Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet Quotes and Analysis


Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows

Do with their death bury their parents' strife.

The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,

And the continuance of their parents' rage,

Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,

Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;

The which if you with patient ears attend,

What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.


Romeo and Juliet begins with a Chorus, which establishes the plot and tone of the play. This device was hardly new to Shakespeare, and in fact echoes the structure of Arthur Brooke's The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, the poem that served as Shakespeare's inspiration. However, the Chorus also introduces a number of contradictions that resonate throughout the rest of the play. The Chorus speaks in a sonnet, a very structured form of poetry that implies order. However, the content of the sonnet – two families are unable to control themselves, and hence bringing disaster to themselves – suggests incredible disorder. This systematic dissolution is central to the play. It is typical for a tragedy to begin with a Chorus, and certainly, the dire circumstances of this opening address reinforce that trope. However, Shakespeare never clearly addresses the question of whether or not Romeo and Juliet is a classical tragedy - which is defined as a tragedy of Fate. By introducing a foreboding tone but refusing to lay the blame at the universe’s feet, the Chorus also introduces Shakespeare's unique approach to tragedy.


[To JULIET] If I profane with my unworthiest hand

This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand

To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.


Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,

Which mannerly devotion shows in this;

For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,

And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.


Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?


Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.


O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;

They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.


Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.


Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.

Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.


Then have my lips the sin that they have took.


Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!

Give me my sin again.


You kiss by the book.


This exchange, Romeo and Juliet's first, is suitably passionate while also introducing the idea that their relationship transcends traditional religious expectation. The lovers speak in a sonnet that invokes the images of saints and pilgrims. Shakespeare's choice to use a sonnet – a highly structured form – suggests that their love represents order. The sonnet refers to the fact that Romeo’s name translates to ‘pilgrim’ in Italian, but it is more significant for its sacrilegious use of the imagery. Romeo and Juliet use religious images in a sexualized manner, which would most certainly have been considered sacrilegious. This conveys to the audience that the love between Romeo and Juliet exists despite the complications in the world around them. Therefore, as the sonnet implies, the only way for them to pursue their feelings is to create their own little world.


O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?

Deny thy father and refuse thy name;

Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,

And I'll no longer be a Capulet.


[Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?


'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;

Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.

What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,

Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part

Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!

What's in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,

And for that name which is no part of thee

Take all myself.


Juliet's famous soliloquy is notable for more than its gorgeous language. It also allows Shakespeare to establish the private nature of love by breaking the convention of a soliloquy, and it introduces the theme of identity as well. A soliloquy is commonly used to reveal a character's private thoughts to the audience, but kept secret from all of the other characters in the play. By having Romeo overhear Juliet's private words, Shakespeare creates a cocoon around their love, insinuating that pure love is meant to exist in a private world. Romeo's presence during Juliet's soliloquy is, on one hand, an invasion, but on the other hand, it is a reminder of the cost of intimacy. That Juliet both allows and cherishes Romeo's interruption reminds the audience that true love asks requires lovers to reveal their most private thoughts to one another. Shakespeare also explicitly introduces the theme of identity in this passage. Juliet wishes that Romeo could transcend the conflict surrounding his name. Her famous declaration – "What's in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet" – explicitly expresses the idea that a person is more than his or her public identity or label. At this point, the lovers understand that they must eschew the expectations of society if they are to ever find true happiness.


Do not swear at all;

Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,

Which is the god of my idolatry,

And I'll believe thee.


This short line from the balcony scene explores the idea that true love requires both parties to be a self-contained unit. Juliet encourages this idea by suggesting that she will believe Romeo only if he swears to himself, rather than to a heavenly power. Romeo tries to swear by the moon, but Juliet remarks that because the moon waxes and wanes, it is too unreliable. Instead, she says, "Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self." Shakespeare often has characters encourage each other to be true to themselves first - and if they can, it is a sign that they can also be true to others. In this context, the characters must accept their individual identities (rather than their family names) in order to experience true love. By stressing this point, Juliet invokes the insular, selfish nature of love that defines her relationship with Romeo throughout the play.


O, she knew well

Thy love did read by rote and could not spell.

But come, young waverer, come, go with me,

In one respect I'll thy assistant be;

For this alliance may so happy prove,

To turn your households' rancour to pure love.


O, let us hence; I stand on sudden haste.


Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.


Shakespeare introduces Friar Laurence as a character with complicated motives. In this exchange, Laurence presents his unique multi-faceted psychology. He is, in many ways, an imperfect religious figure, one who is willing to compromise the religious sanctity of marriage for the sake of a political goal. He clearly finds Romeo’s new passion suspect, but agrees to perform the ceremony so that he can help end the feud. The dichotomy between society's pressures and Romeo and Juliet's desires is again apparent here. Friar Laurence also promotes moderation in the final line. Many scholars believe that Shakespeare meant his audience to understand that the tragedy in Romeo and Juliet is the result of a lack of moderation – Romeo and Juliet subsumed themselves too quickly to passion, and it consumed them. However, this presumed message does not account for the complexities of their love. Laurence's insistence on moderation is arguably more applicable to Romeo and Juliet's families, who cannot manage their feud. In this small exchange, Shakespeare again reveals his ability to craft unique psychology, even in a minor character.


Why, is not this better now than groaning for love?

now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art

thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature:

for this drivelling love is like a great natural,

that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole.


When Romeo reconnects with Benvolio and Mercutio after meeting Juliet in her courtyard, Mercutio speaks these lines to him out of admiration. As Mercutio notes, Romeo has traded his tendency for pensive moping and can now verbally jest with ease. In calling Romeo "sociable," Mercutio is potentially suggesting that after meeting Juliet, Romeo has reclaimed his masculinity - he is now the man he is meant to be "by art as well as nature." However, these lines also indicate that Romeo has discovered his true identity now that he has sworn his love to Juliet. He loves no less than he had before (he actually loves more), but he now knows that he need not broadcast those feelings to the world. He no longer has use for generating attention in that way, because he has found a new outlet for his passion. Therefore, when Mercutio commends his friend's new attitude, he is noting that Romeo has indeed matured. By extension, Shakespeare suggests that love helps a person achieve autonomy, and therefore, navigate the world with confidence.


No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a

church-door; but 'tis enough,'twill serve: ask for

me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man. I

am peppered, I warrant, for this world. A plague o'

both your houses! 'Zounds, a dog, a rat, a mouse, a

cat, to scratch a man to death! a braggart, a

rogue, a villain, that fights by the book of

arithmetic! Why the devil came you between us? I

was hurt under your arm.


I thought all for the best.


Help me into some house, Benvolio,

Or I shall faint. A plague o' both your houses!

They have made worms' meat of me: I have it,

And soundly too: your houses!


In the final lines before his death, Mercutio cements his place as one of Romeo and Juliet's most enduring characters. Even while he is on his deathbed, Mercutio displays a singular talent for verbal acrobatics and jest, insisting he will be a "grave man" by the next day and suggesting that his mortal wound is still not enough to force him to go to church. However, his energy also takes a darker turn, as he cries out, "A plague o' both your houses." Mercutio uses his last breaths to chastise the Montagues and Capulets for their bloody feud - which is entirely preventable. He screams this famous phrase three times in succession, as if it were an actual curse - an appropriate punishment for the bloodshed that has occurred. Mercutio’s murder, meanwhile, forces Romeo into adulthood. Before his friend's death, Romeo is able to separate himself from his family, considering the feud a childish distraction - but once it starts to affect him directly, he cannot help but take action. He kills Tybalt to avenge Mercutio's death, and must suffer the consequences. When Mercutio dies, Romeo learns the hard way that his actions have real-world consequences, despite his noble intentions. Perhaps to make sure his pensive friend does not miss out on the lesson, Mercutio makes it abundantly clear in his final words – Romeo is a member of the Montague 'house' whether he likes it or not.


Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,

Towards Phoebus' lodging: such a wagoner

As Phaethon would whip you to the west,

And bring in cloudy night immediately.

Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,

That runaway's eyes may wink and Romeo

Leap to these arms, untalk'd of and unseen.

Lovers can see to do their amorous rites

By their own beauties; or, if love be blind,

It best agrees with night. Come, civil night,

Thou sober-suited matron, all in black,

And learn me how to lose a winning match,

Play'd for a pair of stainless maidenhoods:

Hood my unmann'd blood, bating in my cheeks,

With thy black mantle; till strange love, grown bold,

Think true love acted simple modesty.

Come, night; come, Romeo; come, thou day in night;

For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night

Whiter than new snow on a raven's back.

Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow'd night,

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

And pay no worship to the garish sun.

O, I have bought the mansion of a love,

But not possess'd it, and, though I am sold,

Not yet enjoy'd: so tedious is this day

As is the night before some festival

To an impatient child that hath new robes

And may not wear them. O, here comes my nurse,

And she brings news; and every tongue that speaks

But Romeo's name speaks heavenly eloquence.


This is one of Romeo and Juliet's most elegant soliloquies. Juliet testifies to the power of separation from her beloved and reminds the audience of the play's recurring theme of order vs. disorder. As Shakespeare establishes earlier in the play, Juliet associates order with the calm of night and disorder with the complications of daytime. The dramatic irony of her speech is that by this point, the audience knows that Romeo has killed Tybalt and will soon be punished, while Juliet does not - which only underscores the intensity of the divide between order and disorder. Furthermore, Juliet's language has sexual overtones because she is anticipating the consummation of her marriage. She thinks of nighttime as the time when she and her lover can find peace away from the chaos surrounding them. She also betrays her age and youthful idealism in her childish hope that the power of their love can change the world. Her optimism is all the more affecting because the Nurse arrives moments later and tells Juliet the bad news of Romeo's banishment.


Hold thy desperate hand:

Art thou a man? thy form cries out thou art:

Thy tears are womanish; thy wild acts denote

The unreasonable fury of a beast:

Unseemly woman in a seeming man!

Or ill-beseeming beast in seeming both!

Thou hast amazed me: by my holy order,

I thought thy disposition better temper'd.

Hast thou slain Tybalt? wilt thou slay thyself?

And stay thy lady too that lives in thee,

By doing damned hate upon thyself?

Why rail'st thou on thy birth, the heaven, and earth?

Since birth, and heaven, and earth, all three do meet

In thee at once; which thou at once wouldst lose.

Fie, fie, thou shamest thy shape, thy love, thy wit;

Which, like a usurer, abound'st in all,

And usest none in that true use indeed

Which should bedeck thy shape, thy love, thy wit:

Thy noble shape is but a form of wax,

Digressing from the valour of a man;

Thy dear love sworn but hollow perjury,

Killing that love which thou hast vow'd to cherish;

Thy wit, that ornament to shape and love,

Misshapen in the conduct of them both,

Like powder in a skitless soldier's flask,

Is set afire by thine own ignorance,

And thou dismember'd with thine own defence.

What, rouse thee, man! thy Juliet is alive,

For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead;

There art thou happy: Tybalt would kill thee,

But thou slew'st Tybalt; there are thou happy too:

The law that threaten'd death becomes thy friend

And turns it to exile; there art thou happy:

A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back;

Happiness courts thee in her best array;

But, like a misbehaved and sullen wench,

Thou pout'st upon thy fortune and thy love:

Take heed, take heed, for such die miserable.

Go, get thee to thy love, as was decreed,

Ascend her chamber, hence and comfort her:

But look thou stay not till the watch be set,

For then thou canst not pass to Mantua;

Where thou shalt live, till we can find a time

To blaze your marriage, reconcile your friends,

Beg pardon of the prince, and call thee back

With twenty hundred thousand times more joy

Than thou went'st forth in lamentation.

Go before, nurse: commend me to thy lady;

And bid her hasten all the house to bed,

Which heavy sorrow makes them apt unto:

Romeo is coming.


In this passage, Friar Laurence chides Romeo for attempting suicide when the young man is facing banishment for Tybalt's murder. Friar Laurence criticizes Romeo for his cowardice, suggesting that by trying to take his own life, Romeo is displaying feminine characteristics. Laurence also tries to snap Romeo out of his pessimism, pointing out that neither he nor Juliet are actually dead. The Friar's rebuke is an example of the fact that Romeo and Juliet is a new kind of tragedy - where psychology is to blame rather than fate. At this point, Romeo is desperate and has chosen to end his life - but human intervention is the only reason he does not follow through. In telling Romeo to simply wait until "we can find a time/To blaze your marriage," Friar Laurence is demanding that Romeo behave like a rational adult and deal with his problem in a suitably mature way. While some of Friar Laurence's lesson gets through to Romeo, what the holy man does not understand is that Romeo is still a passionate youth who might reconnect with Juliet but has little interest in the demands of measured maturity. In this way, this speech also foreshadows the way that impetuous, passionate youth plays a major part in the play's tragic ending.


A glooming peace this morning with it brings;

The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:

Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;

Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished:

For never was a story of more woe

Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.


In the concluding speech of Romeo and Juliet, the Prince wraps up the tragic plot and suggests the possibility of future peace between the Montagues and Capulets. He does describe it as a "glooming peace", which does not detract from the fact that the play has reached a reconciliation, but it is also indicative of some more subtle points. First of all, Romeo and Juliet is not truly a classical tragedy because it ends with a reconciliation instead of total annihilation. Some scholars do not ascribe to this interpretation but regardless, it is clear that the play has moral overtones, since the youthful purity of Romeo and Juliet's love leads to positive changes in their world, even though they are no longer alive. When the Prince notes that the "sun…will not show his head," it reminds the audience about the connection between daytime and disorder. The lesson here seems to be then, that tragedy can lead to change, if people are actually willing to learn from it.