What fray was here? (1.1.164-166)

ROMEO                                               O me! what fray was here?

                        Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all:

                        Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love… (1.1.164-166)

How Romeo finally notices that there’s been a fray is unclear (and there is comic potential in the length of time it takes him to notice, longer even than it takes him to wonder where his next meal is coming from). It would surely ruin the economy of the staging, and the meticulous tonal calibration of the scene, if Sampson or Gregory (more likely Sampson) is lying motionless upstage, stunned and bleeding. Films can supply overturned market stalls, limping combatants, or disapproving bystanders in the middle distance, but the most straightforward solution would be for Benvolio still to have his weapon unsheathed, for him to be disheveled, and for Romeo to notice apparent signs of disorder (those overturned market stalls) that probably remain invisible to the audience. In saying I have heard it all, Romeo speaks as the son who has been carefully taught the story of the feud by his father, but he also aligns himself with the Prince and the citizens; he’s sick of it, too. One way of reading more with love is as invoking the claims of family pride and loyalty, but – given what Romeo goes on to do in this speech – it’s also about claiming the signs of conflict all around him as a gigantic oxymoronic metaphor for his inner turmoil. If Benvolio’s dishevelment – an untucked shirt and open doublet, for instance – is the main means whereby the recent brawl is communicated to Romeo, then there’s also potential for an interesting mirroring between the two friends, for such disorder in the dress would characterise the melancholy lover too. Much to do with hate, but more with love.

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