"Call me but love and I'll be new baptized" (2.2.4). That's what our smooth-talking Romeo says to Juliet as a way to suggest that Juliet's love has the potential to make him "reborn." Jeez. It seems like every time we turn around Romeo compares his love for Juliet to a religious experience. When the pair first meets, Romeo calls Juliet a "saint" and implies that he'd really like to "worship" her body (1.5.2). Not only that, but Romeo's "hand" would be "blessed" if it touched the divine Juliet's (1.5.1). Eventually, Juliet picks up on this "religion of love" conceit (a conceit is just an elaborate metaphor) and declares that Romeo is "the god of [her] idolatry" (2.2.12). (We're guessing this is why director Baz Luhrmann fills his 1996 film version of Romeo + Juliet with religions icons, namely crosses. He also makes Romeo's love baptism literal by dunking Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio in a swimming pool.
So, what's up with all this over-the-top talk about religion and love? Have these two kids gone off the deep end? Well, the first thing to note is that Romeo and Juliet didn't invent the idea that love is a holy experience – it's been around forever and was especially popular in medieval (roughly 400s – early 1500s) courtly love poetry. (Note, Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in the late sixteenth century.)
We should also point out that, as cheesy or cliché as it may seem to us, all of this erotic talk about "worshipping" does a pretty good job of capturing the intensity of the young lovers' passion for one another. Let's face it. Sometimes head-over-heels love does seem to be rapturous, earth-shattering, and even holy. (Ever heard the song "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure?) At the same time, however, Shakespeare also seems to hint at the potential dangers of such an extreme relationship.