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In Romeo and Juliet, how does Shakespeare use structure and language in the sonnet in...

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stevydinho | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted March 4, 2012 at 3:43 PM via web

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In Romeo and Juliet, how does Shakespeare use structure and language in the sonnet in Act 1, Scene 5 to reflect romance in Romeo and Juliet's relationship?

ROMEO [To JULIET]: 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.

 

JULIET: Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

 

ROMEO: Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

JULIET: Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

ROMEO: O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

 

JULIET: Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

ROMEO: Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.

 

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 15, 2012 at 4:14 AM (Answer #1)

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One structural element of this Sonnet is the "problem/solution" argument Shakespeare uses to portray Romeo's emotions. Romeo presents an "if/then" situation in which he proposes that "if" he defiles Juliet's holy hand, then the "solution" is that he should fix it by kissing her hand, like a pilgrim at a "holy shrine." The clever "problem/solution" structure Shakespeare uses allows Romeo to propose kissing Juliet without insulting her or defiling her virtuous, innocent maidenhood. Juliet continues this structure by presenting another solution: Romeo is actually being good mannered in touching her hand, because the act of pilgrims holding hands is holy. We see this in Juliet's response:

Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch

Another structural element in this sonnet is the unusual rhyme scheme. Shakespeare usually made use of the abab cdcd efef gg rhyme scheme. However, in the second quatrain the words "this" and "kiss" are repeated, making the rhyme scheme: abab cbcb. The repetition of the words "this" and "kiss" emphasizes the importance of "this kiss" in Romeo and Juliet's romance.  Juliet is very young and naive and this is the first time she has been kissed by a handsome man. The hormone rush Juliet feels from the kiss helps to explain the intensity and spontaneity of her feelings for Romeo.

The language Shakespeare uses in this sonnet serves to portray both Romeo's and Juliet's innocence, but also Romeo's audacity. Words such as "holy shrine," "pilgrim," and "saints" serve to portray both Romeo and Juliet as innocent. However, since Romeo is using these reverent terms to form an excuse to kiss Juliet, the language paints Romeo as audacious in that he was bold enough to use religious language irreverently.

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