Romeo and Juliet Summary and Analysis
Act Two, Introduction
The chorus introduces the next act, saying that Romeo has given up his old desire for a new affection. Juliet is likewise described as being in love. Both lovers share the problem that they cannot see each other without risking death, but the chorus indicates that passion will overcome that hurdle.
Act Two, Scene One
Romeo enters and leaps over a garden wall. Mercutio and Benvolio arrive looking for Romeo, but cannot see him. Mercutio then call out to him in long speech filled with obscene wordplay. Benvolio finally gets tired of searching for Romeo, and they leave.
Romeo has meanwhile succeeded in hiding beneath Juliet's balcony. She appears on her balcony and, in this famous scene, asks, "Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" (2.1.75). She wishes that Romeo's name did not make him her enemy. Romeo, hiding below her, surprises her by interupting and telling Juliet that he loves her.
Juliet warns Romeo that his protestations of love had better be real ones, since she has fallen in love with him and does not want to be hurt. Romeo swears by himself that he loves her, and Juliet tells him that she wishes she could give him her love again.
Juliet's Nurse calls her, and she disappears only to quickly reappear again. Juliet informs Romeo that if he truly loves her, he should propose marriage and tell her when and where to meet. The Nurse calls her a second time, and Juliet exits. Romeo is about to leave when she emerges yet a third time and calls him back.
Act Two, Scene Two
Friar Laurence is out collecting herbs when Romeo arrives. Romeo quickly tells him that he has fallen in love with Juliet Capulet. The Friar is surprised to hear that Rosaline has been forgotten about so quickly, but is delighted by the prospect of using this new love affair to unite the feuding families.
Act Two, Scene Three
Benvolio and Mercutio speak about Romeo's disappearance the night before. Benvolio tells Mercutio that Romeo did not come home at all. Romeo arrives and soon engages in a battle of wits with Mercutio, who is surprised by Romeo's quick replies. He says, "Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo" (2.3.77)
Juliet's Nurse arrives with her man Peter and asks to speak with Romeo. Mercutio starts making sexual jokes about the Nurse, but finally exits with Benvolio. The Nurse tells Romeo her mistress is willing to meet him in marriage. Romeo indicates the Nurse should have Juliet meet him at Friar Laurence's place that afternoon.
Act Two, Scene Four
Juliet eagerly awaits her Nurse and news from Romeo. The Nurse finally arrives and sits down. Juliet begs her for information, but the Nurse comically refuses to tell her anything until she has settled down and gotten a back rub. She finally informs Juliet that Romeo awaits her at the chapel where Friar Laurence lives.
Act Two, Scene Five
Romeo and Friar Laurence are in the chapel waiting for Juliet to arrive. The Friar cautions Romeo to "love moderately." Juliet soon appears and Friar Laurence takes the two young lovers into the church to be married.
The interaction and conflict of night and day is raised to new levels within the second act. Benvolio states that, "Blind is his love, and best befits the dark" (2.1.32), in reference to Romeo's passion. And when Romeo finally sees Juliet again, he wonders, "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. / Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon" (2.1.44-46). Romeo then invokes the darkness as a form of protection from harm, "I have night's cloak to hide me from their eyes" (2.1.117). This conflict will not end until the disorder of the day eventually overcomes the passionate nights and destroys the lives of both lovers.
It is worthwhile to note the difference between Juliet and Rosaline. Juliet is compared to the sun, and is one of the most giving characters in the play. "My bounty is as boundless as the sea, / My love as deep. The more I give thee / The more I have, for both are infinite" (2.1.175-177). Rosaline, by contrast, is said to be keeping all her beauty to herself, to die with her. This comparison is made even more evident when Romeo describes Rosaline as a Diana (the goddess of the moon) and says to Juliet, "Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon" (2.1.46).
The balcony scene is more than a great lovers' meeting place. It is in fact the same as if Romeo had entered into a private Eden. He has climbed over a large wall to enter the garden, which can be viewed as a sanctuary of virginity. Thus he has invaded the only place which Juliet deems private, seeing as her room is constantly watched by the Nurse or her mother.
One of the interesting things which Shakespeare frequently has his characters do is swear to themselves. For instance, when Romeo tries to swear by the moon, Juliet remarks that the moon waxes and wanes, and is too variable. Instead, she says, "Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self" (2.1.155). Shakespeare often has characters encouraged to be true to themselves first, as a sign that only then can they be true to others..
Again, note the change in Juliet's behavior. Whereas she used to obey the authority of her nurse, she now disappears twice, and twice defies authority and reappears. This is a sure sign of her emerging independence, and is a crucial factor in understanding her decision to marry Romeo and defy her parents.
There is a strong conflict between the uses of silver and gold throughout the action. "How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night" (2.1.210) and "Lady, by yonder blessed moon I vow, / That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops" (2.1.149-50). Silver is often invoked as a symbol of love and beauty. Gold, on the other hand, is often used ironically and as a sign of greed or desire. Rosaline is thus described as being immune to showers of gold, which almost seem to be a bribe. When Romeo is banished, he comments that banishment is a "golden axe," meaning that death would have been better and that banishment is merely a euphemism for the same thing. And finally, the erection of the statues of gold at the end is even more a sign of the fact that neither Capulet nor Montegue has really learned anything from the loss of their children.
One of the central issues is the difference between youth and old age. Friar Laurence acts as Romeo's confidant, and the Nurse advises for Juliet. However, both have advice that seems strangely out of place given the circumstances of the play. For instance, Friar Laurence says to Romeo, "Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast" (2.2.94). He also advises Romeo to "Therefore love moderately" (2.5.9). The insanity of this plea to love "moderately" is made ludicrous by the rapid events which follow. In fact, by the end of the play we even see Friar Laurence rejecting his own advice and stumbling to reach Juliet's grave before Romeo can find her. "How oft tonight have my old feet stumbled at graves?" (5.3.123).
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- About Romeo and Juliet
- Character List
- Summary and Analysis of Act 1
- Summary and Analysis of Act 2
- Summary and Analysis of Act 3
- Summary and Analysis of Act 4
- Summary and Analysis of Act 5
- About Shakespearean Theater
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