Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 4 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 4 Full Summary {Step by Step Guide}

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Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 4 Full Summary| Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 4 Summary

After having slept a little, Benvolio and Mercutio are now walking around Verona looking for Romeo.

Mercutio asks Benvolio “where the devil” Romeo is. Benvolio does not know. He says he asked a Montague servant about Romeo and the servant said that Romeo had not come home last night.

Mercutio is worried and says he thinks that Rosaline will make Romeo crazy. (No one except Friar Laurence and the Nurse know that Romeo and Juliet are in love. Mercutio and Benvolio both think Romeo is still sad because Rosaline does not love Romeo.)

Benvolio says that Tybalt, a relative of Lord Capulet, sent a message to the Montague house. Both Benvolio and Mercutio think the letter is asking Romeo to fight Tybalt, because Tybalt is angry about Romeo going uninvited to the Capulet party.

Benvolio says, “Romeo will answer it.” He means Romeo will answer the challenge and fight Tybalt. Mercutio pretends not to understand and jokes that “Any man that can write may answer a letter.”

Benvolio explains that since Romeo has been “dared” (asked to fight), Romeo will fight “how he dares” (whenever and wherever).

Mercutio says Romeo is already dead. Rosaline killed him with her “black eye.” A love song hit him in the ear. Cupid’s arrow hit Romeo’s heart.

Mercutio asks Benvolio if Romeo, a young man killed by love because love has made him think of nothing else, has any chance to win a fight against Tybalt. Benvolio asks Mercutio what is special about Tybalt.

Mercutio does not like or respect Tybalt. He says that Tybalt is like the “Prince of Cats.” (This is an allusion a reference – to a character in Reynard the Fox stories.

In those stories (which began to be told about the year 1175), Tibert (also called Tybalt), was a cat who was sent by the King of Beasts (a lion) who wanted to trap Reynard. Instead, Tibert is trapped.

Mercutio asks Benvolio if Romeo, a young man killed by love because love has made him think of nothing else, has any chance to win a fight against Tybalt.

Benvolio asks Mercutio what is special about Tybalt. Mercutio does not like or respect Tybalt. He says that Tybalt is like the “Prince of Cats.” (This is an allusion a reference – to a character in Reynard the Fox stories.

In those stories (which began to be told about the year 1175), Tibert (also called Tybalt), was a cat who was sent by the King of Beasts (a lion) who wanted to trap Reynard. Instead, Tibert is trapped.

Mercutio says that Tybalt is a “courageous captain of compliments.” Mercutio means that Tybalt likes to compliment important people and get them to watch him.

Mercutio says Tybalt fights like people who sing “prick- song.” “Prick-song” is an old word for music that is written down, so Mercutio is saying that Tybalt fights like someone who sings carefully, not easily or naturally.

Mercutio says that Tybalt watches “time, distance, and proportion.” Tybalt knows how to rest between hits with his sword, and on the third hit, his sword goes into the heart of the person he fights against.

Mercutio says that Tybalt can hit a target as small as a button and knows all the rules about “the first and second cause,” which give him permission to fight after being insulted.

Then, when he fights, he proudly shows his moves: the passado (forward thrust), the punto Reverso (reverse thrust), and the hai (the thrust that hurts or kills).

Mercutio is not complimenting Tybalt. He is speaking sarcastically. He means that Tybalt has gone to a fencing or sword fighting school, but Tybalt is more interested in appearing brave and noble than in actually being brave and noble.

Tybalt is like a pretty cat who gets angry easily and who spits and hits, but who is really afraid. Benvolio asks Mercutio what Tybalt knows.

Mercutio rudely says that Tybalt knows pox (a sexually transmitted disease). Mercutio says he hates people who act as if they are better than others by using foreign words and by dressing and fighting in the latest style.

Benvolio sees that Romeo is coming and tells Mercutio. Mercutio stops talking about Tybalt and starts talking about Romeo.

Mercutio says that Romeo is like a dried herring without roe. (This means that Romeo is like a thin, dead fish without its eggs. Mercutio thinks that Romeo is still sad about Rosaline not loving him. Mercutio also thinks that Romeo is tired and pale and has spent the night with a woman.)

Mercutio says that Romeo loves Rosaline and thinks she is even more beautiful than the most beautiful woman written about by the most famous poets in history.

Mercutio says that Romeo thinks his girl is better than the poet Plutarch’s Laura and the poet Virgil’s Dido. Mercutio says Romeo thinks his girl is even better than Cleopatra (the famous queen of Egypt) and Helen of Troy (the daughter of a god named Zeus in a story written by a Greek poet named Homer).

Mercutio says Romeo would even think Hero (a beautiful woman in an Ancient Greek story) was a prostitute when compared to Rosaline. Finally, Mercutio says that Romeo thinks his girl’s eyes are more beautiful than Thisbe’s.

Note: The Greek story of Thisbe and Pyramus has many similarities to Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo walks up, and Mercutio shows how tired he is of Romeo thinking only about love. He still thinks that Romeo is sad about Rosaline not loving him, but Mercutio also thinks that Romeo, like Tybalt, cares more about getting attention and being fashionable than anything else.

Mercutio says, “bonjour” to Romeo. (Mercutio uses a French word to say good day because he says the French greeting goes with Romeo’s French fancy pants. Mercutio also says that Romeo gave Mercutio and Benvolio the “counterfeit” or the slip by getting away from them the night before.)

Romeo does not understand what Mercutio means by “counterfeit,” so Mercutio explains that Romeo had left his friends the night before. Then Romeo and Mercutio joke about sex. At first, it seems like they are talking about courtesy (being polite), but then they talk about a curtsey or a bow.

They are really talking about how much sex Romeo has had, and Romeo says he has had a lot of sex. Romeo says they should stop joking, and Mercutio says that Romeo is better at joking than he is.

Romeo continues joking. He says that Mercutio is a goose (a foolish person), Mercutio says that Romeo is more of a goose than he is.

Romeo now uses “goose” to mean “prostitute” and says Mercutio is always Looking for one. Mercutio uses “goose” to talk about the bird that people liked to cook and eat.

He says Romeo’s jokes make a good, spicy sauce. They joke some more and Romeo says Mercutio is a “broad goose” (a fat goose).

Mercutio is happy. He thinks his jokes have made Romeo happy again. He says Romeo is now normal – his true self. Mercutio asks, “Why, is not this better now than groaning for love?”

Mercutio says that Romeo’s wanting Rosaline to loving him made him act like a fool running around looking for a place to hide his “bauble” in.

(This has two meanings. One is pictured below. The other is sexual.) Mercutio makes another joke about his own sexual ability, and then the Bauble Nurse and Peter walk up.

The Nurse and Peter walk up, and Mercutio says, “A sail! A sail!” Benvolio says two sails are coming – a shirt and a smock because the Nurse and Peter are wearing clothes that look like sails.

Note: Some online versions of the play make a mistake by saying that Romeo or Benvolio say the words, “A sail! A sail!”

The Nurse tries to act like a rich lady, so she asks Peter to give her the fan he is carrying for her. Mercutio, very rudely, tells Peter to give her the fan because it is prettier than the Nurse’s face.

The Nurse acts like a lady and says good morning to Romeo and his friends. Mercutio rudely says that it is now afternoon and makes a joke about a clock’s hand is like a man’s sexual organ.

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The Nurse is insulted and asks Mercutio what kind of man he is. He says he is a man that God has made to ruin himself. She says that she can see he is a man who is ruining himself.

The Nurse asks if they know where she can find a young man named Romeo. Romeo jokes and says when she finds Romeo, he will be older than when she started looking for him.

Romeo says he is the youngest Romeo and the worst. After seeing how insulting the young men can be, the Nurse agrees that he is the worst Romeo.

The Nurse says she would like to have “confidence” with Romeo. (She has made a mistake. She meant to say “conference.”) Benvolio says that she will “indite” Romeo to a dinner party.

(He makes his mistake on purpose. His friends know he is making fun of the Nurse’s malapropism the use of a similar-sounding word instead of the correct word. They know he is substituting “indite” for “invite.” They also know he is saying the Nurse is a prostitute because no other woman would invite a man to dinner.)

Mercutio thinks it is very funny to call the Nurse a prostitute. He calls her that by using the word “bawd.” Mercutio also plays with the word “hare” which meant either a rabbit or a prostitute.

He says the hare could be put into a Lenten pie which could not be eaten because, during the religious time of Lent, people are not supposed to eat meat. As a result, the pie would be too old to eat. Mercutio is saying that the Nurse is too old and ugly to have sex with.

Note: Many school texts delete or change some of the worst insults in this scene.

Mercutio is having so much fun insulting the Nurse that he makes up a little song that again calls her a prostitute and sings it.

Mercutio says that he, Benvolio, and Romeo should all go to Romeo’s house for “dinner” (lunch). Romeo tells them to go and he will go later. Mercutio, still joking, says goodbye to the Nurse by calling her an “ancient” (very old) lady and then sings a romantic song to her.

After Mercutio and Benvolio leave, the Nurse asks Romeo who the disrespectful man was who had made such mean jokes. Romeo
says that Mercutio is just a man who likes to hear himself talk.

The Nurse is angry and says she will “take him (Mercutio) down” if he insults her again. The Nurse just makes Romeo laugh because she means that she will insult Mercutio more than he can insult her, but the Nurse’s words could mean that she intends to have sex with Mercutio.

The Nurse also is angry with Peter and says he had just stood there and had let Mercutio “use” her at “his pleasure.” She means that Peter should have helped her when Mercutio was insulting her, but her words could actually mean that Peter had let Mercutio have sex with her.

Peter says he would have used his sword to protect her if he had seen someone “use” her. The Nurse says that she is so angry that she is shaking.

The Nurse asks Romeo to speak with her privately. She says that Juliet has sent her a message, but before the Nurse will say more, she wants to know if Romeo is bad and is only trying to trick Juliet.

She says it would be very bad if Romeo does not really love Juliet and is only trying to trick her because Juliet is very young.

Romeo starts to speak and asks the Nurse to tell Juliet that he is a good man and he has a “protest..”

The Nurse thinks that Romeo is saying that he has a “proposal”. that he wants to ask Juliet to marry him. The Nurse is happy and says she will tell Juliet.

At first, Romeo is confused and does not know what the Nurse is going to tell Juliet since the Nurse has confused the words “protest” and “propose.”

Finally, they understand each other. Romeo tells the Nurse to tell Juliet to go to Friar Laurence’s cell (small room) that afternoon. She can say she is going there to confess her sins. The friar then will marry Romeo and Juliet to each other.

Romeo also tells the Nurse that she must meet his servant within an hour to get a rope ladder from him. Romeo will use the ladder that night to climb up to Juliet’s room for their wedding night.

Romeo gives the Nurse some money. At first, she says she will not take it, but then she does. The Nurse is worried about Romeo’s servant. She thinks the man might tell everyone about Romeo having a ladder.

She asks Romeo if he knows the wise words, “Two may keep counsel, putting one away.” (Two may keep a secret if one of them is gone.) Romeo says his man is good “true as steel.”)

The Nurse, thinking about the girl that she has taken care of for so long soon getting married, starts to talk about how cute Juliet was as a baby.

Then the nurse says she has been having fun joking with Juliet by telling her that the man Paris is more handsome than Romeo. The Nurse says that her words about Paris make Juliet pale white as a sheet.

The Nurse then surprises Romeo by asking if the words “rosemary” and “Romeo” start with the same letter.

He says that they both start with the letter “R,” but since she cannot read and thinks the letter sounds like the sounds of an angry dog, she thinks he is joking.

Also, the Nurse says that Juliet always says good things about Romeo and rosemary, so the words cannot begin with “R.” (She thinks rosemary is a good word because the plant is a symbol for love, but the letter R must not be a symbol for something good.) Then she calls Peter and they leave.

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