Act II, Scene 2, often referred to as the balcony scene, of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is considered one of drama's most popular and famous scenes. In this scene, Romeo climbs over a wall into the Capulet orchard to catch another glimpse of Juliet. He has known the girl for only a few minutes but is already head over heels in love with her. They exchange words of love and Romeo proposes marriage, which Juliet, despite the bitter feud between her family and his, accepts.
A couplet is simply two consecutive lines of poetry that rhyme. There are several examples of couplets in this scene and throughout the play. On a side note, notice that only those who are wealthy or of noble birth speak in couplets. The servants never do. Of course, Romeo and Juliet come from two of the most prominent families in Verona, so they often speak in couplets.
A good first example, and one which reinforces Shakespeare's theme of dark and light, is uttered by Romeo as he stands watching Juliet from below her balcony. He says in lines 22-23,
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
He often refers to Juliet as the light and brightest thing around. He compares her to torches and the sun, and here he says her eyes would light up the night.
Sometimes, because Shakespeare wants to show how in tune Romeo and Juliet are to each other, he has them speak together in a rhyming couplet, as in lines 74-75:
Romeo: Therefore thy kinsmen are no stop to me.
Juliet: If they do see thee, they will murder thee.
At one point Juliet tries to slow things down and urges Romeo to leave. She believes they may be rushing into things and wants some time for each to think. She attempts to wish him good night in lines 130-131:
Good night, good night. As sweet repose and rest
Come to thy heart as that within my breast.
Romeo, of course, is not to be put off and asks her to marry him. At this point she is briefly interrupted by the Nurse and says, in lines 143-144
I hear some noise within. Dear love, adieu.—
Anon, good nurse.—Sweet Montague, be true.
The two exchange goodbyes a few times and at one point Romeo uses a metaphor
comparing himself to a schoolboy who loves to leave his books and go to his girlfriend in lines 166-168:
Love goes toward love as schoolboys from their
But love from love, toward school with heavy looks.
When they finally do part company, Juliet recites possibly the most famous couplet in the entire play. She says, in lines 199-201:
Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet
That I shall say “Good night” till it be morrow.
The last couplets of the scene are in the final lines, after Juliet has exited. Romeo tells the audience in an aside that he is too excited to sleep and needs to speak to Friar Laurence
right away. In lines 202-205 Romeo says:
Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy breast.
Would I were sleep and peace so sweet to rest.
Hence will I to my ghostly friar’s close cell,
His help to crave, and my dear hap to tell.