Swans and crows (1.2.82-87)

BENVOLIO      At this same ancient feast of Capulet’s

                        Sups the fair Rosaline whom thou so loves

                        With all the admirèd beauties of Verona:

                        Go thither, and with unattainted eye

                        Compare her face with some that I shall show,

                        And I will make thee think thy swan a crow. (1.2.82-87)


Finally, Rosaline is identified as the object of Romeo’s unrequited love. She’s fair – as indeed she has been described by her uncle Capulet – and this particular tease (who is she? has Romeo been talking about Juliet? how much does Benvolio know already?) is at an end, although directors can make a choice as to whether to make her a recognisable character in the ball scene later on. Here, Benvolio picks up his argument from the previous scene: Romeo needs to get out more and compare Rosaline with other women, unattainted, without prejudice. The swan vs crow is conventional, but still quite bathetic, and here it’s another instance of the dark/light, black/white binary that runs through the play, last encountered towards the end of the previous when Romeo has drawn an extended comparison between the black of a woman’s mask and the fairness or whiteness of her face. It’s a binary that’s going to be central to the terms in which Romeo first describes Juliet when they meet.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *