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Romeo after meeting Juliet


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ROMEO: O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
[Act 1, scene 5] Shakespeare loads Romeo's first siting of Juliet with rich imagery and meaning. Remember that Romeo has been described, previously, as hiding from light (he "shuts fair daylight out" in Act 1, scene 1) but now seeks out her metphorical light, creating the idea that the character is quickly recovering from his (perhaps false?) melacholy. Soon after, Juliet will go from a torch to "the sun" as Romeo's passion increases.
ROMEO: Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! / For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.
[Act 1, scene 5] Shakespeare arguably gives Romeo, here, a moment of emotional growth as he realises that his previous experience with love has not been "true". This, the character realises, is proper love. However, there is potential for some criticism here as Romeo is quick to fickly "forswear" his affection for Rosaline for another Petrarchan 'love at first sight' and another woman who he has only seen.
ROMEO: If I profane with my unworthiest hand / This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this: / My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand / To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
[Act 1, scene 5] This is the beginning of one of the most famous passages in the play. When Romeo and Juliet talk for the first time at the Capulet ball, Shakespeare has Romeo use his best pickup line: touching Juliet's hands and lips, he says, would be a kind of religious experience like a pilgrim arriving at his site of worship after a long journey. This is arguably highly romantic and can be understood as Romeo finally arriving at true love after his previous 'difficult' journey with Rosaline. However, audiences may well hear echoes of how Romeo describe Rosaline in these lines, discrediting the seriousness of his new love - at first - 'til Juliet makes an honest, frank lover of him in Act 2, scene 2. The religious imagery, here, also hints at the forbidden nature of their romance: such pre-marital activity is not allowed, though holding hands or kissing is only a "gentle sin". Shakespeare has Romeo offer the first four lines (in A/B/A/B rhyme) of what will become the couple writing a joint sonnet together.
ROMEO: Is she a Capulet? / O dear account! my life is my foe's debt.
[Act 1, scene 5] Shakespeare is using a metaphor here wherein Romeo compares his meeting and falling in love with Juliet to a ledger, or a record of debts and payments. Romeo has just learned Juliet's identity. She is a Capulet, his families sworn enemy. So, when he says, "Oh dear account! My life is my foe's debt," it creates the idea both that he is forever in debt to his enemy for bringing him his love, Juliet, but also that the "account" is dear in two other ways: Juliet is dear to him, but also the "debt" is dear, meaning very costly; he fears his enemy Capulet will not accept his "payment" of love and gratitude - that Capulet will keep him from his dear Juliet.
ROMEO: But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
[Act 2, scene 2] Beginning Romeo's soliloquy in the garden/orchard of the Capulet house, as the character sees Juliet's bedroom light, followed quickly by the character. With connotations of light, life and heavenly power, Shakespeare has Romeo place Juliet as a heavenly force. For Romeo, Juliet has already escalated from an encourager of the tourches to "burn bright" to the source of all light and life: "the sun". This metaphor, though romantic, also has tragic undertones foreshadowing the death of Paris (a "man of wax") and Romeo's decision to kill himself in Act 5: Shakespeare has already had Lord Montague establish Romeo as a sick little plant ("the bud bit with an envious worm") in Act 1, scene 1, and a sick little plant cannot live without the sun. Shakespeare also draws on imagery of Icarus here - the boy who flew too close to the sun on waxen wings, tumbling to death.
ROMEO: Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, / Who is already sick and pale with grief, / That thou her maid art far more fair than she / Be not her maid
[Act 2, scene 2] The imagery of these lines requires knowledge of the Roman goddess Diana: patron deity of the moon, hunting, and chastity (keeping one's viriginity). Shakespeare reminds us here that - despite the high tragedy of his lovers - this is still a teenage boy looking at the girl he fancies through her bedroom window and hoping that he won't be the "maid" of Diana when he's involved. There can be a pleading, cheeky hopefulness to these lines as much as deep romance. Romeo, here, is hoping that she won't be another Rosaline, who rejected him and "hath sworn that she will still live chaste".
ROMEO: My life were better ended by their hate, / Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love.
[Act 2, scene 2] Another key example of foreshadowing here, as Shakespeare will have Romeo choose to end his own life rather than choose to live without Juliet on the false news of her death in Act 5.
ROMEO: love-devouring death do what he dare
[Act 2, scene 6] Following the Friar's prayer that no "sorrow" comes from the marriage of the protagonists, Romeo's taunting of fate will undoubtably provoke reaction from the audience. Shakespeare seems, here, to have Romeo unwittingly taunt fate - and see the result in the next scene.
ROMEO: I do protest, I never injured thee, / But love thee better than thou canst devise, / Till thou shalt know the reason of my love
[Act 3, scene 1] In response to Tybalt calling Romeo and "villian" and demanding a duel, Romeo's words must - to the characters on stage unaware of his very recent marriage to Juliet - be utterly bewildering. I he mocking Tybalt? Unlikely considering the situation and Tybalt's deadly reputation. Is Romeo being cowardly to avoid a fight, knowing he'd likely die? Possibly. We in the audience know, though, that it's because the families are now - secretly - united through marriage. Remember, though: the marriage can still be cancelled up until Romeo and Juliet have consummated (had sex), so the reason isn't shared. Shakespeare puts his character at a turning point where he must make a fatal choice. His decision to remain silent as to "the reason of [his] love" proves to be a fatal hamartia (decision/mistake) moments later.
JULIET: Romeo, I come! this do I drink to thee.
[Act 4, scene 3] Even after the long, hyperbolic list of potentially fatal risks that drinking the potion entails (poisoning, suffocation, and madness), Shakespeare still has Juliet drink. Her phrase "I drink to thee" echoes the traditional toast given between bride and groom at a wedding reception: a reception the couple never had due to the secrecy of their marriage and rapidly progressing tragedy.
ROMEO: Away to heaven, respective lenity, / And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now!
[Act 3, scene 1] Acting on what his society would consider to be his duty as a man, Romeo chooses to remove the "lenity" (calmness, forgiveness, love) he has previously shown and adopt "fire-eyed fury" much like the "fiery Tybalt" of Act 1, scene 1. Shakespeare makes clear, through the metaphor, that this need for revenge (Furies were spirits of vengence in Greek myth) has infected Romeo and will be a factor bringing about the tragic ending. Another fatal mistake (hamartia) and near impossible situation.
ROMEO: O, I am fortune's fool!
[Act 3, scene 1] Anagnorisis is the Greek word for 'tragic realisation' or 'terrible clarity' and always comes too late for a tragic protagonist. This is one such moment for Romeo. Too late - with who we though to be the main antagonist dead at his feet - he is made to realise his real enemy: fate (or "fortune"). The noun "fool" here is polysemous: foolish/idiotic, foolish/naive, and fool/jester for amusement. Romeo is Fate's plaything and he is made to realise here, too late.
ROMEO: There is no world without Verona walls, / But purgatory, torture, hell itself.
[Act 3, scene 3] Shakespeare has Romeo return to his old hyperboic melancholy at news of his banishment from Juliet and a return to the old 'love from afar'. The use of metaphor here emphasises the love Romeo has for Juliet - separation from her is the same as death to him - and foreshadows his later suicide.
ROMEO: I have stain'd the childhood of our joy / With blood
[Act 3, scene 3] Shakespeare has Romeo summarise that his hamartia (terrible msitake) in fighting Tybalt has forever ruined their love; the metaphor "childhood of our joy" creates the idea that the couple have no left their original state of innocence and purity and cannot return to it; the metaphorical "stain" has permenantly spoilt their 'pure' love.
ROMEO: cancell'd love
[Act 3, scene 3] A short, useful summary of how the act of killing Tybalt and being banished seems to have destroyed the couple's plans.
ROMEO: Let me be ta'en, let me be put to death; / I am content, so thou wilt have it so.
[Act 3, scene 5] Romeo and Juliet have had their wedding night and morning is approaching. Shakespeare has Romeo, here, revert to the courtly lover, willing to risk his life for his love, though here it has a very real threat of being true. Romeo will be killed if discovered in Verona. A reminder here, that the couple will die.
ROMEO: I defy you, stars! […] / Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee to-night.
[Act 5, scene 1] Hearing the misinformation that Juliet is dead, Shakespeare has Romeo declare that he will "defy" the "stars" - fight against the fate that would see him live without Juliet. The reference to "stars" here serves as a stand-in for God. Shakespeare presents Romeo as impulsively willing to fight again - this time against God himself - and moving from "Fortune's fool" in Act 3 to a more deliberate position. However, we know from the Prologue that Romeo is destined to kill himself. So, sadly, in 'defying' fate he actually brings it about. Romeo’s suicide prompts Juliet to kill herself, thereby ironically fulfilling the lovers’ tragic destiny.
ROMEO: Come, cordial and not poison, go with me / To Juliet's grave; for there must I use thee.
[Act 5, scene 1] The noun "cordial" here sees Romeo characterise the deadly poison he's just purchased as a sweet-tasting medicine, conveying the pain he feels if this, for Romeo, is a cure. Shakespeare also sees him use the modal verb "must" creating a sense of both desperation and absolute certainty.
ROMEO: Thou detestable maw, thou womb of death, / Gorged with the dearest morsel of the earth, / Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open, / And, in despite, I'll cram thee with more food!
[Act 5, scene 3] Shakespeare has Romeo conflates two bits of anatomy in a gruesome image. A maw refers to the jaws, and is often used to describe a particularly insatiable or voracious animal (conjuring notions of violence and death). The womb, of course, is the starting place for all life, here twisted into an unknowable space that Romeo again associates with death. Shakespeare has Romeo envision the Capulets' corpses as food, differentiating Juliet’s from the others not in kind, but only in degree: she is the “dearest morsel,” but substantially no different from the rest. There is no mention of a soul that has recently departed and whom he wishes to join; his only concern is with protecting her corpse and leaving his body with it. The verb "craw" here emphasises the character's desperation through its force.
ROMEO: Good gentle youth, tempt not a desperate man
[Act 5, scene 3] Having been threatened with death by Paris, whom Shakespeare attempts to have "apprehend" Romeo here, Romeo's answer that such an outcome 'tempts' him foreshadows his immanent suicide. Although it’s generally assumed that Paris is older than Romeo, here the younger character refers to the older as a “youth” and to himself as the “man.” Practically speaking, Romeo cannot see that the man he's speaking to is Paris (it's pitch black) but Romeo's line also seems to suggest here that his grief and desperation are more mature than that of Paris, and that it makes him the elder of the two emotionally. This continues when he refers to Paris as a “boy” below, although the later term is an insult, as Romeo sees Paris’s challenge as a foolish one.
ROMEO: O my love! my wife! / Death, that hath suck'd the honey of thy breath, / Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty
[Act 5, scene 3] Structurally, this is the first, last, and only time that Shakespeare allows Romeo to call Juliet his wife, and the word should be said with all the pain of that realisation. As Romeo stresses that death has not “yet” fully overcome Juliet, he doesn’t know how right he is, and the details of Juliet’s beauty betray more than he realises. The dramatic irony of our knowing she is alive - and soon to awaken - is painful here.
ROMEO: here will I remain / With worms that are thy chamber-maids; O, here / Will I set up my everlasting rest
[Act 5, scene 3] Shakespeare has Romeo invokes the terms of a Christian afterlife—he asks for “everlasting rest”, the formula used on countless epitaphs over many centuries to describe the blessed dead. But he immediately qualifies this request, indicating that he means nothing more than the “everlasting rest” the worm-filled earth will provide, not a rest that will lead to heavenly bliss. He is about to commit suicide - a hell-guaranteed sin.
ROMEO: shake the yoke of inauspicious stars / From this world-wearied flesh
[Act 5, scene 3] So far as Romeo is concerned, Shakespeare has the character believe that the "inauspicious starts" have destined him to live without Juliet. Therefore to be free of the chains and harness of fate ("yoke"), Romeo must destroy himself. Remember that Shakespeare is writing a tradegy so uniting the couple in death - a relatively happy ending - is not his goal. There is no mention of meeting her again in the afterlife or being united in heaven. Only that their bodies will stay together. Romeo is characterised to seek to destroy his "world-wearied flesh" and damn his soul to hell, rather than exist without Juliet.