What's in a name? Introduction
I'm Juliet. I'm smart, determined, and independent. And did I mention I love Romeo? In fact, he's all I can think about most of the time. And you know what I think?
'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. (2.2.38-49)
Who Said It and Where
Romeo and Juliet is one of the best-known love stories in Western literature, and this quote is said only in one of the most romantic scenes in the play: the balcony scene. There's lots of poetry, vows of love that sound a lot like religious worship, baffling language, and teenage melodrama. What more could you ask for?
The two lovebirds have just met at a party at Juliet's house. Romeo doesn't want to leave the Capulet's property, so he ditches his friends and hides out in the orchard behind the Capulets' house. He's not supposed to be there because he's the son of the Capulet's biggest enemy: Montague. But he kind of figures seeing Juliet again is worth it. Risky move.
Juliet says this quote when she's wondering, "Why does the guy I love have to be a Montague?" She struggles with the conflict between her feelings for Romeo and her knowledge that he is an enemy of her family. But then she has an idea: she won't picture Romeo as a Montague. They're her enemy. More like Monta-ew.
Nope, she'll picture him just as Romeo. How much do names really mean anyway? They can't be found anywhere on our bodies. They can't change who we are. Even a rose would have a lovely perfume smell if it weren't called a rose. Blah, blah, blah.
She tries to separate Romeo from his identity as a Montague as a way of rationalizing her love for him. Then she contemplates deserting her family for him instead. One thing's for sure: she doesn't imagine that their love and their families' hate can be reconciled. The Montagues and Capulets hate each other that much.