From forth the loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows,
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife. (Opening Prologue)
From the play's opening prologue we can garner the events of the play in a nutshell. The ill-fated union of Romeo and Juliet will result in their (and others) deaths, but with this will come an end to the ancient feud between the Montagues and Capulets.
My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me,
That I must love a loathed enemy (I, v)
Juliet speaks with her nurse after meeting Romeo at the conclusion of Act I. She remarks that she fell in love with Romeo right away, and only later discovered that he is a Montague ("known too late"). This quote highlights the heart of the theme in the play: the "star-crossed" lovers.
Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night (III, ii)
After their initial meeting, the lyrical and imaginitive quality of Romeo and Juliet's love reaches sublime heights. Juliet speaks to herself here while waiting for Romeo, her imagination the stuff of "heaven" and "stars".
O serpent heart, hid with a flowering face!
Did ever dragon keep so fair a cave?
Beautiful tyrant! fiend angelical!
Dove-feather'd raven! wolvish-ravening lamb! (III, ii)
Juliet learns that Romeo has killed Tybalt and vents her anger in good/evil terms. Thus Romeo, is a "serpent" with the face of a flower, a "dragon" in a "fair" cave. Her love for Romeo...
(The entire section is 722 words.)
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Essential Passage by Theme: Rebellion
But saying o'er what I have said before:
My child is yet a stranger in the world,
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years;
Let two more summers wither in their pride
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride.
Younger than she are happy mothers made.
And too soon marr'd are those so early made.
The earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she;
She is the hopeful lady of my earth.
But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart;
My will to her consent is but a part.
An she agree, within her scope of choice
Lies my consent and fair according voice.
This night I hold an old accustom'd feast,
Whereto I have invited many a guest,
Such as I love; and you among the store,
One more, most welcome, makes my number more.
At my poor house look to behold this night
Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light.
Such comfort as do lusty young men feel
When well-apparell'd April on the heel
Of limping Winter treads, even such delight
Among fresh female buds shall you this night
Inherit at my house. Hear all, all see,
And like her most whose merit most shall be;
Which, amongst view of many, mine, being one,
May stand in number, though in reck'ning none.
Come, go with me.
Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 7-34
Lord Capulet, Juliet’s father, is speaking to Paris. Paris is one of the Prince of Verona’s royal kinsmen, which means that he is related to the prince and therefore of royal lineage himself. Paris is interested in marrying Juliet and is quite smitten with her—so smitten, in fact, that he is trying to persuade Capulet to let him proceed with wedding plans, even though Juliet is not even fourteen years old yet (fourteen was the minimum age of consent in the Renaissance). Capulet wants to wait another two years. He feels that his daughter is still too young and naive. Paris is not ready to give up, however. He argues that many women, even younger than Juliet, make “happy mothers.”
Capulet remains adamant. He tries to explain to Paris the reasons why he feels postponing their nuptials is wise. First, he postulates that those who marry too young are often “marr’d”: they do not survive childbirth or are too young to make responsible, respectful wives. Next, Lord Capulet appeals to Paris’s sense of humanity. He tells Paris that Juliet is his only surviving child (“Earth has swallowed all my hopes but she”) and she alone can carry on his lineage. Because Juliet is his most treasured possession, Capulet urges Paris to win her heart; Paris already has his consent. Juliet, while she does have a voice in selecting her mate, still...
(The entire section is 1211 words.)
Essential Passage by Character: Friar Laurence
I will be brief, for my short date of breath
Is not so long as is a tedious tale.
Romeo, there dead, was husband to that Juliet;
And she, there dead, that Romeo's faithful wife.
I married them; and their stol'n marriage day
Was Tybalt's doomsday, whose untimely death
Banish'd the new-made bridegroom from this city;
For whom, and not for Tybalt, Juliet pin'd.
You, to remove that siege of grief from her,
Betroth'd and would have married her perforce
To County Paris. Then comes she to me
And with wild looks bid me devise some mean
To rid her from this second marriage,
Or in my cell there would she kill herself.
Then gave I her (so tutored by my art)
A sleeping potion; which so took effect
As I intended, for it wrought on her
The form of death. Meantime I writ to Romeo
That he should hither come as this dire night
To help to take her from her borrowed grave,
Being the time the potion's force should cease.
But he which bore my letter, Friar John,
Was stay'd by accident, and yesternight
Return'd my letter back. Then all alone
At the prefixed hour of her waking
Came I to take her from her kindred's vault;
Meaning to keep her closely at my cell
Till I conveniently could send to Romeo.
But when I came, some minute ere the time
Of her awaking, here untimely lay
The noble Paris and true Romeo dead.
She wakes; and I entreated her come forth
And bear this work of heaven with patience;
But then a noise did scare me from the tomb,
And she, too desperate, would not go with me,
But, as it seems, did violence on herself.
All this I know, and to the marriage
Her nurse is privy; and if aught in this
Miscarried by my fault, let my old life
Be sacrific'd, some hour before his time,
Unto the rigour of severest law.
Act 5, Scene 3, Lines 240-280
Friar Laurence has the unpleasant task of telling the parents of Romeo and Juliet as well as the Prince of Verona how their children and Paris have died. The friar confesses that he had performed the ceremony that married Romeo and Juliet. He then reveals that their wedding day was the very day that Romeo and Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, got into a brawl. Tybalt fell under Romeo’s sword. He reminds everyone that Romeo’s punishment was banishment from Verona.
Trying to put the pieces together for them, the friar recounts the events that led to the tragedy. It began to go unravel, he says, when Juliet’s parents sped up her wedding to Paris. In a panic, Juliet came to him and begged for him to find a way out of the marriage to Paris, threatening to kill herself if he did not help her. Friar Laurence reveals his “sleeping potion” ruse, designed to make her family...
(The entire section is 1261 words.)
Essential Passage by Character: Romeo
Art thou a man? Thy form cries out thou art;
Thy tears are womanish, thy wild acts denote
The unreasonable fury of a beast.
Unseemly woman in a seeming man!
Or ill-beseeming beast in seeming both!
Thou hast amaz'd me. By my holy order,
I thought thy disposition better temper'd.
Hast thou slain Tybalt? Wilt thou slay thyself?
And slay thy lady that in thy life lives,
By doing damned hate upon thyself?
Why railest thou on thy birth, the heaven, and earth?
Since birth and heaven and earth, all three do meet
In thee at once; which thou at once wouldst lose.
Fie, fie, thou...
(The entire section is 1268 words.)
Essential Passage by Character: Juliet
Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?
Ah, poor my lord, what tongue shall smooth thy name
When I, thy three-hours’ wife, have mangled it?
But wherefore, villain, didst thou kill my cousin?
That villain cousin would have kill'd my husband.
Back, foolish tears, back to your native spring!
Your tributary drops belong to woe,
Which you, mistaking, offer up to joy.
My husband lives, that Tybalt would have slain;
And Tybalt's dead, that would have slain my husband.
All this is comfort; wherefore weep I then?
Some word there was, worser than Tybalt's death,
That murdered me. I would...
(The entire section is 1228 words.)