William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet (c. 1591

The Balcony Scene (Act 2, Scene 2)

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Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's most beloved plays, having been turned into paintings, ballets, and several operas. Its hero even became a common noun: "a romeo" used to mean a lover. But it is largely Juliet who makes the play come alive. Although the plot describes her as absurdly young, her passion is expressed with a fine intelligence and wit which makes her irresistible. This most famous of all love scenes shows Romeo at first lusting after the young girl he has just met at the masked ball where he has gone in disguise (because his family is feuding with hers); but she manages eventually to steer his thoughts toward marriage. Romeo has clambered over the wall into the orchard of the Capulet family when he sees the candlelight appear in Juliet's bedroom window, which he immediately compares to the rising sun.

Which seems more mature, Romeo or Juliet? Why


[Capulet's orchard.]
ROMEO [Coming forward.]:
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That (1) thou her maid (2) art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious.
Her vestal livery (3) is but sick and green, (4)
And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off. (5)
It is my lady! O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing.
What of that? Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold; 'tis not to me she speaks.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return. (6)

What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!
JULIET :
Ay me!
ROMEO:
She speaks.
O, speak again, bright angel, for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o'er my head,
As is a winged messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturned wond'ring eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy puffing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.
JULIET:
O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore (7) art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
ROMEO [Aside.]:
Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?
JULIET:
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face. O, be some other name
Belonging to a man.
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes (8)
Without that title. Romeo, doff (9) thy name;
And for thy name, (10) which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.
ROMEO:
I take thee at thy word.
Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.
JULIET:
What man art thou, that, thus bescreened in night,
So stumblest on my counsel? (11)
ROMEO:
By a name
I know not how to tell thee who I am.
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself
Because it is an enemy to thee.
Had I it written, I would tear the word.
JULIET:
My ears have yet not drunk a hundred words
Of thy tongue's uttering, yet I know the sound.
Art thou not Romeo, and a Montague?
ROMEO:
Neither, fair maid, if either thee dislike. (12)
JULIET:
How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
The orchard walls are high and hard to climb,
And the place death, considering who thou art,
If any of my kinsmen find thee here.
ROMEO:
With love's light wings did I o'erperch (13) these walls;
For stony limits cannot hold love out,
And what love can do, that dares love attempt.
Therefore thy kinsmen are no stop (14) to me.
JULIET:
If they do see thee, they will murder thee.
ROMEO:
Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords! Look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.
JULIET:
I would not for the world they saw thee here.
ROMEO:
I have night's cloak to hide me from their eyes;
And but (15) thou love me, let them find me here.
My life were better ended by their hate
Than death prorogued, wanting (16) of thy love.
JULIET:
By whose direction found'st thou out this place?
ROMEO:
By Love, that first did prompt me to inquire.
He lent me council, and I lent him eyes.
I am no pilot; yet, wert thou as far
As that vast shore washed with the farthest sea,
I should adventure for such merchandise.
JULIET:
Thou knowest the mask of night is on my face;
Else (17) would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek
For that which thou hast heard me speak tonight.
Fain (18) would I dwell on form (19)--fain, fain deny
What I have spoke; but farewell compliment!
Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say "Ay;"
And I will take thy word. Yet, if thou swear'st,
Thou mayst prove false. At lovers' perjuries,
They say Jove laughs. (20)
O gentle Romeo,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully.
Or if thou thinkest I am too quickly won,
I'll frown and be perverse and say thee nay,
So thou wilt woo, but else, not for the world. (21)

In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond, (22)
And therefore thou mayst think my havior (23) light;
But trust me, gentleman, I'll prove more true
Than those that have more cunning to be strange. (24)
I should have been more strange, I must confess,
But (25) that thou overheard'st, ere I was ware, (26)
My true love passion. Therefore pardon me,
And not impute this yielding to light love,
Which the dark night hath so discovered. (27)
ROMEO:
Lady, by yonder blessed moon I vow,
That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops--
JULIET:
O, swear not by the moon, th' inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circle orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.
ROMEO:
What shall I swear by?
JULIET:
Do not swear at all;
Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,
Which is the god of my idolatry,
And I'll believe thee.
ROMEO:
If my heart's dear love--
JULIET:
Well, do not swear. Although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract tonight.
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say it lightens. Sweet, good night!
This bud of love, by summer's ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flow'r when next we meet.
Good night, good night! As sweet repose and rest
Come to thy heart as that within my breast!
ROMEO:
O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?
JULIET:
What satisfaction canst thou have to-night?
ROMEO:
The exchange of thy love's faithful vow for mine.
JULIET:
I gave thee mine before thou didst request it:
and yet I would it were to give again.
ROMEO:
Would'st thou withdraw it? for what purpose, love?
JULIET:
But to be frank (28) and give it thee again.
And yet I wish but for the thing I have.
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
I hear some noise within. Dear love, adieu!
[NURSE calls within.]
Anon, (29) good nurse! Sweet Montague, be true.
Stay but a little, I will come again. [Exit.]
ROMEO:
O blessed, blessed night! I am afeard,
Being in night, all this is but a dream,
Too flattering-sweet to be substantial.
[Enter JULIET again.]
JULIET:
Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed.
If that thy bent of love be honorable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,
By one that I'll procure to come to thee,
Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite;
And all my fortunes at thy foot I'll lay
And follow thee my lord throughout the world.
[NURSE within.]
Madam!
JULIET:
I come anon.--But if thou meanest not well,
I do beseech thee--
[NURSE within.]
Madam!
JULIET:
By and by I come.--
To cease thy strife and leave me to my grief
Tomorrow will I send.
ROMEO:
So thrive my soul--
JULIET:
A thousand times good night!
ROMEO:
A thousand times the worse, to want thy light!
Love goes toward love as schoolboys from their books
But love from love, toward school with heavy looks
[Enter JULIET again]
JULIET:
Hist! Romeo, hist! O for a falc'ner's voice
To lure this tassel gentle back again! (30)
Bondage is hoarse and may not speak aloud,
Else would I tear the cave where Echo lies
And make her airy tongue more hoarse than
With repetition of "My Romeo!"
ROMEO:
How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night,
Like softest music to attending (31) ears!
JULIET:
Romeo!
ROMEO:
My sweet?
JULIET:
What o'clock tomorrow
Shall I send to thee?
ROMEO:
By the hour of nine.
JULIET:
I will not fail. 'Tis twenty years till then.
I have forgot why I did call thee back.
ROMEO:
Let me stand here till thou remember it.
JULIET:
I shall forget, to have thee still stand there,
Rememb'ring how I love thy company.
ROMEO:
And I'll still stay, to have thee still forget,
Forgetting any other home but this.
JULIET:
'Tis almost morning. I would have thee gone--
And yet no farther than a wanton's bird,
That lets it hop a little from his hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves, (32)
And with a silken thread plucks it back again
So loving-jealous of his liberty.
ROMEO:
I would I were thy bird.
JULIET:
Sweet, so would I.
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till it be morrow. [Exit.]
ROMEO
Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy breast!
Would I were sleep and peace, so sweet to rest! (33)


(1) Because.

(2) In classical mythology the moon is ruled by the virgin goddess Diana; hence the innocent Juliet is "her maid," but this maid is more beautiful than her mistress.

(3) Virginal, costume like that worn by the ancient Roman Vestal Virgins.

(4) Young women were said to suffer from "green-sickness" which could only be cured by lovemaking.

(5) That is, stop being a virgin (make love with me).

(6) Her eyes are so bright that it seems two stars have traded places with them.

(7) Why.

(8) Owns, possesses.

(9) Take off, get rid of.

(10) In exchange for your name.

(11) Talk.

(12) If you don't like either of those names.

(13) Climb over.

(14) Hindrance.

(15) Unless.

(16) Lacking.

(17) Otherwise.

(18) Willingly.

(19) Do things correctly, start over following the proper ways of becoming acquainted.

(20) Jove, or Jupiter, an infamously unfaithful husband, was said not to take seriously the failure of lovers to live up to their oaths.

(21) I'll resist you properly if you promise to keep courting me, but not otherwise.

(22) Foolish

(23) Behavior.

(24) Distant, standoffish.

(25) Except.

(26) Aware.

(27) Revealed.

(28) Generous.

(29) Right away.

(30) Oh for the voice of a falconer who can lure back his tercel-gentle (the male of the goshawk, trained to hunt and return at a master's call).

(31) Listening.

(32) Fetters.

(33) I wish I were sleep and peace so I could rest on your breast.


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This is an excerpt from Reading About the World, Volume 2, edited by Paul Brians, Mary Gallwey, Douglas Hughes, Azfar Hussain, Richard Law, Michael Myers, Michael Neville, Roger Schlesinger, Alice Spitzer, and Susan Swan and published by Harcourt Brace Custom Books.

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