Romeo and Juliet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What does this quote illustrate? "These violent delights have violent ends / And in their triumph die, like fire and powder /  Which as they kiss consume. The sweetest honey is loathsome in his own deliciousness / and in the taste confounds the appetite. Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so. Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow."

Even though Friar Laurence has agreed to marry Romeo and Juliet, he thinks it is necessary to give some advice first. The Friar explains that love begins wildly and passionately, but its initial vigor fades. He says this can be overcome and a strong relationship can be built by loving moderately and patiently. Laurence uses imagery such as fire, gun powder, and honey as ways to illustrate varying characterizations of love.

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Marietta Sadler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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These lines are spoken by Friar Laurence to Romeo, in act 2, scene 6, just before Romeo and Juliet get married. Friar Laurence is warning Romeo not to be too rash, reckless, or extreme in the way that he loves Juliet.

When he refers to "these violent delights," Friar Laurence is referring to the violent intensity with which Romeo and Juliet love one another. He warns Romeo that unless he and Juliet learn to love one another more moderately, their love shall result in "violent ends." Later in the play, we discover that this warning was prescient, as Romeo and Juliet's love does indeed end in violence.

Friar Laurence also compares Romeo and Juliet's love to "fire and powder." The image evoked here is of a trail of gunpowder which, when set alight, becomes a trail of fire. Often there is an explosion at the end of a gunpowder trail, and in this sense this image too foreshadows Romeo and Juliet's fate. Their love is like a trail of gunpowder running throughout the play which leads, inevitably, to an explosion. Just a few years after the play was first performed, a group of Catholics tried to blow up the House of Lords with barrels of gunpowder. The allusion in the play to "fire and powder" would have thus had a particularly strong resonance for audiences watching the play at this time.

Continuing with the same theme of loving recklessly, Friar Laurence then compares Romeo and Juliet's love to "the sweetest honey," which, when eaten too greedily and too quickly, becomes "loathsome" and can make one feel ill. In other words, Friar Laurence is saying that Romeo and Juliet are feeding upon their love too greedily and too quickly, so it will make them ill and the love "loathsome."

After comparing their love to a trail of gunpowder and too much sweet honey, Friar Laurence tells Romeo to "love moderately"—preserve the love rather than destroy it. Romeo, of course, is too naive and too much overwhelmed by his first experience of reciprocated love to heed Frair Laurence's advice. He continues to love violently and greedily, and his love, accordingly, ends in violence.

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First, Shakespeare uses an oxymoron here: "violent delights." By doing so, he highlights the relationship of the young lovers. While they delight in each other, their love is based in the violent hatred between their families. While they delight in each other, Romeo will commit an act of violence against Tybalt, which will end their delight together. Their relationship is wrapped in duality, borne in intense passions of both love and hatred.

These lines also foreshadow the ending of the play. Romeo and...

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