Samson, Gregory, and the Herdsmen in Romeo and Juliet and Caius Marius
Throughout Shakespeare’s plays, there are minor characters that often occur for only one scene. These characters have a short dialogue which seems rather meaningless to the play; however, these dialogues usually foreshadow or summarize events and themes of the play. Although they have little effect on the movement of the play, they give insight into the underlying themes of the play. Comparing these minor characters and their scenes in three different versions of Romeo and Juliet (the Shakepeare edition, the Garrick edition, and Otway’s adaptation, Caius Marius) show the differences in the focus of each version. In the Shakepeare and Garrick versions, the minor characters are Samson and Gregory who appear as the play opens. In Otway’s version, the minor characters are the herdsmen in Act IV.
Samson and Gregory in the Shakespeare Edition
Samson and Gregory appear in Act I, Scene I of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Their playful dialogue sets the tone of the play and addresses one of its key issues, that of the feuding families. This feud leads to the fighting which takes place throughout the play, the first of which is begun by Samson and Gregory, servingmen of Capulet. In the play, most everyone has accepted the fighting between the Monatgues and Capulets, even Romeo battles, but some see the problems with the fighting while others merely fight blindly. Although Samson and Gregory both start the first brawl of the play, the two characters display the aforementioned difference of opinions on fighting. The first to speak, Samson, sees the fighting as something that he must do and he brags about his skill as a tyrant. He begins by saying, "On my word, we’ll not carry coals" (1.1.1). By saying this, Samson portrays the idea that not to fight is humiliation. Samson then says that when they are angry they will fight (1.1.3). Gregory retorts with "While you live, draw your neck out of collar" (1.1.4), referring to a hanging noose. Gregory is recognizing the somewhat foolishness of fighting. When Samson then asserts, "I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague’s" (1.1.10-11), Gregory responds, "That shows thee a weak slave" (1.1.12).Here, Gregory is calling Samson’s desire to fight a weakness. Nonetheless, they both recognize that the quarrel exists and is placed on them by their masters. Gregory says, "The quarrel is between our masters and us their men" (1.1.17). To this, Samson agrees and asserts that he will "show myself a tyrant" (1.1.18). As Samson continues to speak of slaughtering men and raping women, the quarrel is portrayed as something awful. Then with the approach of Capulet’s men, both prepare to fight, and do, which begins the fighting that persists throughout the play until the deaths of both Romeo and Juliet.
There is also slight foreshadowing in this opening dialogue of the play. Not only does the talk of fighting foreshadow the...