Study Guide

Romeo and Juliet Love

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Act 1, Scene 1
Benvolio Montague

[…] What sadness lengthens Romeo's hours?

Not having that, which, having, makes them short.

In love?


Of love?

Out of her favor, where I am in love.

Way to be totally emo and enigmatic, Romeo. Here's he's completely infatuated with Rosaline. When he's not daydreaming about Rosaline in his room, He's moping around in a grove of "sycamore" trees, where those who are sick amour (sick with love) tend to hang out (1.1). The thing is, Rosaline has absolutely no interest in Romeo, but he pursues her anyway. Maybe he's not in love with Rosaline as he is obsessed with the idea of being in love—


Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes;
Being vexed a sea nourish'd with loving tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet,
A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.

These are pretty big words coming from a teenager. All this abstract language—love as "smoke," as "fire," as a "sea," as "madness"—suggest that maybe Romeo knows more about love from books than, you know, actually being in love.

Well, in that hit you miss. She'll not be hit
With Cupid's arrow. She hath Dian's wit,
And, in strong proof of chastity well armed,
From love's weak childish bow she lives unharmed.
She will not stay the siege of loving terms,
Nor bide th' encounter of assailing eyes,
Nor ope her lap to saint-seducing gold.
Then she hath sworn that she will still live chaste?
(1.1.216-222; 225)

Romeo admits that Rosaline has vowed to remain "chaste" like "Diana," the goddess of virginity and hunting. In other words, Rosaline has sworn off boys and sex, which means that Romeo has no chance of winning her heart. What's interesting about this passage is that Romeo sounds a whole lot like a typical "Petrarchan lover." Petrarch, by the way, was a fourteenth-century Italian poet whose sonnets were all the rage in Renaissance England. In fact, Shakespeare's own collection of Sonnets are, in part, inspired by Petrarch's love poetry, which was written about "Laura," a figure who was as unavailable and unattainable as Romeo's current crush (Rosaline). Petrarchan poetry happens to contain a lot of metaphors that equate the pursuit of love with hunting and/or battle. In this passage, Romeo says that Rosaline is well "arm'd" against the "siege" of his love and "Cupid's arrow," which is an elaborate way to say that Rosaline is physically and emotionally impenetrable.

Act 1, Scene 2

When the devout religion of mine eye
Maintains such falsehood, then turn tears to fire;
And these who, often drowned, could never die,
Transparent heretics, be burnt for liars.
One fairer than my love? The all-seeing sun
Ne'er saw her match since first the world begun.

Romeo uses religious language to talk about Rosaline

Act 1, Scene 4

You are a lover. Borrow Cupid's wings
And soar with them above a common bound
I am too sore enpiercèd with his shaft
To soar with his light feathers, and so bound,
I cannot bound a pitch above dull woe.
Under love's heavy burden do I sink.
And to sink in it should you burden love—
Too great oppression for a tender thing.
Is love a tender thing? It is too rough,
Too rude, too boist'rous, and it pricks like thorn.
If love be rough with you, be rough with love.
Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.

Romeo and Mercutio describe love in violent and painful terms.

Act 1, Scene 5

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop'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 blessèd my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight,
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.

Hmm, this is interesting. Romeo forgets all about his "love" for Rosaline the exactly second he sees Juliet, which makes us think that he was never really in love with Rosaline to begin with. But does this also mean that Romeo's desire for Juliet is nothing more than meaningless infatuation?

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 thine, 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.                                He kisses her.
You kiss by th' 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.


My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me
That I must love a loathèd enemy.

Apparently, Juliet never even considers the obvious conclusion: don't date your family's archnemesis. That makes "love" sound a lot like "fate"—something you couldn't escape even if you wanted to.

Act 2, Scene 2

I have forgot why I did call thee back.

Let me stand here till thou remember it.

I shall forget, to have thee still stand there,
Rememb'ring how I love thy company.

And I'll still stay, to have thee still forget,
Forgetting any other home but this.

Translation: "You hang up." "No, you hang up." "No, you hang up." "Okay, I'm going." "Are you still there?" (Do kids these days even have these conversations anymore? Or is it all texting and gChat? Someone clue us in; we're old.)

Do not swear at all.
Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,
Which is the god of my idolatry,
And I'll believe thee.

Is it just us or is Juliet beginning to sound like Romeo. Here, she uses the language of religion to describe her love for Romeo. Check out "Symbols" for more on this.

Well, do not swear. Although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract tonight.
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden,
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say 'It lightens.' Sweet, good night.
This bud of love, by summer's ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.
Good night, good night. As sweet repose and rest
Come to thy heart as that within my breast. (2.2.123-131)

Juliet is certain that she loves Romeo but she's also a bit cautious because her love seems "too rash, too unadvised, too sudden." So, while Juliet is clearly a very passionate girl, she's also pretty smart and realizes that head-over-heels passion can be dangerous.

How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
The orchard walls are high and hard to climb,
And the place death, considering who thou art,
If any of my kinsmen find thee here.
With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls;
For stony limits cannot hold love out,
And what love can do that dares love attempt.
Therefore thy kinsmen are no let to me.
If they do see thee, they will murder thee.
Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords: look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.
I would not for the world they saw thee here.
I have night's cloak to hide me from their eyes.
And, but thou love me, let them find me here.
My life were better ended by their hate
Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love.
By whose direction found'st thou out this place?
By love, who first did prompt me to inquire.
He lent me counsel and I lent him eyes.
I am no pilot; yet, wert thou as far
As that vast shore wash'd with the farthest sea,
I would adventure for such merchandise.

Romeo is eager to prove to Juliet that he loves her, while Juliet – despite the confession that Romeo overhears – is hesitant to reveal that she likes him right away.

Friar Laurence

Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here!
Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear,
So soon forsaken? Young men's love then lies
Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.

Friar Laurence makes a convincing argument that Romeo's love for Juliet could nothing more than a crush. Just days ago Romeo was crying his eyes out over another woman, the unattainable Rosaline. Now, the "salt water" tears haven't even dried yet and he's talking about a new love interest.

Okay, Friar Laurence has good reason to be skeptical of Romeo's newfound "love." But, if he's so skeptical of the relationship, why does he agree to secretly marry the young couple? Well, he tells us: "For this alliance may so happy prove/ To turn your households' rancour to pure love" (2.3.87-88).

In other words, Friar Laurence is crossing his fingers a union between Romeo and Juliet will force the feuding families to reconcile. But good intentions aren't enough. His meddling may not be solely responsible for the tragedy, but it's at least partly responsible. At the same time, Romeo and Juliet's love does eventually bring the two families together—but only after a double suicide.


With love's light wings did I o'erperch these walls,
For stony limits cannot hold love out,
And what love can do that dares love attempt.
Therefore thy kinsmen are no let to me.

We hear an echo of the Biblical Song of Songs here: "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." Romeo just won't let up with the religious allusions—for him, love is a religious experience. (But not in the cliché way, he swears.)

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!

ROMEO, aside
She speaks.
O, speak again, bright angel, for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o'er my head,
As is a wingèd messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturnèd wond'ring 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.

Act 2, Scene 6

Ah, Juliet, if the measure of thy joy
Be heaped like mine, and that thy skill be more
To blazon it, then sweeten with thy breath
This neighbor air, and let rich music's tongue
Unfold the imagined happiness that both
Receive in either by this dear encounter.
Conceit, more rich in matter than in words,
Brags of his substance, not of ornament.
They are but beggars that can count their worth,
But my true love is grown to such excess
I cannot sum up sum of half my wealth.

Romeo asks Juliet to use language to express the love that they feel for each other, but Juliet tells him that's the wrong approach. The love they share has grown so great that they can no longer express it. (A similar idea occurs in King Lear, when Cordelia refuses to quantify her love for her father and says that language is not capable of expressing her devotion.)

Act 3, Scene 2

Lovers can see to do their amorous rites
By their own beauties, or, if love be blind,
It best agrees with night. Come, civil night,
Thou sober-suited matron all in black,
And learn me how to lose a winning match
Played for a pair of stainless maidenhoods.
Hood my unmanned blood, bating in my cheeks,
With thy black mantle till strange love grown bold,
Think true love acted simple modesty.

Talk about wedding-night jitters: this is Juliet getting all excited and nervous about having sex for the very first time, i.e. "losing" her "stainless maidenhoods." "Unmann'd blood"—get it?

Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Towards Phoebus' lodging. Such a wagoner
As Phaëthon would whip you to the west
And bring in cloudy night immediately.
Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
That runaway's eyes may wink, and Romeo
Leap to these arms, untalked of and unseen.
Lovers can see to do their amorous rites
By their own beauties, or, if love be blind,
It best agrees with night. Come, civil night,
Thou sober-suited matron, all in black,
And learn me how to lose a winning match
Played for a pair of stainless maidenhoods.
Hood my unmann'd blood, bating in my cheeks,
With thy black mantle till strange love grown bold,
Think true love acted simple modesty.
Come, night. Come, Romeo. Come, thou day in
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow on a raven's back.
Come, gentle night; come, loving, black-browed
Give me my Romeo, and when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
O, I have bought the mansion of a love
But not possessed it, and, though I am sold,
Not yet enjoyed. So tedious is this day
As is the night before some festival
To an impatient child that hath new robes
And may not wear them.

Juliet is both excited and nervous about losing her virginity. She feels that her love for Romeo is so strong that it could overpower the sun.

Act 4, Scene 1

O, bid me leap, rather than marry Paris,
From off the battlements of yonder tower,
Or walk in thievish ways, or bid me lurk
Where serpents are. Chain me with roaring bears;
Or shut me nightly in a charnel house,
O'ercovered quite with dead men's rattling bones,
With reeky shanks and yellow chapless skulls.
Or bid me go into a new-made grave
And hide me with a dead man in his shroud
(Things that, to hear them told, have made me
And I will do it without fear or doubt,
To live an unstained wife to my sweet love.

All the things that used to frighten Juliet are now unimportant compared to the horror of betraying Romeo and marrying another man.

Act 5, Scene 3
Lord Capulet

O brother Montague, give me thy hand.
This is my daughter's jointure, for no more
Can I demand.
But I can give thee more,
For I will raise her statue in pure gold,
That while Verona by that name is known,
There shall no figure at such rate be set
As that of true and faithful Juliet.
As rich shall Romeo's by his lady's lie;
Poor sacrifices of our enmity. (5.3.306-315)

After Romeo and Juliet are found dead, Montague offers to erect a "statue" of "pure gold" in Juliet's honor and Capulet promise to do the same for his dead son-in-law, Romeo. Although the young lovers' deaths unite the warring families and put an end to the feud (just as the Chorus promised back in the first Prologue), the efforts of the Capulets and the Montagues are a day late and a dollar short.


How oft when men are at the point of death
Have they been merry, which their keepers call
A light'ning before death! O, how may I
Call this a light'ning?—O my love! my wife,
Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty.
Thou art not conquered. Beauty's ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
And death's pale flag is not advancèd there.—
Tybalt, liest thou there in thy bloody sheet?
O, what more favor can I do to thee,
Than with that hand that cut thy youth in twain
To sunder his that was thine enemy?
Forgive me, cousin—Ah, dear Juliet,
Why art thou yet so fair? Shall I believe
That unsubstantial death is amorous,
And that the lean abhorred monster keeps
Thee here in dark to be his paramour?
For fear of that, I still will stay with thee
And never from this palace of dim night
Depart again. Here, here will I remain
With worms that are thy chamber-maids. O, here
Will I set up my everlasting rest,
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh! Eyes, look your last.
Arms, take your last embrace. And, lips, O, you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death.
                                                                   Kissing Juliet
Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide!
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy seasick weary bark!
Here's to my love! Drinking. O true apothecary,
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

Death becomes an act of love for Romeo, because he thinks that suicide will enable him to be with Juliet (he thinks she's dead). Check out "Symbols" for more on this.

Lady Capulet

Well, girl, thou weep'st not so much for his death
As that the villain lives which slaughtered him.
What villain, madam?
That same villain, Romeo.
JULIET, aside 
Villain and he be many miles asunder.—
God Pardon him. I do, with all my heart,
And yet no man like he doth grieve my heart.
That is because the traitor murderer lives.
Ay, madam, from the reach of these my hands.
Would none but I might venge my cousin's death!
We will have vengeance for it, fear thou not.
Then weep no more. I'll send to one in Mantua,
Where that same banished runagate doth live,
Shall give him such an unaccustomed dram
That he shall soon keep Tybalt company.
And then, I hope, thou wilt be satisfied.
Indeed, I never shall be satisfied
With Romeo, till I behold him—dead—
Is my poor heart for a kinsman vexed.
Madam, if you could find out but a man
To bear a poison, I would temper it,
That Romeo should, upon receipt thereof,
Soon sleep in quiet. O, how my heart abhors
To hear him named and cannot come to him
To wreak the love I bore my cousin
Upon his body that slaughtered him.

Juliet cannot tell her mother about her true feelings for Romeo, so she expresses her feelings in veiled language that makes her mother believe she hates him.

Why, is not this better now than groaning
for love? Now art thou sociable, now art thou
Romeo, now art thou what thou art, by art as well as
by nature. For this driveling love is like a great
natural, that runs lolling up and down to hide his
bauble in a hole.

To Mercutio, love is ridiculous and gets in the way of real life. Not only that, but Romeo's passion for Rosaline has alienated him from his friends.

These times of woe afford no time to woo.—

After Tybalt dies, Paris is more bummed out that he doesn't have time to make nice with Juliet than that this young man has died. Gee, he sounds awfully passionate. (Not.)

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