How would you paraphrase Romeo's lines 54-55 in Act 1, Scene 5 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?  Did my heart love till now ? Forswear it sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this sight....

How would you paraphrase Romeo's lines 54-55 in Act 1, Scene 5 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Did my heart love till now ? Forswear it sight!

For I ne'er saw true beauty till this sight. (55)

Asked on by princess96

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tamarakh's profile pic

Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

When Romeo asks himself, "Did my heart love till now?," he is asking himself if he truly knew what love was before he saw Juliet. He is asking himself if he truly loved Rosaline or if he is now at this very moment just beginning to learn what love is.

In the phrase, "Forswear it, sight!," the term "forswear" can be translated as "renounce," meaning "give up" the idea, "disown" the idea, or "deny" the idea (Random House Dictionary). In other words, in saying, "Forswear it sight!," Romeo is telling his eyes to reject the idea that he truly knew what love was before he saw Juliet. Romeo's answer to his own question of whether or not he knew what love was before he saw Juliet is basically, "No!"

Romeo's final line, "For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night," completes his argument that he is equating love with an acknowledgement of beauty. Since he never saw a woman as beautiful as Juliet until that night, he did not truly know what love was.

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teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 2) Educator

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Romeo has just seen Juliet from afar at the masquerade ball and states:

Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear,
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.
In the lines quoted: 
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night,
Romeo says he never was in love until now because he has never seen such a truly, exquisitely beautiful young woman as Juliet.
 
Romeo equates love with beauty. He objectifies Juliet, falling in love with her as a thing or outward form he sees from far away. He has not met her, never spoken to her and knows nothing of her mind, her character or her soul. We might say that for the young Romeo, love equates to love for a woman's body.
 
These utterances are filled with irony and one can imagine how much Shakespeare enjoyed putting these lines in the mouth of the fickle and histrionic Romeo. Just a few hours previous to this, Romeo had been pining for Rosaline, worrying his father by spending his nights wandering the woods and his days in a darkened room, moping and mooning. When Benvolio urges him to look at the other lovely women of Verona, Romeo completely denies to Benvolio any possibility that he could ever be attracted to anyone other than Rosaline. Rosaline, Romeo declares, is a person "thou canst not teach me to forget." When he agrees to go to the party, he insists he will see nobody he likes, but instead will "rejoice in [the] splendor" of Rosaline, who, after all, is unmatched "since first the world began."
 
Of course, once Romeo lays eyes on Juliet, all thoughts of any other woman are completely banished from Romeo's mind. Juliet becomes the new all in all. Rosaline is instantly relegated to the dustbin of history.
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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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 Did my heart love till now? Forswear it sight!
 For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.

In Act I, Scene 5, when Romeo first perceives the young, lovely Juliet, he is love-struck. To paraphrase what he says in these two lines, Romeo wonders if he has really ever loved anyone before this particular moment. If he has thought so before now, then his eyes betrayed him because he has never seen true beauty until this moment.

The irony here, though, is that Romeo is still dealing with the passions and physical attractions of youth and has not yet reached the point of real love as he examines Juliet's beauty. At this point in the play, he knows nothing of her personality. He has simply been hit by Cupid's arrow. Also, as he has done already in this play, Shakespeare uses language to indicate character. The rhyming couplets indicate that passion is in the air, and Romeo feels the force of Juliet's attractiveness.

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