Comment on the sonnet in act 1, scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The sonnet in question is posted below:

RomeoIf 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. Juliet Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The sonnet in question is posted below:

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. 

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. 

This is an untraditional sonnet, as its lines are broken up between multiple characters. However, the lines still form a standard Shakespearean sonnet, and it builds up to Romeo and Juliet's first kiss. In this sonnet, the two lovers make reference to the Christian imagery. They reference pilgrims, saints, prayers and mannerly devotion. All of these images contextualize Romeo and Juliet within a very Christian, specifically Catholic, world. Yet, they are subverting this imagery to discuss their romantic love for each other. They use double entendres to flirt, as seen in the line, "O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do; They pray - grant thou, lest faith turn to despair." These quips display their intelligence, but also their propensity for breaking standard rules. A devout Catholic may shy away from subverting religious imagery, but Romeo and Juliet play with their language as much as they play with societal and familial boundaries. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team