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Annotated list of all appearances and all mentions

of

Peter

[First played by Will Kemp, a famous comedian.]


The day after Capulet's feast, as Romeo and Mercutio are joking around, the Nurse appears, accompanied by her servant Peter. These two, as they approach the young men, become the targets for more jokes, starting with Romeo's cry, "A sail, a sail!" (2.4.102), and followed by Mercutio's, "Two, two; a shirt and a smock" (2.4.103). Apparently Romeo and Mercutio consider the Nurse and Peter to be overdressed, so that his shirt and her smock look like ships' sails. The Nurse, putting on airs, commands, "Peter!", to which Peter replies, "Anon!" (2.4.105), which means "Right away," although Peter doesn't know just what it is he's supposed to do "anon." Then the Nurse demands her fan of Peter, and he gives it to her. (Will Kemp probably had some shtick to make the audience laugh -- pulling the fan out of his pants, presenting the fan with elaborate politeness, that sort of thing.)

A little later in the scene the Nurse scolds Peter for not defending her against Mercutio's bawdy joking, saying "And thou must stand by too, and suffer [allow] every knave to use me at his pleasure!" (2.4.155-156). In complaining that Peter allowed "every knave to use me at his pleasure" the Nurse means that Peter allowed Mercutio to make fun of her, but "use me at his pleasure" also has a sexual meaning, as does Peter's reply: "I saw no man use you at his pleasure; if I had, my weapon should quickly have been out, I warrant you" (2.4.157-158). The Nurse's double entendre is unintentional; Peter's may be delivered with a smirk. [Scene Summary]


When the Nurse returns with the news of when and where Juliet is to be married, she is accompanied by Peter. Juliet wants to speak with the Nurse alone and asks her to send Peter away. The Nurse says, "Peter, stay at the gate" (2.5.20), and Peter exits without saying a word. We won't see him again for quite a while. [Scene Summary]


In the bustle of the preparations for the wedding between Juliet and Paris, Capulet thinks of something else to make things just right, and he orders a servant to get drier logs for the fire. He tells the servant that Peter will tell him where to find the wood, but the servant answers, "I have a head, sir, that will find out logs, / And never trouble Peter for the matter" (4.4.18-19). The servant means that he's smart enough to find logs without Peter's help, but Capulet makes a joke, saying, "Mass, and well said; a merry whoreson, ha! / Thou shalt be logger-head" (4.4.20-21). [Scene Summary]


On the morning Juliet is supposed to marry Paris, three musicians accompany Paris to wake the bride. Then it is discovered that Juliet is dead. (Only we know she is not.) Everyone grieves, then leaves to prepare for Juliet's funeral, and musicians are thinking they will have to pack up and leave, too, when Peter suddenly appears, with an urgent request: "Musicians, O, musicians, 'Heart's ease', Heart's ease', O, an you will have me live, play 'Heart's ease'" (4.5.102-104). The musicians won't play for Peter, so he insults them, and then poses a riddle about musicians. Only he can answer his own riddle, and he exits, singing "'Then music with her silver sound / With speedy help doth lend redress'." (4.5.142-143). [Scene Summary]

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