you were talking to; I’m telling you, the man that gets her will get a huge amount of money.

    Is she a Capulet?
    O, dear account! My life is my foe’s debt.
    Away, begone, the sport is at the best.
    Ay, so I fear, the more is my unrest.
    Nay, gentlemen, prepare not to be gone,
    The guests indicate they have to leave.
    We have a trifling foolish banquet towards.
    Is it e’en so? Why then I thank you all.
    I thank you, honest gentlemen, good night.
    Come on, then let’s to bed
    It waxes late: I’ll to my rest.
    Exeunt all but JULIET and NURSE.
    Come hither, nurse. What is yond gentleman?
    The son and heir of old Tiberio
    What’s he that now is going out of door?
    I know not.
    Go ask his name.— If he be marrièd,
    The Nurse goes.
    My grave is like to be my wedding bed.
    My only love sprung from my only hate!
    Too early seen unknown, and known too late!

    Prodigious birth of love it is to me,
    That I must love a loathèd enemy.

    The only man I am in love with comes from the only family I hate! I saw him before I knew and now it’s too late!

    Abnormal or likely to bring you bad luck.

    (Text edited for rehearsals by Erica Whyman)
  • Listen
    Read the scene aloud and watch the actors trying it in different ways. Are there any words or lines that really stand out? How do the characters come across?
  • Watch
    Take a look at the actors performing this scene. How do the characters come across in this version?
  • Imagine
    Explore some images from past versions of Romeo and Juliet at the RSC. Which sets and staging choices for the ball scene feel right to you?