What views of love are expressed in act 2, scene 2 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

In act 2, scene 2 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, love is expressed through patience. On numerous occasions in the scene, Juliet counsels Romeo to be patient. She is constantly interrupting him, trying to keep him a message. To know if this is real, she is saying, they must be patient.

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When Romeo and Juliet meet near the Capulet's balcony in act 2, scene 2, there are numerous different ways in which love is expressed. There is, of course, lust. There is always an undercurrent of lust in Shakespeare’s plays, and sometimes it is more overt than others, as when Romeo ...

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When Romeo and Juliet meet near the Capulet's balcony in act 2, scene 2, there are numerous different ways in which love is expressed. There is, of course, lust. There is always an undercurrent of lust in Shakespeare’s plays, and sometimes it is more overt than others, as when Romeo asks Juliet, “Wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?” But scholars have also noted it could simply mean that Romeo wants not a physical expression of love but merely a word from Juliet that his heart his hers as well. Even if there is more of a physical aspect to Romeo leaving unsatisfied, he will have to wait. In that sense, the love in this scene is more Biblical, as taken from the famous Corinthians passage: it is patient.

Much of the scene has Juliet flirting with Romeo, trying to steer him away from both his baser instincts and his more poetic side. She is trying to keep his love grounded while honoring her own feelings as best as she can. At the same time, she wants to be sure he really loves her back.

JULIET: Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say ‘ay’;

And I will take thy word. Yet if thou swear’st,

Thou mayst prove false. At lovers’ perjuries,

They say Jove laughs; O gentle Romeo,

If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully.

In addition to showing her vulnerability—it’s clear Juliet does not want to be hurt—she is also saying that she wants to believe him, that she will take his word. The problem for Romeo is that he is, frankly, talking too much and too prettily.

ROMEO: Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear,

That tips with silver all these fruit-tops—

JULIET: O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon…

ROMEO: What shall I swear by?

JULIET: Do not swear at all;

Or if thou wilt, swear by the gracious self

Which is the god of my idolatry

And I’ll believe thee

Juliet is telling Romeo that words are not enough: the words must also be true, not “inconstant,” since words, as she earlier says to him, “mayst prove false.” While there is no reason to doubt his sincerity, Romeo does not yet understand what Juliet wants from him.

ROMEO: If my heart’s dear love—

JULIET: Well, do not swear. Although I love thee,

I have no joy of this contract to-night.

It is too rash, too unadvis’d, too sudden...

Putting the brakes on both Romeo’s penchant for using turgid language and for his desire to rush into something that may or may not be real, Juliet brings her new lover down to earth. In several more instances in the scene, she will again and again hector Romeo to slow down, to let their feelings emerge organically—to wait and see if they are destined for each other. She is urging him, in other words, to be patient.

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One view of love that we see expressed in the balcony scene of Act II, Scene II is that it is a feeling of passion, even lust. We see both Romeo and Juliet expressing their lust in this scene.

Romeo expresses lust when he first sees Juliet appear in the balcony window. In particular, he refers to her beauty by comparing her to the moon, saying that she is "far more fair," or far more beautiful than the moon (II.ii.4). Focusing on her beauty is a way of focusing on his physical attraction for her, or his lust. We further see Romeo illustrate his lust for her when he metaphorically tells her in his mind to cast of her clothing or her virginity. We see him say this in his extended metaphor about the moon:

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And non but fools do wear it. Cast it off. (II.ii.4-9)

In these lines, Romeo is using the moon to also refer to the Roman goddess Diana, whose symbol was the moon and who was the virgin goddess of childbirth. He is also calling Juliet the moon's handmaiden, or Diana's handmaiden. In telling Juliet to cast off "[h]er vestal livery," he is telling her to cast off her virginal handmaiden's uniform, or virginal clothing, with "vestal" meaning virginal and "livery" referring to a uniform or clothing. Therefore, in his imagination, in these lines, he is telling her to either cast off her clothes or cast off her virginity, another sign of his feelings of lust for her.

Juliet also shows in this scene how she equates love partially with lust. While she thinks she is alone, she asks herself what is so important about the name Montague, and answers:

[I]t is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. (42-44)

Juliet's list of manly anatomy ending with an unnamed "any other part / Belonging to a man" shows us that she is thinking of Romeo's physical attributes, thinking of her physical attraction to him, which means she is also feeling lustful.

However, both Romeo and Juliet make it clear that they also view love as a commitment, not just a passing, lustful phase. Juliet is the first to refer to commitment, asking Romeo to faithfully declare the he loves her. Romeo reciprocates by asking her to exchange "love's faithful vow for [his own]" (133). Finally, Juliet asks about marriage, which is the ultimate sign that Juliet views love as a commitment, as we see in her lines, "If that thy bent of love be honourable, / Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow" (149-150).

Therefore, the two views of love that we see expressed in Act II, Scene II are that love is a feeling of lust and also a feeling of commitment.

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