Explain Juliet's allusion to Greek mythology in the opening lines of scene ii in Romeo and Juliet. 

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Juliet's soliloquy in Act III, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is all about her strong desire for nightfall, which is when she expects to see Romeo. In Greek mythology the sun was a flaming chariot driven across the the sky by the sun god Phoebus Apollo. He started his daily journey in the east and drove all the way across the sky to descend in the west, at which time night would begin to fall. (The sun god is depicted in one of the episodes in Walt Disney's beautiful animated film Fantasia, probably in the one which was based on Beethoven's 6th Symphony, the "Pastoral" Symphony.)

That Juliet is wishing for night to come speedily is expressed more directly in lines 10 and 11:

Come civil night,
Thou sober-suited matron all in black.

There is a contrast between the allusion to the blazing sun and the dark night, which Juliet compares metaphorically to a woman all dressed in formal black attire. By the term "civil night" she means a time that is suited to "civilized" pleasures such as wining, dining, dancing, cultural events, love-making, and sleep.

Later in the soliloquy Juliet is even more specific about her meaning where she says:

Come, loving, black-browed night,
Give me my Romeo.

So the young lady is, to say the least, impatient. She is wishing that Phoebus Apollo would whip his fiery horses and make them move much faster in order to bring nightfall sooner.

karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the start of Act III, scene ii, Juliet delivers a soliloquy. In the first few lines of that speech, she makes an allusion to Phoebus:

Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Toward Phoebus' lodging. Such a wagoner
As Phaeton would whip you to the west
And bring in cloudy night immediately. (III.ii.1-4)
Phoebus is an allusion to Apollo, the Greek god of the sun (among other things). In myth, Apollo is depicted as driving a chariot (Phaeton) that controls the rising and setting of the sun. In this early part of her monologue, Juliet wishes for the sun to set and the night to arrive. Therefore, she is asking Apollo's (metaphorical) horses to go to Apollo's home. This is another way of saying she wants the sun to go down. She wants Apollo's "steeds" to go quickly west and "bring in the cloudy night." She is hoping to rush the rest of the day away so that she can see Romeo sooner. They have made a plan to meet that night, and Juliet is anxious to move toward that time and is impatient with waiting. Juliet goes on to to talk in praise of the night using metaphor and personification. She equates Romeo with night: "Come, night. Come, Romeo." Juliet needs Apollo's help because the day will not naturally end as soon as she wants it to. The allusion to Greek mythology emphasizes how desperately Juliet wants to be with Romeo.
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Romeo and Juliet

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