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Meanwhile, Lord Capulet is hanging out with County (a.k.a. Count) Paris, Verona's #1 most Eligible Bachelor.
Capulet says something like "I'm getting too old for this whole family feud thing and so is Lord Montague—I'm sure we can work something out to keep the peace."
(Get your highlighters out because this is pretty important. The whole Montague/Capulet feud may not be as big a deal to the older generation as it is to the younger generation.)
But Paris has other things on his mind, like, "Hey, can I marry your thirteen-year-old daughter, Juliet?"
Capulet says that his daughter's a little young—better wait until she's fifteen.
(Quick Brain Snack: no, this doesn't mean that people in the sixteenth century married when they were 13. In fact, most English people of the time married in their early twenties, just like most people everywhere. Shakespeare was probably emphasizing how crazy these Italians were by making Juliet so young.)
Plus, he'd like Juliet to be on board with all this. But he says Paris can talk to his daughter at the annual Capulet bash that they're holding tonight at his house—maybe Juliet will fall in love with Paris.
We interrupt this program for a history snack: In Shakespeare's day, the legal age of marriage was twelve for girls and fourteen for boys, but that doesn't mean people were running around getting married as pre-teens. In fact, most English people of the time married in their early twenties, just like now (source). Shakespeare was probably emphasizing how crazy these Italians were by making Juliet so young.
But it was totally normal for fathers to broker marriage deals without any input from their daughters, kind of like Montague is doing right now. We see this kind of bargaining in plays like The Merchant of Venice, where Portia's dead father manages to arrange his daughter's marriage from the grave (we're not kidding) and in The Taming of the Shrew, where Baptista Minola gives Katherine away in marriage without her consent. Yikes.
Capulet gives one of his servants, Peter, a list of people to invite to the party. Unfortunately, the servant can't read. The illiterate servant decides to look for some people who can read.
Romeo and Benvolio come in, still arguing about Romeo's unnamed love interest. (Don't worry, we'll find out this mystery girl's name soon enough.)
The Capulets' servant asks them to read the guest list for the party. Guess who's on it? Capulet's "fair niece Rosaline." (Yep, that's Romeo's dream girl all right. She also happens to be a Capulet but Romeo doesn't seem to be worried that the big family feud will be a problem. What's up with that?)
Romeo and Benvolio decide to crash the Capulet party. Romeo wants to see Rosaline and Benvolio wants to convince Romeo that she's not so special.