Introduction

William Shakespeare was an English dramatist, poet, artist, and playwright, broadly viewed as the best writer in the English language. The story ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a tragic love story of two lovers Romeo and Juliet who belong to respectable families of Verona that is the Montagues and the Capulets. Both the families had grudges against each other and have been fighting each other as sworn enemies for a long time.

Characters

  1. Romeo: A handsome, intelligent and sensitive young man of about sixteen years old.
  2. Juliet: Quiet and obedient girl however, she possesses an inner strength that enables her to have maturity beyond her years.
  3. Benvolio: Romeo’s cousin 
  4. Tybalt: Juliet’s cousin
  5. Mercutio: Romeo’s dearest friend

Background

The background of the first speech by Romeo is that the servants of the two rival families had a fight which was later joined by the heads of the two families. Prince Escalus was fed up with their fights and threatened death to any member of either family found indulging in street fights, later on.

Meanwhile, Paris, a young relative of Prince Escalus falls in love with the fourteen-year-old Julies and wishes to marry her. Lord Capulet thinks she’s too young to marry but reveals that he won’t go against the marriage if Paris can win Juliet’s consent. Meanwhile, Romeo falls in love with Rosaline who doesn’t love him back. The Capulet family organizes a private party and makes a servant in charge of the guest list.

The servant unable to read the name asks two strangers who turn out to be Romeo and his cousin Benvolio, Romeo seeing Roseline’s name on the guest list and decides to go to the party. At the party, Romeo sees Juliet and gets mesmerized by her beauty and discovers from a servant who she really is and thus says the lines mentioned below. Romeo sees Juliet for the first time in the party hosted by the Capulets and both of them do not know each other.

Romeo

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

Explanation

He compares Juliet’s beauty to nature. Romeo says that even the bright light of a torch would look dull before the brightness of Juliet. It looks like she hangs on the cheek of the night. Romeo says that the beauty of Juliet is like a jewel that is hung in the ear of an African woman.

Romeo says Juliet is too beautiful to belong to Earth. Juliet’s beauty is so vast that she cannot die and be buried in the Earth. The earth cannot contain her beauty. He further says Juliet is like white snow which is flying with other common people who belong to the species of crows.

Romeo just wishes to express that Juliet belongs to the divine world and living among ordinary and common people. Romeo proposes to find the place where Juliet stood and wants to touch her blessed hand and make his own rude hand blessed. Romeo further asks a question of whether he ever loved before. He feels this is true love. Romeo, think she has never seen a beautiful woman like Juliet before this night.

Background II

Romeo slips to the Capulet’s Garden under Juliet’s window and overhears her confession to the stars that she loves him. He reveals his presence and at that very moment they decide to get married secretly. The next day they get married secretly with the help of Juliet’s nurse and the ceremony was performed at the cell of Friar Laurence,

Romeo’s friend. Getting back from the wedding Juliet’s brother starts a fight with Romeo because of his interference at the ball. Mercutio, another friend of Romeo gets killed by Tybalt, and aroused by the death of his dearest friend Romeo kills Tybalt. Juliet unaware of the situation wait for Romeo’s arrival at her father’s orchard and becomes impatient as anytime Romeo could arrive but this will be the first time he’ll come as her husband. This monologue is popularly known as ‘Juliet’s invocation to the night’.

Juliet

Come, night. Come, Romeo. Come, thou day in night,
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow upon a raven’s back.
Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-browed night,
Give me my Romeo. And when I 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.

Explanation

Juliet is inviting the night. The night she is inviting is none other than Romeo himself. Juliet compares Romeo tonight. Juliet calls Romeo a day in the night. Juliet sees the night as a bird with wings on which Romeo would ride and come as a ‘New Snow’. Juliet calls the night a gentle night and a ‘Black – Browed Night’. Juliet wants nothing from the night except her love Romeo.

Juliet has a realistic view of death and says; even if she dies, she wants to make their love immortal. Juliet says that Romeo should be from part of the stars in heaven. Juliet says the presence of Rome among the stars would enrich the beauty of stars. Romeo forms the important part of the night sky; the whole world would begin to fall in love with the night. Romeo would shine so brightly in the night sky that it would even outshine the sun.

Conclusion

The two Stanzas in the poem, one by Romeo and the other by Juliet, highlight the intensity of love of the young lovers. This intensity of love is brought out by using the contrasting imagery of night and day, black and white, bright jewel and dark surface, snowy dove, etc.