In Romeo and Juliet, what does it mean when a character uses rhyme instead of prose or iambic pentameter?Romeo, Juliet, Friar Lawrence and other characters all use rhyme at some point in Romeo...

 In Romeo and Juliet, what does it mean when a character uses rhyme instead of prose or iambic pentameter?

Romeo, Juliet, Friar Lawrence and other characters all use rhyme at some point in Romeo and Juliet, but iambic pentameter or prose for the rest of the play.  What does it mean when they are speaking in rhyme?

Expert Answers
Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before I answer I have to clarify that just because a writer uses rhyme doesn't mean that rhyme can't be within the confines of iambic pentameter or even prose.  In fact, the rhymes that I use as examples here are still in iambic pentameter:  Shakespeare's meter of choice.  With that being said, here is my answer:

Shakespeare's use of rhyme within the words of Romeo, Juliet, or even Friar Lawrence means the author himself wished to have those words receive a more melodic quality.  Take, for example, the words that Romeo speaks the first time he sees Juliet.  Shakespeare continues in his usual iambic pentameter, but adds rhyme here to give Romeo's words a more romantic quality with their melodic quality (something that never appeared when he spoke of Rosaline in the past).  "Did my heart love till now?  Forswear it, sight! / For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night."  If you look at the ends of the lines here you see the following rhymes:  "bright/night," "ear/dear," "crows/shows," "stand/hand," sight/night."  Shakespeare continues this melodic speech when Romeo and Juliet actually have their first conversation which is even more exciting because the two are as one already, sharing the same rhyme scheme.  Juliet says, "Saints do not move though grant for prayers' sake."  And Romeo replies, "Then move not while my prayer's effect I take."  This is all, of course, leading up to their first kiss.  Is this the first time anyone has commented that Shakespeare was a master of the art that is the English Language?  I think not!  : )