What are examples of caesura in Romeo and Juliet?

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hmartin17 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Caesura is a pause or interruption in the middle of the line, usually signaled by punctuation. In Shakespeare's texts, caesura refers more to a pause in a metrical foot, since Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is a line of verse with five metric feet, and each foot has one unstressed and one stressed syllable in it. Usually, caesuras are used to mark an important word or phrase in a verse. Because a caesura disrupts the normal metrical flow of a verse, attention is called to whatever word or phrase does not follow the rule. 

For example, during the famous balcony scene in "Romeo and Juliet," caesuras are marked primarily through punctuation. When Juliet asks, "What's Montague? It is..." in the middle of a line, her question is marked not only by a question mark, but also by the subsequent pause it provides (act 2, scene 2, line 40). Juliet continues with her speech, and again asks, "What's in a name?" allowing the question mark to break the line in half (2.2.43). When Romeo answers her speech with a vow of love, he breaks the line with caesura when he calls Juliet a name of adoration. When he says, "My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself," the phrase "dear saint" allows two pauses with the two commas, and also allows a pause that refers back to Juliet (2.2.55). Juliet's pauses signal her night-time wonderings and the theme of identity in the play, while Romeo's pauses mark his devotion to Juliet.