When Romeo meets Juliet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, what's his first impression of her?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When Romeo sees Juliet for the first time when he "crashes" the Capulets' ball, he asks a Servingman:

What lady's that, which doth enrich the hand
Of yonder knight?

He is immediately smitten by her beauty and grace. When the Servingman tells him, "I know not, sir," Romeo says:

O she doth teach the torches to burn bright.
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear--
Beauty too rich for me, for earth too dear.

It doesn't take very long for the impetuous Romeo to ask her for a dance. He is obviously a victim of love at first sight. Although the young lady is supposedly only thirteen years old, she is able to cast a spell over Romeo. His first words to her are:

If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

Romeo has already forgotten about his passionate love for Rosaline--although she was the reason he took the risk of coming to the ball at the home of his family's enemies, the Capulets. What is being shown in this scene is not merely love at first sight but the potential tragedy it engenders. The play is all about the pitiful fate of two "star-crossed lovers," as the audience has been warned by the Chorus in the opening lines of the first act. By "star-crossed" the poet means that they were subject to malignant astrological influence. They were predestined to meet and to fall in love and to die tragically. So their first meeting is both touching and ominous. The ominous aspect is highlighted by the Tybalt's furious reaction to Romeo's party-crashing and his attentions to Juliet. The boldness and audacity that infuriate Tybalt are two of Romeo's qualities that make him so appealing to Juliet.

 

 

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