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What is the modern English translation of this excerpt from Romeo and Juliet, act 2, scene 2?

Thou know'st the mask of night is on my face,

Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek

For that which thou hast heard me speak to-night

Fain would I dwell on form, fain, fain deny

What I have spoke: but farewell compliment!

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

Then say, Jove laughs. O gentle Romeo,

If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully:

Or if thou think'st I am too quickly won,

I'll frown and be perverse an say thee nay,

So thou wilt woo; but else, not for the world.

In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond,

And therefore thou mayst think my 'havior light:

But trust me, gentleman, I'll prove more true

Than those that have more cunning to be strange.

I should have been more strange, I must confess,

But that thou overheard'st, ere I was ware,

My true love's passion: therefore pardon me,

And not impute this yielding to light love,

Which the dark night hath so discovered.

Expert Answers

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In this scene, Juliet is startled to realize that Romeo has been hiding in the bushes beneath her balcony and has overheard her declare her love for him. A translation (my own) is below:

Romeo, you can't see me in the dark, but I am blushing with embarrassment over what you just overheard me say. I am embarrassed but I can't deny that what I said is true. I do love you. Now let's forget all the compliments and get straight to the point. Do you love me? If you do, say so quickly.

I know you have to say yes, after what you overheard me say. I will believe you, but I also know you might be lying. After all, the gods laugh at lover's vows. But dear Romeo, if you do love me, say it honestly.

If you think I am too easily won, I will frown and pretend to hate you so that you have to run after me, but otherwise, I would never do that because I like you too much.

I realize I should be playing hard to get. You may think me shallow for falling in love so quickly, but, in reality, my love is real. It is more real than the love of those who play all sorts of games.

Unfortunately, you overhead how passionate I am about you: don't mistake this for a shallow infatuation.

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Technically speaking, Shakespeare's original text for Romeo and Juliet is written in modern English. Some sources divide modern English into some sub-categories, and Shakespeare would then be considered Early Modern English. Often, students believe that Shakespeare wrote in Old English or Middle English, but both of those are vastly different from Shakespeare's English. Many readers find Middle English difficult to read, and most readers aren't capable of reading Old English anymore. Beowulf is written in Old English and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is written in Middle English. If you are looking for a prose summary of act 2, scene 2, then I recommend the link below that will take you to the eNotes act 2, scene 2 summary. Basic Google searches for a summary of that scene will come up with some good results as well. If you are looking for more of a line-by-line translation using what people would consider "today's English," with current slang, jargon, and vocabulary, I would recommend myshakespeare.com

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Follow the link below for a modern English translation. The quoted passage begins around the middle of the page.

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