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To what does Romeo compare Juliet in Act 1 Scene 5 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

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wanderista | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 2) Valedictorian

Posted October 10, 2012 at 7:16 AM via web

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To what does Romeo compare Juliet in Act 1 Scene 5 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 10, 2012 at 12:56 PM (Answer #1)

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Having first laid eyes on Juliet at the feast, Romeo is stunned, obviously struck by her beauty. He first compares her to fire, claiming that "she doth teach the torches to burn bright!" Then he compares her to "a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear." Then, as if to empasize how lovestruck he is, he compares her to a "snowy dove" beside which the rest of the women at the party are simply "crows." It is obviously a case of love at first sight, and Romeo resolves to walk over to her and take her hand. The audience and the reader cannot help being struck by the immediate change in Romeo's demeanor. He has spent most of the first act moping over Rosaline's rejection of his love. Now he has forgotten about her completely. It is also at this fateful moment in the play that Lord Capulet restrains Tybalt, who recognizes Romeo and wants to attack him at the party. 

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 22, 2015 at 7:51 PM (Answer #2)

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The previous answer sums up the comparisons Romeo makes in his speech when he sees Juliet for the very first time. A little later in this scene, when he actually approaches her, he goes on:

If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

He has taken her by the hand and compares her hand here to a 'holy shrine', which he contrasts with his own 'unworthiest hand'. However, he also remarks that his lips are 'two blushing pilgrims' who will smooth away the 'rough touch' of his hand with a kiss.

With this metaphor, then, Romeo portrays Juliet as being sacred in her beauty and grace, which he hesitates to defile. At the same time, rather slyly, he is angling to kiss her hand. His hand may be 'rude' but his lips, he says are like 'blushing pilgrims'. This description bolsters the image of Juliet as a sacred shrine to which he has come as a humble devotee. This metaphor neatly encapsulates the sense that already he is worshiping her, although he has only just laid eyes on her. It doesn't take him long to follow up with his promised kiss, either. 

Romeo's passionate protestations of love at first sight may seem rather suspect, when we consider that he was proclaiming his undying love for Rosaline only moments before. However, as the play unfolds, he and Juliet do of course go on to prove their feelings for one another.

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