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Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Art and Culture Quotes

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Quote #4

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows,
As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I'll watch her place of stand,
And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.
(1.5.2)

Do you think this passage where Romeo compares Juliet to a "rich jewel" is good enough to stand on its own as a piece of poetry? So did John Gaugh, the author of a seventeenth-century version of "Dating for Dummies." In his 1639 book, The Academy of Compliments, Gough "borrows" Romeo's lines and places them in a poem he calls "Encomiums on the Beauty of his Mistress." You can compare Romeo's lines (above) to Gough's poem (courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library).

Quote #5

ROMEO [1st Quatrain (4 lines)]
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.

JULIET [2nd Quatrain (4 lines)]
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.

ROMEO 3rd [Quatrain (4 lines)]
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
JULIET
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
ROMEO
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

JULIET [Rhymed Couplet (2 lines)]
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.
ROMEO
Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
(1.5.2)

This dialogue Romeo and Juliet forms a near perfect Shakespearean sonnet (a popular poetic form). A Shakespearean (a.k.a. an English sonnet) has fourteen lines in iambic pentameter. There are three quatrains (groups of four lines), followed by a rhyming couplet (two lines) that wraps the poem up. Sonnets also feature a "turn" somewhere in the middle or in the final two lines, where the poem takes a new direction or changes its argument in some way. This change can be subtle or really obvious. Typically, the rhyme scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG but, you'll notice that Shakespeare does something a bit more unusual here by repeating the rhyme "this" and "kiss" in the first and the second quatrains. So the rhyme scheme here is ABAB CBCB EFEF GG.

If you want to learn more about Shakespeare's sonnets, check out our discussion of Sonnet 18 and then come back.

Quote #6

Nay, I'll conjure too.
Romeo! humours! madman! passion! lover!
Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh:
Speak but one rhyme, and I am satisfied;
Cry but 'Ay me!' pronounce but 'love' and 'dove;'
[…]
I must conjure him.
I conjure thee by Rosaline's bright eyes,
By her high forehead and her scarlet lip,
By her fine foot, straight leg and quivering thigh
And the demesnes that there adjacent lie,
That in thy likeness thou appear to us! (2.1.1)

Here, Mercutio tries to flush Romeo out of his hiding spot in the Capulet's yard by mocking his crush on Rosaline. (Mercutio has no idea that Romeo has just fallen in love with Juliet.) When Mercutio pretends to be Rosaline calling to her "lover" Romeo and begging him to recite some love poetry ("speak but one rhyme"), he sounds like a typical schoolboy giving his buddy a hard time.

But then, Mercutio's teasing turns ugly as he proceeds to list Rosaline's body parts—her "bright eyes," "high forehead," "straight leg," "quivering thigh," and, finally, the genitals that are "adjacent" to her thigh. Basically, Mercutio's description of Rosaline is a dirty version of what's called a "blazon," a poetic technique that catalogues a woman's body parts (and often makes comparisons between said body parts and yummy things in nature—lips like cherries, breasts like melons, etc.). Shakespeare likes to mock this poetic convention. Compare Mercutio's lines (above) to Sonnet 130.

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