Act 1 scene 1 summary

Act 1 scene 1 summary DEFAULT

The Montagues and the Capulets squabble on the streets of Verona.









Lady Capulet


Lady Montague




Scene Summary

Two men from the house of Capulet—Gregory and Sampson—pick a fight with a few Montague men. Benvolio, a Montague man, tries to break it up, but his efforts aren’t exactly successful when Tybalt, a feisty Capulet, arrives to fuel the fire. The fight finally breaks up upon the arrival of the prince of Verona. Once the fight has broken up, Montague and Lady Montague ask about their son Romeo. Benvolio tells them that he has seen Romeo moping around in a bit of a stupor. After they leave, Romeo arrives to tell Benvolio why he’s really in a funk: he’s in love with a woman who does not love him back.


Hamlet: Act 1 Scene 1 - Summary

Hamlet: Act 1 Scene 1 - Notes

Contextual info:

  • Hamlet Act 1 Scene 1 involves Francisco, Barnardo, Marcellus, Horatio, and a Ghost who looks like the late King Hamlet
  • The scene takes place at Elsinore Castle in Denmark near midnight

Plot Summary:

  • This scene introduces some important contextual information to give us an idea of the mood and tone of the play
  • The scene mostly focuses on Barnardo, Marcellus, Horatio, and a Ghost that looks like the King of Denmark who recently died (King Hamlet)
  • In the beginning, Horatio doubts the existence of the ghost, but once it appears, Horatio accepts it as a real entity, and begins to think about why it has appeared
  • Horatio explains that before King Hamlet of Denmark died, the King had a sort of duel with King Fortinbras of Norway, and won
  • The agreement between the kings was that whoever should win the duel would take the loser’s lands - so King Hamlet of Denmark acquired the lands of King Fortinbras of Norway
  • Horatio also explains that Fortinbras, King Fortinbras’ son is rumored to be plotting a revenge scheme against Denmark to take back his father’s lands
  • The ghost doesn’t say a word in this scene, even when Horatio tries to speak to it
  • At the end of the scene, Horatio convinces Barnardo and Marcellus that they should go tell Hamlet, the late King Hamlet’s son and the main protagonist of the play, about the appearance of the Ghost

Detailed Breakdown

Part 1: Introduction to Francisco, Barnardo, Marcellus, and Horatio

Barnardo and Francisco are the first two characters to enter the play. They can’t see each other because of the weather conditions (it is night time/dark), and Francisco demands that Barnardo identify himself before he lets his guard down. Barnardo says “Long live the king!” and Francisco relaxes. Barnardo and Francisco are both guards, and Barnardo has shown up to relieve Francisco of his post. Francisco is naturally thankful, as he mentions,

For this relief much thanks. 'Tis bitter cold,
And I am sick at heart.


As Barnardo and Francisco are saying farewell, Barnardo asks Francisco to tell Horatio and Marcellus to hurry up, if he sees them, but just at that moment, Horatio and Marcellus enter the scene. Because it’s dark and the guards are tense, Francisco yells at them, telling them to identify themselves. Horatio and Marcellus reveal their identities by mentioning their allegiance to Denmark

Friends to this ground

And liegemen to the Dane.


which allows Francisco to lower his defences once again, and he leaves the scene.

Part 1: Analysis

We get a strong sense of darkness from these first few interactions, and from the setting itself. Francisco is clearly spooked out by everything around him, and his fatigue makes us, the audience, want to empathize with how dark and exhausting the circumstances are. The scene takes place at night and it’s difficult for the characters to even recognize the other characters who enter the scene. This forces the characters to demand that they identify themselves, and here we see that Francisco is only ever relieved by another’s response if it includes some mention of Denmark or the King. This is interesting because we immediately get a sense of nationalism and global scale to the play. From this first part of the scene alone, we might already begin to suspect that political pressures of a national scale may pressure the characters in this play.

Part 2: The ghost appears, Horatio’s doubts are cleared, and we get insight into the political backdrop of the play

Once Francisco leaves, Barnardo, Marcellus, and Horatio begin an interesting discussion about something that’s been concerning them. According to Marcellus, an apparition/ghost has appeared twice to Marcellus and Barnardo already. The guards try to convince Horatio that this ghost is real, but Horatio does not believe them. As Barnardo is in the middle of explaining that him and Marcellus saw the ghost around the same time last night, the ghost actually appears to the three men, and this time, they acknowledge the ghost’s likeness to the recently deceased King of Denmark. Marcellus and Barnardo urge Horatio to speak to the ghost, since Horatio is a scholar/academic, but the ghost simply disappears when Horatio speaks to it.

After the ghost’s disappearance, Horatio changes his attitude about the ghost completely. He has changed from a person who scoffed at Marcellus and Barnardo’s belief in the ghost to a person who is trying to figure out what the ghost could represent and the science behind it. Horatio mentions that this probably means something bad for Denmark, and Marcellus adds to this conversation by mentioning how all the guard’s night duties have increased, and how the shipbuilders have been working without taking any breaks (even weekends) to make ships of war.

Horatio explains that this hard work in apparent preparation for war may be because of something that happened before King Hamlet (former King of Denmark) passed away. You see, King Hamlet and King Fortinbras, King of Norway, had a kind of duel. They agreed, with legal terms set, that the winner of the duel would get to take the other’s lands, and King Hamlet won. However, rumors say that King Fortinbras’ son, Fortinbras (yes, they have the same name), is preparing to avenge his father by attacking Denmark. These rumours are why, according to Horatio and Marcellus, Denmark has been preparing for war. Barnardo chimes in to say that the ghost that looks like the late King Hamlet is probably appearing to them because he feels guilty for causing this preparation for war in the first place.

While Marcellus’ speculations of the ghost’s motives and reasons for appearance are related to the military busy-ness of the country, Barnardo’s speculations are more spiritual and related to the late King’s actions themselves. However, just as Horatio supported and expanded on Marcellus’ reasons, Horatio also supports and expands on Barnardo’s comparatively spiritual commentary - Horatio cites a story of spiritual terrors that sacked the Roman empire just before Julius Caesar’s assasination, and says that similar omens are currently ailing Denmark.

Once again, the ghost appears and this time, Horatio is more prepared to speak to it. Horatio demands that the ghost speak, but at the crowing of a rooster, the ghost begins to disappear. Horatio demands that Marcellus try to prevent the ghost from leaving, but Marcellus fail to do so. The three men discuss the significance of the crowing of the rooster, and how it awakens the god of day, sending all ghosts back to their hiding spots during the day. At the end of this rather superstitious and spiritual conversation, Horatio convinces the guards that they ought to tell Hamlet about the events of the night.

Part 2: Analysis

The dialogue and the overall tone of conversation before and after the appearance of the ghost are nearly total opposites. The skeptical and rational Horatio changes/develops from a person who would never believe in a ghost to a person who suddenly has respect for the spiritual realm. This helps us, as an audience, accept that the ghost is not just a figment of the men’s imaginations, but is actually real and has influence and ties to the physical world. After all, if a scholar changes their mind from a skeptic to a believer, we are more inclined to respect the scholar’s rational opinions than the words of those who are less educated.

The acceptance of the ghost as a real entity is further strengthened by the differing evidence that Barnardo and Marcellus present to Horatio - While Marcellus brings up present-day events and stories of the recent political circumstances (lines 81-90), Barnardo comments on the ghost’s apparent representation of the late King.

In the same figure like the King that’s dead.


Barnardo also brings up a point that confirms for us, as an audience, the ghost’s actual existence.

It was about to speak when the cock crew.


This line spurs further expansion by Marcellus and Horatio (below), who essentially confirm that, in addition to the earlier speculation on the ghost’s relationships to Denmark’s preparations for war and likelihood of connection to the late King Hamlet, the ghost is a supernatural entity, possibly stuck in a space between earth and the afterlife due to some unfinished business.

It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say that ever ’gainst that season comes
Wherein our Savior’s birth is celebrated,
This bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is that time.

So have I heard and do in part believe it.


Are the line numbers different in your book? Here’s why:

There are many different versions of Shakespeare’s works throughout the world, and different versions sometimes interpret dialogue line numbers differently. At Nerdstudy, we follow the Folger version of Shakespeare’s works, which may be different from the version you are using. Always make sure that you refer to your instructor’s recommendations about which version of the play you’re using in class and whether they will grade you based on accuracy of line numbers for essays, tests, and assignments. Folger Digital Texts is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license.

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Sampson and Gregory, two servingmen of House Capulet, enter with swords and bucklers. Sampson angrily says he doesn’t want to “carry coals”—in other words, he doesn’t want to put up with any of the Montagues’ nonsense. Gregory insists they will do no such thing. Sampson says he’s looking forward to drawing his sword should the Montagues try anything—he strikes quickly, he says, when he’s moved. Gregory accuses Sampson of often being too lazy to get moved in the first place. Sampson says that nothing moves him to a fight like “a dog of [the] house” of Montague. Gregory and Sampson continue bantering bawdily about killing, raping, and dominating the men and women of House Montague.

Gregory and Sampson are merely servingmen of House Capulet, yet it’s clear that they carry their masters’ grudges for them, even as they rail against the idea that they do too much for the nobles they serve in the first place. This introductory scene shows just how deep and angry the feud between the two houses really is—even their servants fantasize about harming and humiliating the members of the opposing clan.

Abraham and another servingman of the house of Montague enter. Sampson draws his weapon but urges Gregory to be the one to start the fight. When Gregory is hesitant to begin the quarrel, Sampson suggests they provoke the Montagues into a fight. Gregory says he’ll frown at the men, while Sampson says he’ll bite his thumb at them. Sampson bites his thumb, and Abraham immediately rises to the provocation. When Abraham asks Sampson if he is biting his thumb at him, Sampson says that while he’s not biting it at Abraham. Gregory asks if Abraham wants to fight. He says he doesn’t—but Gregory states that he’s ready to fight on his master’s behalf at any time.

Biting one’s thumb was an obscene gesture in Shakespeare’s time, which explains why Abraham is so quickly provoked. This comical scene shows, however, that though Gregory and Sampson privately claim to long for a fight so that they can stand up to the Montagues and prove the glory of House Capulet, they’re actually too nervous to confidently pick a fight with their professed enemies.

Related Quotes with Explanations

As a quarrel breaks out, Benvolio, a member of House Montague, enters onto the scene. Seeing the men swinging their swords at one another, Benvolio draws his own sword and orders the men to break up their fight. Tybalt, another Capulet man, enters. Seeing the fight, he assumes Benvolio is responsible, and threatens to kill him. Benvolio insists he’s trying to keep the peace, but Tybalt scoffs and says he “hate[s]” peace—just as he hates “hell, all Montagues, and thee.” Tybalt draws his sword and attacks Benvolio. A crowd of citizens, seeing the brawl, egg the men on as they fight.

This passage introduces two new major characters, one from each house—Benvolio and Tybalt. While Tybalt is quick to anger and desirous of the Montagues’ destruction, Benvolio is calmer, meeker, and longs to keep the tenuous peace between the two houses. As the men brawl, it becomes clear that the Montagues’ and Capulets’ frequent fights are a central part of life in Verona—though they often disturb the peace, the citizens, too, are often involved in the fights.

Capulet and Lady Capulet enter. Capulet calls for his sword, but Lady Capulet chides him for trying to join in the violence at his old age. Montague and Lady Montague enter, as well—Capulet begins taunting Montague, who in turn calls Capulet a “villain” and tries to fight him. Prince Escalus enters, ordering his “rebellious subjects” to lay down their weapons and stop their dangerous, infectious, “pernicious rage.” This is the third time a brawl between the Montagues and Capulets has disrupted the peace in Verona’s streets. If it happens again, the prince says, Montague and Capulet will pay for the strife with their lives. Montague and Capulet, the prince says, must come with him to his villa to explain themselves. Capulet and his wife follow him off, and the citizen spectators quickly disperse after a final threat from the prince.

As Prince Escalus arrives on the scene to try and defuse the violence and anger in the town square, his frustration with the ongoing feud between the two noble families becomes clear. The prince is at the end of his rope and is ready to take drastic measures to calm the incessant fighting between Montagues and Capulets. This passage also illustrates how though the seed of the feud seems to be between the two old men at the heads of their houses, their younger servants and kinsmen are often the ones who bear the burden of carrying on their grudge.

Montague and Lady Montague remain behind with Benvolio and order him to explain the reason for the fight. Benvolio explains that after he saw the Montagues’ servants fighting the Capulets’ servants, he was trying to step in when Tybalt arrived and escalated the dispute. Lady Montague says she’s relieved that her son Romeo wasn’t around for the fight and asks Benvolio if he’s seen him. Benvolio says that he saw Romeo earlier that morning, just past dawn in a sycamore grove on the edge of town, but could tell that Romeo wanted to be alone. Montague says that Romeo has been walking around the groves crying many mornings lately—and when he’s home, he stays shut up alone in his chambers. Benvolio asks Montague what’s wrong with Romeo, but Montague says that Romeo won’t tell anyone who asks what’s troubling him.

The way Romeo’s parents and kinsman talk about him in this passage shows that he is a loner, closed off from the rest of them and isolated in his own emotions. This sets up Romeo as a rogue character and positions him as an individual either uncomfortable within or dismissive of the larger family and community to which he belongs.

Romeo approaches. Benvolio urges Montague and Lady Montague to go with the prince while he stays behind to find out what’s the matter with Romeo. They wish him luck, then leave. Benvolio greets Romeo, bidding him good morning, and Romeo seems surprised that it’s so early. Benvolio asks Romeo what’s troubling him and making the hours seem so long, and Romeo retorts that he doesn’t have the one thing which would “make them short.” Benvolio asks Romeo if he is in love, but Romeo quips that he is “out” of it. Benvolio laments that there’s nothing worse than a broken heart. Romeo notices drops of blood in the street and chastises Benvolio for fighting—all fights, he says, are more to do with love than hatred, as counterintuitive as it may seem.

As Romeo tells Benvolio what’s troubling him, he attempts to play off his own misery by couching his problems in wordplay. This passage also makes it clear that Romeo conceives of love as a powerful force, one which can even lead to bloodshed and death, setting up the play’s theme of love (and expressions thereof) as being intertwined with violence.

Related Quotes with Explanations

Benvolio expresses his sadness for Romeo’s “good heart’s oppression,” and Romeo continues waxing poetic about the “transgression[s]” of love. Benvolio begs Romeo to tell him who has broken his heart. Romeo says the woman he loves refuses to love him back and has sworn to remain chaste. Romeo laments about what a “waste” it is for such a beautiful woman to live her life as a virgin. Benvolio promises to help Romeo move on—or die trying.

Though Romeo seems despondent about his unrequited feelings for the woman he loves, Benvolio is quick to cheer him up—suggesting, perhaps, that Romeo is a serial hopeless romantic and that they’ve been through this song and dance many times before.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare - Act 1, Scene 1 Summary \u0026 Analysis

'The Merchant of Venice' Act 1 Summary

Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" is a fantastic play and boasts one of Shakespeare's most memorable villains, the Jewish moneylender, Shylock.

This summary of Act One of "The Merchant of Venice" guides you through the play's opening scenes in modern English. Here, Shakespeare introduces his main characters, most notably Portia, one of the strongest female parts in all Shakespeare's plays.

Act 1, Scene 1

Antonio is speaking to his friends, Salerio and Solanio. He explains that a sadness has come over him, and his friends suggest that the sadness could be due to his worrying about his commercial ventures. He has ships at sea with merchandise in them and they could be vulnerable. Antonio says he is not worried about his ships because his goods are spread between them—if one went down, he would still have the others. His friends suggest that he must then be in love, but Antonio denies this.

Bassanio, Lorenzo, and Graziano arrive as Salerio and Solanio leave. Graziano tries to cheer up Antonio but fails, and then tells Antonio that men who try to be melancholy in order to be perceived as wise are deceived. Graziano and Lorenzo exit.

Bassanio complains that Graziano has nothing to say but will not stop talking: “Graziano speaks an infinite deal of nothing.”

Antonio asks Bassanio to tell him about the woman he has fallen for and intends to pursue. Bassanio first acknowledges that he has borrowed a lot of money from Antonio over the years and promises to clear his debts to him:

"To you Antonio, I owe the most in money and in love, And from your love I have a warranty to unburden all my plots and purposes how to get clear of all the debts I owe."

Then, Bassanio explains that he has fallen in love with Portia, the heiress of Belmont, but that she has other, richer suitors. He wants to try to compete with them in order to win her hand, but he needs money to get there. Antonio tells him that all his money is tied up in his business and cannot lend to him, but that he will act as a guarantor for any loan that he can get.

Act 1, Scene 2

Enter Portia with Nerissa, her waiting-woman. Portia complains that she is wary of the world. Her dead father stipulated, in his will, that she herself cannot choose a husband.

Instead, Portia’s suitors will be given a choice of three chests: one gold, one silver, and one lead. One chest contains a portrait of Portia, and in choosing the chest that contains it, a suitor will win her hand in marriage. However, he must agree that if he chooses the wrong chest, he will not be permitted to marry anyone.

Nerissa lists suitors who have come to guess including the Neopolitan Prince, County Palatine, a French Lord, and an English nobleman. Portia mocks each of the gentlemen for their shortcomings, in particular, a German nobleman who was a drinker. When Nerissa asks if Portia remembers him, she says:

"Very vilely in the morning when he is sober, and most viley in the afternoon when he is drunk. When he is best he is little worse than a man, and when he is worse he is little better than a beast. And the worst fall that ever fell, I hope I shall make shift to go without him."

All the men listed left before guessing for fear that they would get it wrong and face the consequences.

Portia is determined to follow her father’s will and be won in the way by which he wished, but she is happy that none of the men who have come thus far have succeeded.

Nerissa reminds Portia of a young gentleman, a Venetian scholar and soldier who visited her when her father was alive. Portia remembers Bassanio fondly and believes him to be worthy of praise.

It is then announced that the Prince of Morocco is coming to woo her, and she is not particularly happy about it.


1 scene summary act 1

Swim. My legs dangled over the edge of the shallow water, plunging into deeper water. When she got close enough, and suddenly she grabbed my leg with her mouth and pulled hard. I don't think she wanted to hurt me, but over eighty short tapered teeth can make a decent mark and my leg hurt for days later.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare - Act 1, Scene 1 Summary \u0026 Analysis

And I, like a fool, stood with the bags and smiled, although at that moment I was in such a state of shock that I was ready to sink. Into the ground. And Olya didnt let me come to my senses. In a split second, she caught my spot on a delicate spot and immediately jumped up to me.

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