Enter ROMEO (1.1.147-50)


BENVOLIO      See where he comes. So please you step aside,

I’ll know his grievance or be much denied.

MONTAGUE   I would thou wert so happy by thy stay

To hear true shrift. Come, madam, let’s away.

Exeunt [Montague and Lady Montague] (1.1.147-150SD)


It seems a sign of Benvolio’s essential niceness, and his status as an intergenerational go-between here, that he can match Montague’s couplet as well as being immaculately polite (so please you step aside). This entrance/exit is a neat illustration of how the two side entrances into the tiring house (if that’s what we can assume at the Curtain, and it has to be conjecture; it was probably rectangular rather than the more familiar ‘O’ of the Theatre and the later Globe) probably worked: the Montagues and Benvolio are talking downstage, and if Romeo enters through the stage left entrance, his parents will exit stage right (at speed, it seems, from the lines following). In effect, it doesn’t matter what Benvolio and Montague say to each other here, and their more or less banal exchange is mostly there to cover Romeo’s entrance: once Benvolio has announced see where he comes, all eyes will be on Romeo, as he joins his friend and kinsman. There’s an underlying irony in that banal exchange, however: in the play’s subsequent action, even nice trustworthy Benvolio won’t be confided in with the true shrift or confession of what’s really going on, and shrift will become the cover-story that enables Juliet to meet Romeo for their wedding at Friar Lawrence’s cell.

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