Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 722
From forth the loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows,
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife. (Opening Prologue)
From the play's opening prologue we can garner the events of the play in a nutshell. The ill-fated union of Romeo and Juliet will result in their (and others) deaths, but with this will come an end to the ancient feud between the Montagues and Capulets.
My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me,
That I must love a loathed enemy (I, v)
Juliet speaks with her nurse after meeting Romeo at the conclusion of Act I. She remarks that she fell in love with Romeo right away, and only later discovered that he is a Montague ("known too late"). This quote highlights the heart of the theme in the play: the "star-crossed" lovers.
Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night (III, ii)
After their initial meeting, the lyrical and imaginitive quality of Romeo and Juliet's love reaches sublime heights. Juliet speaks to herself here while waiting for Romeo, her imagination the stuff of "heaven" and "stars".
O serpent heart, hid with a flowering face!
Did ever dragon keep so fair a cave?
Beautiful tyrant! fiend angelical!
Dove-feather'd raven! wolvish-ravening lamb! (III, ii)
Juliet learns that Romeo has killed Tybalt and vents her anger in good/evil terms. Thus Romeo, is a "serpent" with the face of a flower, a "dragon" in a "fair" cave. Her love for Romeo overcomes her anger shortly after.
And world's exile is death,--then banished
Is death mis-term'd: calling death banishment,
Thou cutt'st my head off with a golden axe,
And smil'st upon the stroke that murders me. ... (III, iii)
Romeo speaks with Friar Laurence after learning of his banishment from Verona. Juliet, in Verona, is his "world" and he likens banishment to exile from the world, and thus death by means of a "golden axe."
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 use, for earth too dear! (I, v)
Romeo's words upon seeing Juliet for the first time. Immediately his speech begins to transcend anything earlier in the play. Love and the night are equated, just as Juliet will later speak of Romeo as fit to grace the stars of the night.
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night (II, ii)
Another fine lyrical example of Romeo's love for Juliet. The light/dark motif (discussed in the critical discussion) is evident here, with the contrasts between night and day, and the stars and the sun.
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 (II, vi)
The voice of reason in the play, the Friar here speaks with Romeo. He remarks on the "violent" delights of love and how they can have "violent ends" and he urges to love moderately. The quote highlights one of the inherent contradictions of love and falling in love. His remarks, of course, are prescient.
O fortune, fortune! all men call thee fickle:
If thou art fickle, what dost thou with him
That is renown'd for faith? Be fickle, fortune;
For then, I hope, thou wilt not keep him long
But send him back
Fortune is a prominent theme in the play, as in many of Shakespeare's works. Here, Juliet speaks to herself after Romeo leaves, urging Fortune to send Romeo back to her. Her words suggest that no matter how much faith one puts into something, we are, in some sense, at the whim of Fortune.