This scene takes place outside the Capulet orchard. Romeo hopes to see Juliet again after falling in love with her at first sight during the Capulet masquerade ball. He leaps the orchard wall when he hears Mercutioand Benvolio approaching. His friends are unaware that Romeo has met and fallen in love with Juliet. Mercutio beckons to Romeo by teasing him about Rosaline's seductive beauty. Romeo continues to hide, and Benvolio persuades Mercutio to leave the scene, knowing Romeo's love of solitude.
In this scene, Romeo begins a separation from his friends that continues throughout the play. His inability to reveal his love of a Capulet heightens his isolation. By leaping the wall surrounding the Capulet orchard, Romeo physically separates himself from Mercutio and Benvolio — a separation that reflects the distance he feels from society, his friends, and his family.
Romeo previously wallowed in a "prison, kept without food" (I.2.55) as his unrequited love for Rosaline withered from lack of reciprocation. Having joked at Romeo's Petrarchan miseries earlier in the play, Mercutio now adds a more cutting edge to his barbs. He calls to Romeo using physical and sexual innuendo to describe the female allure. To Mercutio, love is a conquest, a physical endeavor. Mercutio jests that Romeo will think of Rosaline as a medlar fruit, which was supposed to look like the female genitalia, and himself as a poperin pear shaped like the male genitalia.
Romeo's leap over the Capulet wall is symbolic of his flight to a spiritual conceptualization of love. He has moved beyond Mercutio's crude understanding of love — "quivering thigh, / And the demesnes that there adjacent lie" — to a less physical, more mystical perception of love.
Romeo describes Juliet in light images — conspicuously nonphysical descriptions. When he first sees Juliet, he says, "she doth teach the torches to burn bright." Romeo has often sought sanctuary in the dark, but the deepest shade has never satisfied him. Recall that he locked himself away in his room and shut the windows to create an "artificial night" while pining for Rosaline in Act I, Scene 1. Juliet transports him from the dark into the light, moving Romeo to a higher spiritual plane. Ironically, however, Romeo and Juliet's clandestine love can only flourish under the shelter of night.
dull earth Romeo's description of himself.
conjure to summon a demon or spirit as by a magic spell. Mercutio attempts to raise or draw Romeo from his hiding place.
when King . . . lov'd the beggar maid a 16th-century ballad.
the ape is dead Romeo is described as a performing monkey who is playing dead and will not respond to Mercutio's conjuration.
demesnes a region or domain. Here Mercutio uses it to refer bawdily to the female genitalia.
to raise a spirit in his mistresses circle Mercutio puns on circle as both the magician's magic circle and the female genitalia.
consorted associated with.
medlars small, brown, apple-like fruit.
open-arse slang term for a medlar; "arse" is the buttocks.
poperin pear Mercutio compares the pear with the shape of the male genitals and puns on the name: pop-her-in.
truckle-bed a low bed on small wheels or casters, that can be rolled under another bed when not in use.
field-bed bed upon the ground.