Romeo and Juliet
How we cite our quotes:
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.
[He kisses her.]
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 is one of the most famous passages in the entire play, so let's take a close look, shall we? When Romeo and Juliet talk for the first time at the Capulet ball, Romeo uses his best pickup line: touching Juliet's hands and lips, he says, would be a kind of religious experience. (We've heard that before, haven't we? He used to say this kind of stuff about Rosaline.) Angling for a kiss, Romeo refers to his lips as a two "pilgrims" that would worship at a holy "shrine" (that would be Juliet's lips). A pilgrim, by the way, is a person on a religious pilgrimage to a holy place. Pilgrims were also called "palmers" because they often carried palm leaves on their journeys.
In response, Juliet teasingly puns on the word "palmer" to suggest that touching hands, "palm to palm," is like kissing (so Romeo, presumably, should be content with touching her hands instead of making out). But Romeo refuses to be shot down. Instead of walking away with his tail between his legs, he uses Juliet's hands=lips logic to argue that kissing the lips of Juliet (who has reached "saint" status by this point) would be just like praying, which involves placing ones palms together. Juliet seems playfully willing to go along with all this and allows Romeo to kiss her.
What's interesting is that, before Romeo can lock lips for a second time, Juliet says "you kiss by the book," which suggests that all of Romeo's moves (his pickup lines and even the way he kisses) are a bit scripted and cliché. So, Juliet's clearly smitten with Romeo but she also recognizes that Romeo isn't exactly original.
At the same time, however, the dialogue between Romeo and Juliet takes the form of a sonnet (up to the point where they kiss), which is incredibly romantic. So, while Romeo's moves are a bit predictable, we can also recognize that Romeo and Juliet's romance has the potential to be anything but conventional.
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,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
In this monologue, Romeo elevates Juliet to heavenly status by aligning her with the "sun" and the "stars." Sure, he's still working with some celestial metaphors—but at least it's starting to get slightly less abstract. He even mentions her name!
O, speak again, bright angel! for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o'er my head
As is a winged messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturned wondering eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.
Again, Romeo uses over-the-top religious language to describe the experience of looking at Juliet but we get the sense that he's sincere and deeply in love.