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Act 2, Scene 2

from Act 2

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 August 2023

Hester Lees-Jeffries
St Catharine's College, Cambridge
G. Blakemore Evans
Harvard University, Massachusetts


Romeo and Juliet , pp. 123 - 132
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023
Textual variants Explanatory notes Performance notes

[Romeo advances.]*


He jests at scars that never felt a wound.
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,
5Who 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.

[Juliet appears aloft as at a window.]*

10*It is my lady, O it is my love:
O that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing; what of that?
Her eye discourses, I will answer it.
I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks:
15Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do* entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?*
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
20As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes* in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how* she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
25That I might touch that cheek!

Juliet Ay me!

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
30Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him,
When he bestrides the lazy puffing* clouds,
And sails upon the bosom of the air.


O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
35Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

Romeo [Aside]*

Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?


’Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
*Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
40What’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 word* would smell as sweet;
45So Romeo would, were* he not Romeo called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo*, doff* thy name,
And for thy* name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

Romeo I take thee at thy word:

50Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptised;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.


What man art thou that thus bescreened* in night
So stumblest on my counsel?

Romeo By a name

I know not how to tell thee who I am.*
55My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,
Because it is an enemy to thee;
Had I it written, I would tear the word.


My ears have yet not* drunk a hundred words
Of thy tongue’s uttering*, yet I know the sound.
60Art thou not Romeo, and a Montague?


Neither, fair maid, if either thee dislike*.


How cam’st* thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
The orchard walls are high and hard to climb,
And the place death, considering who thou art,
65If any of my kinsmen* find thee here.


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 stop* 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 proroguèd, wanting of thy love.


By whose direction found’st thou out this place?


By Love, that* first did prompt* me to enquire:
He lent me counsel, and I lent him eyes.
I am no pilot*, yet wert thou as far
As that vast shore washed* with the farthest* sea,
I should* adventure for such merchandise.


Thou knowest the mask of night is on my face,
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek
For that which thou hast heard me speak tonight.
Fain would I dwell on form, fain, fain deny
What I have spoke, but farewell compliment*.
90Dost* thou love me? I* know thou wilt say ‘Ay’;
And I will take thy word; yet if thou swear’st,
Thou mayst* prove false: at lovers’ perjuries*
They say Jove laughs.* O gentle Romeo,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully;
95Or if thou think’st* I am too quickly won,
I’ll frown and be perverse, and say thee nay,
So thou wilt woo, but else not for the world.
In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond,*
And therefore thou mayst* think my behaviour* light:*
100But trust me, gentleman, I’ll prove more true
Than those that have more* coying* to be strange.
I should have been more strange, I must confess,
But that thou overheard’st, ere I was ware,
My true-love* passion; therefore pardon me,
105And not impute this yielding to light love,
Which the dark night hath so discoverèd.


Lady, by yonder blessèd* moon I vow*,
That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops –*


O swear not by the moon, th’inconstant moon,
110That monthly changes in her circled* orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.


What shall I swear by?*

Juliet Do not swear at all;

Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious* self,
Which is* the god of my idolatry,
115And I’ll believe thee.

Romeo If my heart’s dear* love –*


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
120Ere 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.


O wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?


What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?


Th’exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine.


I gave thee mine before thou didst request it;
And yet I would it were to give again.


Wouldst thou withdraw it? for what purpose, love?


But to be frank and give it thee again,
And yet I wish but for the thing I have:
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee
135The more I have, for both are infinite.*

[Nurse calls within.]*

I hear some noise within; dear love, adieu! –
Anon, good Nurse! - Sweet Montague, be true.
Stay but a little, I will come again. [Exit above]*


O blessèd, blessèd night! I am afeard,
140Being in night, all this is but a dream,
Too flattering-sweet* to be substantial.

[Enter Juliet above.]*


Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed.
If that thy bent of love be honourable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,
145By one that I’ll procure to come to thee,
Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite*,
And all my fortunes at thy foot I’ll lay,
And follow thee my lord* throughout the world.

*Nurse [Within]*



I come, anon. – But if thou meanest not well,
I do beseech thee –

Nurse [Within]* Madam!*

Juliet By and by I come –

To cease thy strife*, and leave me to my grief.
Tomorrow will I send.


So thrive my soul –*

Juliet A thousand times good night!

[Exit above]*


A thousand times the worse, to want thy light.
Love goes toward love as schoolboys from their books,
But love from love, toward* school with heavy looks.

[Retiring slowly.*]

Enter Juliet again [above*].


Hist, Romeo, hist! O for a falc’ner’s voice,
To lure this tassel-gentle* back again:*
160Bondage is hoarse*, and may not speak aloud,
Else would I tear the cave where Echo lies,
And make her airy tongue* more hoarse than mine
With* repetition of my Romeo’s name.*


It is my soul that calls upon my name.
165How silver-sweet* sound lovers’ tongues by night,
Like softest music to attending ears!



Romeo My niësse?*

Juliet What* a’clock tomorrow

Shall I send to thee?

Romeo By* the hour of nine.


I will not fail, ’tis twenty year* till then.
170I 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,
175Forgetting any other home but this.


’Tis almost morning, I would have thee gone:
And yet no farther* than a wanton’s bird,
That* lets it hop a little from his* hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
180And with a silken thread* plucks it back* again,
So loving-jealous* of his liberty.


I would I were thy bird.

Juliet Sweet, so would I,

Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
*Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
185That I shall say good night till it be morrow. [Exit above]*


Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy breast!
*Would I* were sleep and peace, so sweet to rest!*
Hence will I to my ghostly sire’s close* cell,
His help to crave, and my dear hap to tell. Exit

Textual variants

40–2 What’s … name!] Arranged Malone, incorporating nor any other part from Q1, Whats Mountague? it is nor hand nor foote, / Nor arme, nor face, ô be some other name / Belonging to a man. Q2–4, F; Whats Mountague? It is nor hand nor foote, / Nor arme, nor face, nor any other part. Q1, Pope; O be some other name! What’s Montague? / It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, / Nor any part belonging to a man. NS (conj. A. Walker)

116 swear … . thee,] Rowe (subst.); sweare, … thee: Q2–4, F; Q1 reads 116 as Sweare not at al, though I doo ioy in / (thee,

120–35 Sweet … infinite.] not in Q1

149 Madam!] in right margin, after world., 148, Q2–4; to right of and below 148, F

151 Madam!] in right margin, after I come), Q2–4; to right of and following thee –, F

184 As Q1; two lines, ending good night / … sorrow Q2, Q4; two lines, arranged Good night, good night. / Ro. Parting … sorrow Q3, F

187 Following 187 Q2–3, F contain four lines (not in Q4, Q1) which are repeated, with slight variations, as the opening lines of 2.3; see notes to 2.3.1–4 below

Explanatory notes

Location Scene continues, now in Capulet’s orchard. No scene break is intended; Romeo’s first line rhymes with the last line of 2.1. Gibbons (pp. 44–5) compares the ambience of this scene with the Fourth Song in Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella. Compare an analogue to this scene in Montemayor’s Diana, p. 128.

1 He i.e. Mercutio, not Benvolio.

2–3 Dowden compares Marlowe, The Jew of Malta 2.1.412: ‘But stay, what starre shines yonder in the East? / The Loadstarre of my life, if Abigall’. The situation is similar, with Abigail ‘above’ and Barabas below.

3 Juliet is the sun Compare Brooke (1726): ‘For eche of them to other is, as to the world, the sunne.’ See supplementary note.

6 her maid i.e. a votary of Diana, goddess of the moon and patroness of virgins.

8 vestal livery virgin garb (with possible play on ‘livery’ = provision, allowance).

8 sick and green Referring to the so-called ‘green-sickness’, a kind of anaemia, producing a greenish skin tone, to which girls of marriageable age were supposed to be subject; compare 3.5.156.

9 fools This seems to say that anyone who remains a virgin is a fool (a favourite libertine argument), but perhaps all that is intended is a reference to the fool’s motley coat, which would presumably include green.

10 It … lady Apparently Juliet only now be-comes visible in the window.

12 speaks … nothing i.e. I can only see her lips move, not hear what she says.

15 stars i.e. planets. Compare Shr. 4.5.31–2.

17 spheres orbits. In the Ptolemaic system each of the seven planets was fixed in a hollow crystalline sphere, which revolved concentrically at different distances around the centre (the Earth).

18 there i.e. in the stars’ spheres.

21 airy region the sky or upper limit of the air, the heavens.

21 stream emit continuous beams of light.

23 See … hand Compare Brooke (518): ‘In windowe on her leaning arme, her weary hed doth rest.’

24 glove The ‘glove’ conceit seems to be echoed in Haughton, Englishmen for My Money (1598, MSR, 78–9). See supplementary note.

28 wingèd messenger i.e. angel (means ‘messenger’ in Greek); compare 26.

29 white-upturnèd (eyes) showing the whites in looking up.

30 fall back i.e. tilt their heads back in ‘wond’ring’ (29), with a suggestion of a mere mortal’s (Romeo’s) loss of balance under the influence of the heavenly vision (Juliet).

31 lazy puffing clouds clouds which give the appearance of swelling or puffing up as they drift. There is, perhaps, a reference to early maps, which show small clouds with human faces and distended cheeks emitting puffs of wind. Many eds. prefer the easier, but less imaginative, Q1 ‘lasie pacing’, which some consider a variant form of ‘lazy passing’. Otway (Caius Marius 2.1.265) retains ‘lazy puffing’.

32 bosom … air Chapman employs this phrase in An Humorous Day’s Mirth (1597; 1.1.3).

33–42 These lines on refusing or altering one’s name seem to be echoed in Drayton’s ‘Henry to Rosamond’ (1597; 124–30), lines which are followed (133–8) by a reference to Rosamond’s eyes, ‘Which from a Turret like two Starres appeare’; compare above, 15–22.

39 though even if. See collation.

41 nor … part Supplied from Q1. See collation for the present arrangement of 40–2.

44 word appellation (OED sv II 12b). Compare 57 below and Tit. 3.2.33. Q1’s repetition of ‘name’ from 43, although formerly widely adopted, is best considered as an example of the kind of repetition common in reported texts.

46 owes owns, possesses.

47 doff cast aside (as an outer covering); ‘doff’ = do off (compare ‘don’).

48 for in return for.

49 take … word accept thy promise (with play on ‘word’ = declaration in the form of a phrase or sentence (OED sv 1 10a), i.e. ‘Take all myself’).

52 bescreened concealed, hidden (earliest use in OED).

53 counsel private deliberation.

55 saint Echoes 1.5.102, as does ‘mask’ in 85 (Dowden).

58–9 ears … uttering Malone compares Edward III (ed. T. Brooke, 2.1.2): ‘His eare to drink her sweet tongues utterance’. Shakespeare is generally believed to have had a hand in this play. ‘Ears drinking words’ has classical precedent in Horace, Ovid and Propertius (see W. Theobald, Classical Element in the Plays of Shakespeare, 1909, p. 220).

61 dislike displease.

62–5 Compare Brooke (491–4). Spencer notes: ‘Juliet’s questions and comments are all direct and practical. Romeo’s answers all vague and fantastic.’ For Romeo’s attitude, compare Brooke (459–60).

71–2 lies … swords Conventional hyperbole, but also ironic foreshadowing.

73 proof invulnerable (as if in armour).

75 night’s cloak Compare Brooke (457): ‘But when on earth the night her mantel blacke hath spred’.

76 but unless.

78 proroguèd, wanting of deferred, lacking.

83 vast far-stretching; but taken as a variant of ‘waste’ = barren, desert.

84 adventure venture, as a merchant adventurer in pursuit of riches.

86 bepaint i.e. (would be seen to) colour.

88 Fain Gladly.

88 dwell on form observe decorum.

89 compliment the hollow game of conventional civility.

92–3 lovers’ … laughs Compare Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1, 633: ‘Iuppiter ex alto periuria ridet amantum’, and Tibullus, iii. vi, 49–50; proverbial to the Elizabethans (see Tilley j82).

95–106 See supplementary note.

97 else otherwise.

98 fond doting, over-tender.

101 have … strange show a greater affectation of reserve in order to appear hard to win. ‘more’ supplied from Q4, Q1 for metrical reasons. For Q2 ‘coying’, usually emended to Q1 ‘cunning’ (compare Temp. 3.1.81), see Thomas Lodge, Scillaes Metamorphosis (1589; sig. b2v; 340–2): ‘But she unkind rewarded me with mockes, / Such are the fruites that spring from Ladies coying, / Who smile at teares, and are intrapt with toying’; and Nashe, Saffron-Walden (Works, iii, 116): ‘cockering and coying himselfe beyond imagination’ (perhaps picked up from ‘coying themselves’ in Harvey’s Pierces Supererogation (1593; sig. **1)).

104 true-love faithful-love.

105 light wanton, easy (with the inevitable play on ‘dark night’ in 106).

106 Which Referring to ‘yielding’.

107 I vow Only a hint for 107–15 in Brooke (516): ‘And therupon he sware an othe.’

109 inconstant moon The moon, because of its changes, was a common type of inconstancy. H. M. Richmond (Shakespeare’s Sexual Comedy, 1971, p. 115) suggests possible reference here and below (112, 116) to Matt. 5.34–6. Coincidentally, Julia (Juliet) tells Roselo (Romeo) not to swear in Lope de Vega’s Castelvines y Monteses (1.4).

110 circled orb The sphere in which the moon circles in the Ptolemaic astronomy.

113 gracious self yourself, full of all graces.

117 contract mutual agreement; accented on the second syllable.

118 rash … unadvised hasty … thoughtless. Compare Bel-imperia’s premonition under similar clandestine circumstances in Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy 2.4.68, 14–15, and Brooke (209–10).

120 ‘It lightens’ Compare MND 1.1.145–9, which in the last line (‘So quick bright things come to confusion’) catches the fatal premonition in the lightning image here: love may be short and deadly.

125 wilt … unsatisfied Compare Brooke (563–64): ‘els favour found he none, / That night at lady Juliets hand, save pleasant woordes alone’.

131 frank (1) bounteous; (2) freely outspoken.

132 yet … have I only wish, however, for what I still possess (i.e. her inexhaustible love for Romeo); compare 134–5, ‘the more I give to thee / The more I have’.

133–4 bounty … deep Gibbons compares AYLI 4.1.206–8 (Riverside). Compare also Daniel’s To Delia, Sonnet 1: ‘Unto the boundless ocean of thy beautie / Runs this poore river.’

137 Anon Presently, very soon.

141 substantial real, solid (as opposed to the stuff of dreams); quadrisyllabic.

143 bent of love inclination to love; compare Brooke’s ‘ende and marke’ (536).

151 By and by Immediately.

152 strife striving, endeavour. Q4 ‘sute’ (= suit) has been widely and unnecessarily adopted, mainly because it seems to echo Brooke (544).

155 thousand … light i.e. night, far from being ‘good’ (142, 154), is a thousand times blacker (‘worse’) lacking your radiance. Picks up and refocuses the light imagery associated with Juliet in lines 1–32.

156–7 schoolboys … looks Compare AYLI 2.7.145–7.

158–9 Hist … lure A falconer called a hawk to the lure (an apparatus constructed of a bunch of feathers baited with raw flesh, to which was attached a long cord or thong) by taking ‘the lewre at length of the string, and cast[ing] it about your heade, crying and lewring alowde’ (George Turbervile, The Booke of Faulconrie (1575), p. 147). See supplementary note.

159 tassel-gentle tercel-gentle, a male hawk, appropriate to a prince (Romeo).

160 Bondage is hoarse One in confinement, as Juliet is under the discipline of her father’s house, must call softly (as if hoarse).

161 cave … lies See Ovid, Metamorphoses iii, 359–401, known to Shakespeare in Golding’s translation (1567; iii, 447–500). Punished by Juno, Echo could repeat only the tag ends of what she heard others say; repulsed by Narcissus, with whom she had fallen in love, ‘ever since she lyves alone in dennes and hollow Caves’ (Golding, 491).

162 airy tongue Metonymy (‘tongue’ for ‘voice’, the reading of Q1); compare 165. Compare Golding (iii, 495–7): ‘The bloud doth vanish into ayre from out of all her veynes, / And nought is left but voyce and bones: … / His bones they say were turnde to stones.’

163 Romeo’s name See supplementary note.

165 silver-sweet Compare 4.5.127–35.

167 *niësse a young, unfledged hawk (= ‘eyas’; compare Ham. 2.2.339 (Riverside), ‘an aery of children, little eyases’). Picking up ‘tassel-gentle’ (159), ‘niësse’, Dover Wilson’s brilliant emendation of Q2 ‘Neece’, is peculiarly apt for the young Juliet above, imaged as a nestling in its aery (= nest). NS compares 1.2.8.

168 nine It is, however, twelve o’clock when the Nurse meets Romeo in 2.4.92–3.

174 to … still in order to … ever.

177 wanton’s spoiled, pampered child’s (most frequently applied to boys; hence Q2 ‘his’ is retained for Q1 ‘her’ in 178). Compare John 5.1.69–70: ‘a beardless boy, / A cock’red silken wanton’; and Temp. 4.1.100–1.

179 in … gyves (1) entwined in his fetters (transposed adjective); (2) in his intertwined fetters.

181 loving-jealous lovingly mistrustful (with suggestion of excessive love; compare 183).

181 his its. Regular older form of neuter genitive.

182–3 See supplementary note.

183 kill … cherishing smother with too much love. The line strikes an ominous chord.

184–7 See supplementary note.

188 ghostly *sire’s spiritual father’s; emended from Brooke (559): ‘He is my gostly syre’ (again in 595). Q2 ‘ghostly Friers’ is evidently wrong and ‘Friers’ is an easy misreading of ‘Siers’ (so spelled in Sonnets 8.11, as NS notes). Q1 ‘Ghostly fathers’, apart from offering orthographic difficulties, is likely to be a bad quarto anticipation of Q2, 2.3.45.

188 close cell Compare Brooke (1264–73): ‘trusty Lawrence secret cell’, where ‘he was wont in youth, his fayre frendes to bestowe’ – the only slur on Friar Lawrence in Brooke’s poem.

189 dear hap good fortune.

Performance notes from Shakespeare in Production

2.2 The so-called ‘balcony scene’ is the most famous scene in the play, and indeed one of the most famous in world literature. Its traditional name is perhaps inaccurate; it used to be known as the orchard scene or garden scene. The word ‘balcony’ certainly does not appear in the play, and the lines suggest that Juliet is to be imagined at a window. It is clear that a physical distance between the lovers is intended. The Elizabethan Juliet appeared ‘aloft’, presumably in some sort of gallery such as the one indicated in the DeWitt drawing of the Swan (see the reconstruction of this scene by C. Walter Hodges in Evans’s New Cambridge Shakespeare edition). Some twentieth-century productions have made do without a balcony, notably Ron Daniels’s 1981 London RSC production (Evening Standard, 10 October 1981). Paul Gaffney’s 1984 University of Texas production had the lovers playing across a large gap in the stage; a Dutch production of 1999 had them both facing the audience, with a beam of light dividing them; Joe Calarco’s Shakespeare’s R&J had them holding opposite ends of a long piece of red silk (Shakespeare Bulletin, Winter 2000, p. 37). The 1988 Temba production played the scene in reverse, with Juliet on floor level and Romeo looking down from a parapet above (Independent, 4 July 1988). West Side Story famously reset this exchange on a fire escape, but it was not the first production to do so; a Harlem adaptation called Romey and Julie used the same business as early as 1936, in a production by the Federal Theatre Negro Unit #2 (Hill, Shakespeare in Sable, p. 112). The nature of the setting does much to define the tone of the scene. In the nineteenth century, the development of atmospheric lighting and scenery construction made this scene a favourite, with moonlit foliage and an elaborate Renaissance loggia; Edwin Booth’s production actually had two balconies enclosing a grand courtyard (Ruggles, Prince of Players, p. 221). This tradition has been perpetuated in films of the play; one of the most famous and beautiful shots in the 1936 Cukor MGM film is of Leslie Howard walking along a silvery reflecting pool, through an orchard of cypresses, to the Capulet palazzo. Zeffirelli continues the tradition with a lush scene shot at the Palazzo Borghese, Artena, and Luhrmann spoofs it with a witty parody. In Luhrmann’s film Leonardo DiCaprio wanders across a dreamy, moonlit Renaissance courtyard very like Zeffirelli’s; suddenly he trips over the poolside furniture and sets off the motion-sensitive security lights. Because the scene is now so heavily laden with romantic associations, it is often played for comedy. There is a good deal of humour in Shakespeare’s text, but further, deflationary business is often added. In the Luhrmann film, for instance, Romeo climbs up to the balcony only to encounter Juliet’s middle-aged Nurse and fall down in horror; Shakespeare in Love uses the same business.

1 Bernard Grebanier complained that Olivier, in 1940, ‘popped up like a jack-in-the-box’ from the far side of the orchard wall to say this line (Then Came Each Actor, p. 495).

3 Charles Macklin, who played Mercutio to Barry’s Romeo during the rivalry with Garrick, humorously contrasted their manner of approaching the balcony: ‘Barry comes into it, Sir, as great as a lord, swaggering about his love …’, while Garrick, ‘sensible that the family are at enmity with him and his house,… comes creeping in upon his toes, whispering his love, and looking about him just like a thief in the night’ (Cooke, Memoirs of Charles Macklin, p. 205).

7–9 Cut in almost all productions before the mid-twentieth century, presumably because of the sexual suggestiveness of the lines.

9 sd Many Juliets enter earlier, after line 1 or 2. In the 1976 St George’s production, Romeo responded to a light in Juliet’s room, though in the quasi-Elizabethan staging there was no light change. He turned away, somewhat disappointed, for the apostrophe of lines 4–9, during which Juliet entered (to cello accompaniment) as though called forth by his words; but he only turned to see her at line 10. Historically, this scene was transformed by the development of limelight, and later electric light; the Victorian promptbook s23 has the simple technical note, ‘Calcium on Juliet’.

10 When William Terriss played Romeo opposite Mary Anderson in 1884, he inflected the line, ‘It is my lady, O it is my love’, according to his studybook. Mark Rylance (RSC 1989) stressed ‘It is my lady!’, rather surprised to see her – his language before had been pure hyperbole. Sean Bean (RSC 1986) said ‘O, it is me luv!’, using his Northern accent to colloquial comic effect.

12 Katherine Cornell formed Romeo’s name silently with her lips (s95).

22 Terry Hands used a very slight sound effect of birds twittering (RSC 1989).

24–5a Describing Irving’s Romeo in this moment, Edward Russell wrote, ‘the keynote is worship – yearning, tremulous worship’ (Macmillan’s Magazine, xlvi, 1882, p. 329).

25c Sean Bean’s awed delivery of this line, as though her speaking were a miraculous achievement, was winningly comic (Bogdanov 1986).

33 Though most actresses understand what ‘wherefore’ means, one still regularly hears this famous line misinflected in television advertisements and the like, as though Juliet were enquiring as to Romeo’s whereabouts. Alexandra Gilbreath gave a fresh, effective reading of the line in Michael Boyd’s production. Rather than speaking with romantic yearning, she laid her head in her crossed arms on the balcony and groaned with exasperation, frustrated that something as trivial as a name should keep Romeo from her (RSC 2000).

33–6 Edmund Kean smiled on overhearing Juliet’s confession, but according to Hazlitt, ‘the smile was less like that of a fortunate lover who unexpectedly hears his happiness confirmed, than of a discarded lover, who hears of the disappointment of a rival’ (Hazlitt on Theatre, p. 32).

39–42 Cut by Garrick and many nineteenth-century producers, perhaps because of the sexual possibility of ‘nor any other part / Belonging to a man’; Charlotte Cushman excised only this phrase, singularly out of place in a production with a female Romeo. Many recent Juliets have played this hint quite explicitly, including Niamh Cusack in 1986 and Claire Danes in the Luhrmann film.

49a Fanny Kemble’s delivery of this line was notable for ‘the grace and abandon in the manner, and the softness of accent’ according to Anna Jameson (Sketches, p. 487).

49b Romeo’s self-revelation may result in a shriek of alarm from Juliet; in the Luhrmann film, he so startles her that they both fall in a swimming pool.

49–51 Edmund Kean was not a success in his encounter with Juliet; Hazlitt dryly observed: ‘His acting sometimes reminded us of the scene with Lady Anne [in Richard III], and we cannot say a worse thing of it, considering the difference of the two characters’ (Hazlitt on Theatre, p. 32).

52–3a Stella Colas peeped out at Romeo coquettishly through a cluster of roses gathered about the window (Brereton, Romeo, p. 26).

55 Juliet often demonstrates her sudden recognition of Romeo at his phrase ‘dear saint’ (as in Zeffirelli, Leveaux).

64–5 Modjeska was noted for her ‘repeated and cautious look round the garden’ and her constant awareness of the danger to Romeo (The Critic, 4 June 1881).

66 Ian McKellen ‘flapped his long arms as though ready to fly’, to grotesque parodic effect (Holding, Romeo, p. 59).

75 In Mary Anderson’s Lyceum production, the lighting apparently came to Romeo’s aid at this point; the promptbook reads, ‘Cloud passes over moon’ (s49).

80 Olivier stood against the balcony with a pose ‘so natural, so light, so animally correct, that you feel the whole quality of Italy and of the character of Romeo and of Shakespeare’s impulse’, according to Ralph Richardson, as recalled by John Gielgud (Wright, Romeo, p. 217). When Olivier played the role in his own production in 1940, his physical expressions of Romeo’s love were criticised as ‘so deliberate and so exhibitionistic as to be almost indecent … he leaps continually about the stage and tops off every important speech either by some sort of pirouette or by extending his arms high above his head in a gesture which is not a lifting of the hands to heaven but a sort of voluptuous stretch’ (Nation, 25 May 1940, quoted in Wright, Romeo, p. 214). Gielgud, by contrast, was graceful and poetic even in his exaltation: ‘the exaltation itself is of a peculiar kind – not hot, not animal, but lyrically passionate, having precisely the same relationship to physical desire as a song has to a prose piece with the same subject’ (New York Times, 29 December 1935).

85–106 Helena Faucit, writing of her own performance, said, ‘I considered this speech one of the most difficult in the play, and loved and dreaded it equally … Watch all the fluctuations of emotion which pervade it and you will understand what a task is laid upon the actress to interpret them, not in voice and tone only, important as these are, but also in manner and action …’ (Shakespeare’s Female Characters, p. 119). Julia Marlowe was criticised for ‘too frequent betrayals of artful premeditation’ (Towse, Sixty Years, p. 396). Eliza O’Neill was praised for the ‘chaste simplicity’ of her delivery; she gave the speech with ‘honourable frankness’, avoiding ‘a forwardness … which neither nature, nor Juliet’s elevated rank justifies’ (Jones, Memoirs, pp. 14–15).

89b Hubert Griffith objected to Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies’s delivery of this line to Gielgud in Barry Jackson’s 1924 production. He felt that ‘farewell compliment’ was ‘something to be spoken as an aside, almost under the breath … Miss Ffrangcon-Davies caught fire at this simple sentence, raised her arms to it, let her voice ring out, and spoke it as though she were at the head of an army’ (Observer, 25 May 1924).

93b–94 Helena Faucit gave this line ‘kneeling on the balcony and leaning, both arms extended towards him’ (s14).

95 In Zeffirelli’s production, the balcony was the full width of the stage; accordingly, Juliet could ‘scamper … back and forth laterally, as prompted by her emotional impulses, to give the scene a Punch-and-Judy-show quality’ (Saturday Review, 3 March 1962).

107 In Daniels’s grim urban production of 1980, ‘yonder blessèd moon’ ‘was a grotesque parody, all flailing arms’ (SS 34, 1981, p. 151).

109 Stella Colas was coquettish and artful in refusing Romeo’s oath; Clement Scott felt that ‘her foreign origin enabled her to delight us with those tricks, fantastic changes, coquettings, poutings, and petulance which come with such difficulty from the Anglo-Saxon temperament’ (Yesterday and Today, ii, p. 301). Helena Modjeska gave the line ‘with delicious archness, with that playful feigned coquetry in which passion seeks relief from its own excess’ (The Critic, 4 June 1881). For Adelaide Neilson’s death-haunted Juliet, by contrast, this injunction ‘was no mere raillery, as it is with some actresses, but a superstitious misgiving’ (Marston, Our Recent Actors, ii, p. 235).

112 David Tennant’s earnest young Romeo paused, momentarily at a loss, before stressing ‘What shall I swear by?’ to good comic effect – Romeo feels he must swear by something (RSC 2000).

117–20 Neilson spoke these lines ‘with all the conviction and settled melancholy of a prophecy. You saw it was for her lover’s sake, rather than her own, that Juliet rallied herself’ with the lines that followed (Marston, Our Recent Actors, ii, p. 235).

121–2 Nineteenth-century producers, apparently thinking this metaphor needed illustration, had the following business: ‘Takes a flower from her bosom and throws it to him after kissing it’ (s23); Helena Faucit, Helena Modjeska, and Julia Marlowe were among those who used this business (s14; Modjeska, Memories and Impressions, p. 137; s70). William Winter thought Adelaide Neilson had invented it (Shakespeare on the Stage, p. 155). Rossi’s Juliet lowered a scarf, which he kissed (Carlson, The Italian Shakespearians, p. 165).

124 Daphne Nayar’s brash young Juliet took the line literally, actually flashing her bare breasts at Roland Gift’s Romeo in Hull Truck’s iconoclastic 1990 production (Financial Times, 4 September 1990). Ivo Van Hove’s 1999 Dutch production also featured a topless balcony scene (Shakespeare Bulletin, Winter 2000, p. 37).

125 In modern productions this line usually comes across with a sexual meaning, often unintended by Romeo but shocking to Juliet (and amusing to the audience). In 1991 Michael Maloney, realising he had alarmed Juliet with this apparently frank expression of desire, took a long pause, then reached out his hands toward her on the balcony. After shrinking back in momentary apprehension, she leaned down and placed her face in his hands as he began his line about the exchange of vows.

126 Helena Faucit delivered this line ‘coyishly’, according to her promptbook (s14).

128–9 Katherine Cornell said the first line in a prose tone, then went into an ‘ecstatic flight’ on the second, with a tremolo on the word ‘yet’ (s95).

131 ff. In both the stage and film productions, Zeffirelli had his lovers engage in a lot of kissing and physical contact, arousing the ire of many critics. Robert Speaight complained, of the stage production, that ‘Romeo was made to scramble up a tree and start a petting-match with Juliet’, while ‘Miss Judi Dench was made to flop over the rail of the balcony, like a sulky child who doesn’t agree that it’s bedtime’ (SQ 12, 1961, pp. 425, 426.) Defending his position, Zeffirelli suggested that Shakespeare’s separation of the lovers had to do with the fact that both were male (Loney, Staging Shakespeare, p. 252). Earlier productions had generally kept the lovers apart, though there were sometimes attempts at contact, as in the 1881 Court Theatre production with Modjeska and Forbes-Robertson. According to Westland Marston, ‘as the passion deepens, and Juliet … so leans from the balcony that her outstretched fingertips almost touch Romeo’s, a point of intensity is reached by an action all the more successful because its simple eagerness has a touch of the humorous’ (The Critic, 4 June 1881).

142 Of Zeffirelli’s Old Vic production: ‘In the balcony scene after Juliet (Miss Judi Dench) has been called away, there was a still silence on her return before she dared speak again or Romeo dared come out of hiding: this was given meaning by Romeo’s preceding soliloquy … And by illustrating their mutual sense of awe and fear, their response to the seemingly precarious nature of their new-found reality which at this time needs each other’s presence to be substantiated, the still silence gave added force to the memory of Romeo’s words’ (SS 15, 1962, p. 148).

152 Katherine Cornell’s voice caught in her throat on the word ‘grief’ (s95).

153 Georgia Slowe (Hands 1989) made ‘Tomorrow will I send’ a small, nervous question, to which Mark Rylance’s Romeo replied reassuringly with ‘So thrive my soul!’

156–7 The schoolboy couplet was cut by Garrick, as part of the play’s unattractive ‘jingle and quibble’.

158 Mark Rylance lay back on the stage in darkness, luxuriating in Juliet’s love and making no attempt to let her know of his presence (Hands, RSC 1989).

164–6 William Terriss, playing Romeo opposite Mary Anderson in 1884, seems to have given this entire speech from offstage, reentering only at the end (studybook, 1884).

167a Helena Modjeska expressed her ‘thrill of delight’ in finding Romeo again ‘by a half-startled and stifled cry and an impulsive leaning forward and darting downwards of the hands’ (Altemus, Helena Modjeska, p. 127).

167b Garrick said ‘My sweet’, Cushman and Irving ‘my dear’; most productions have used one or the other of these emendations, though ‘niësse’ is now frequently heard (e.g. Hands 1989, Boyd 2000).

170 William Hazlitt criticised Eliza O’Neill’s playing of this moment (1814): ‘the expression of tenderness bordered on hoydening, and affectation … She ought not to laugh when she says, “I have forgot why I did call thee back” as if conscious of the artifice, nor hang in a fondling posture over the balcony … the whole expression of her love should be like the breath of flowers’ (Hazlitt on Theatre, p. 19). In Peggy Ashcroft’s performance, ‘there was in her voice a happy realisation that any reason Juliet may have given herself for recalling Romeo had been no more than an excuse’; accordingly, her delivery of this line ‘was rewarded with a burst of sympathetic and spontaneous laughter’ (W. A. Darlington, quoted in Levenson, Romeo (1987), p. 53). According to Kenneth Tynan, Claire Bloom (Old Vic 1952) spoke the line ‘with a grave amazement: there are no simpers or blushes in this dedicated young creature’ (Curtains, p. 33).

170–1 Rather than showing ‘rhetorical neatness, or passionate emphasis, or fanciful humour’, ‘in [Zeffirelli’s] production the reply was frank and happy, appropriate to the quick sensations of the situation and suggesting a mutual response’ (SS 15, 1962, p. 149).

175 In Terry Hands’s 1989 RSC production, the lovers stood staring at each other in silence for nearly thirty seconds, until a sound effect of birds chirping prompted Juliet’s line, “Tis almost morning.’

179 This grim image was cut in Garrick’s version.

184–5 Of Peggy Ashcroft’s Juliet, in Gielgud’s Oxford production: ‘the superb farewell that follows can never have been spoken with a lovelier gravity … Not to hear Miss Ashcroft’s farewells to Romeo … is to miss a part of the history of this play’ (Times, 11 February 1932). By the end of the century, however, the farewell became hard to deliver seriously. In Declan Donellan’s 1986 Regent’s Park production, Ralph Fiennes and Sarah Woodward’s playful Edwardian lovers mocked their own romantic enthusiasm, turning Juliet’s line into a joke ‘instead of the usual sniffling whine’ (Today, 3 June 1986). Similarly, Michael Boyd’s production got an anti-romantic, comic effect on the lines. Alexandra Gilbreath said, ‘Good night … Good night’, pointedly stressing the second in order to get the lovestruck Romeo out of his trance and on his way (RSC 2000).

189 In his own 1940 production, Olivier completed his intensely physical playing of the scene with a running leap over the orchard wall (Wright, Romeo, p. 215).