Why is the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet so famous? Why is that scene the most famous in all of literature?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Why is the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet so famous? John Keats gave us the answer: "A thing of beauty is a joy forever" (from his poem Endymion).

Act II, Scene 2 of Romeo and Juliet creates for readers and listeners those intensely poetic, deliciously romantic, delightfully emotionally stirring moments in which the audience is both fascinated by the exquisite language of the verse and moved themselves as they hear/read the words of young, bare emotion and sensuality.

Who is not dazzled by the beautiful light/dark imagery and her/his own memories stirred by Romeo's emotional excitement when he first sees Juliet: 

What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun....
Oh, it is my love.
Oh, that she knew she were!
Further, Romeo's burning desire to touch Juliet is so intense that he would be content to be a mere glove on her hand. What poetry!
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
Oh, that I were a glove upon that hand
That I might touch that cheek!
Such a beautiful image for such strong desire! To be a mere glove on the hand of the beloved--Romeo explodes with delightful and candid yearning, and he expresses it with such beauty. Who cannot relate to this youthful and human desire stated so romantically? What woman would not be moved by such tenderness in a man that he would be satisfied to be but a glove on her hand?

It is this sweet, burning passion and the other intense emotions in Romeo and Juliet that have captivated audiences for ages. Truly, Act II, Scene 2 holds in its beautiful light/dark imagery the fires of young hearts, the language of the soul, the language that all hold dear in their memories. It is language that transports the reader/audience to those inner territories of their own hearts and souls far from the trivial, petty, and mundane. It is language that leaves audiences with roses of thought and starry nights of feeling. It is language that is deliciously sensual and beautiful! It is perfection. 
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jameadows's profile pic

jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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The balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet is among the most famous in all of literature because it captures the idea of secret or forbidden love and shows two people fighting to overcome the obstacles that separate them—something many can relate to. Romeo and Juliet are from feuding families, but there are other reasons that lovers are separated. For example, they could be from different races, religions, ethnic groups, etc. Love does not recognize the barriers humans put up, so the appeal of the scene is universal.

In addition, at the beginning of the scene, Juliet appears above Romeo, and she does not realize that Romeo is present in the orchard. Therefore, she speaks candidly, and says, for example, that Romeo would be as beloved to her with another name. The lovers' determination to overcome the challenges that separate them paints a hopeful picture that glorifies love's ability to bridge differences.

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sullymonster's profile pic

sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Oh, what an interesting and challenging question!  What is ironic about this scene is that, while it is known as a famous love scene, it is really about the infatuation of two young teenagers, run away with their emotions. 

That being said, this scene includes some of the most creative and beautiful imagery in all literature.  The most known line is as follows:

It is the East, and Juliet is the sun.

Romeo goes on from here to praise Juliet with metaphors and imagery that establish her as the center of her universe.  He shows the tender emotions of fear and uncertainty, wanting to speak to her but afraid she will not respond.

When Juliet does respond, the two lovers quickly establish an equal footing.  Romeo praises her with poetic language about his love and her deserving qualities.  Juliet both tempers his language and praises him with her insistence that he - and nothing else in the universe - is the most valuable thing by which to promise his love. 

The feelings of first love, the passion of new love, are all bound up in this scene.  They are feelings that most readers can connect with and have fond memories of.  Shakespeare catches the intensity of the emotion and the high spirits that accompany it in the language of the two.  That is what makes it so popular.

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