The timeless love story and heartbreaking tragedy of "Romeo and Juliet" is one of William Shakespeare's most famous plays. Performed om stages throughout the world, adapted to movies, immortalised in paintings, ballets and operas. Why does this relationship continue to captivate audiences?
The Balcony Scene
Act II, Scene II of "Romeo and Juliet" is most commonly referred to as the balcony scene (even though Shakespeare himself never mentions any balcony in the play!). Just before this scene, Romeo Montague meets Juliet Capulet at a ball arranged by the Capulet family and as the saying goes, they fall in love at first sight. To complicate the matter though, the Montagues and the Capulets are bitter enemies. Romeo ignores this and later climbs the wall into the Capulet's garden, in search of another glimpse of Juliet. Suddenly, candlelight appears in Juliet's bedroom window...
Activity: The relationship between Romeo and Juliet
- Before you listen to this scene, copy the excerpt below of Scene II, Act II into a Word document.
- As you are listening, highlight (in any colour) sentences that you believe best express the strong feelings that the two characters have towards each other.
- These notes will prepare you for the suggested tasks for this excerpt. You will find a link to this at the bottom of the page.
Act II, Scene II from "Romeo and Juliet" as plain text
Act 2, Scene 2
ROMEO [Coming forward.]:
[JULIET appears above at a window.]
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.
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:
Two 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,
As 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,
That I might touch that cheek!
JULIET: Ay me!
ROMEO: 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.
JULIET: O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, 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?
JULIET: '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.
ROMEO: I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.
JULIET:What man art thou that thus bescreen'd in night
So stumblest on my counsel?
ROMEO: By a name
I know not how to tell thee who I am:
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,
Because it is an enemy to thee;
Had I it written, I would tear the word.
JULIET: My ears have not yet drunk a hundred words
Of that tongue's utterance, yet I know the sound:
Art thou not Romeo and a Montague?
ROMEO: Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike.
JULIET: 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.
ROMEO: 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.
JULIET: If they do see thee, they will murder thee.
ROMEO: Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords: look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.
JULIET: I would not for the world they saw thee here.
ROMEO: I have night's cloak to hide me from their sight;
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.
JULIET: By whose direction found'st thou out this place?
ROMEO: 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.
JULIET: Thou know'st the mask of night is on my face,
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek
For that which thou hast heard me speak to-night
Fain would I dwell on form, fain, fain deny
What I have spoke: but farewell compliment!
Dost 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
Then say, Jove laughs. O gentle Romeo,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully:
Or if thou think'st I am too quickly won,
I'll frown and be perverse an 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 'havior light:
But trust me, gentleman, I'll prove more true
Than those that have more cunning to be strange.
I should have been more strange, I must confess,
But that thou overheard'st, ere I was ware,
My true love's passion: therefore pardon me,
And not impute this yielding to light love,
Which the dark night hath so discovered.
ROMEO: Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear
That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops--
JULIET: O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.
ROMEO: 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,
And I'll believe thee.
ROMEO: If my heart's dear love--
JULIET: Well, do not swear: although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract to-night:
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!
ROMEO: O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?
JULIET: What satisfaction canst thou have to-night?
ROMEO: The exchange of thy love's faithful vow for mine.
JULIET: I gave thee mine before thou didst request it:
And yet I would it were to give again.
ROMEO: Wouldst thou withdraw it? for what purpose, love?
JULIET: 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,
The 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.
ROMEO: O blessed, blessed night! I am afeard.
Being in night, all this is but a dream,
Too flattering-sweet to be substantial.
[Re-enter JULIET, above]
JULIET: Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed.
If that thy bent of love be honourable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow,
By 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] Madam!
JULIET: I come, anon.--But if thou mean'st not well,
I do beseech thee--
Nurse: [Within] Madam!
JULIET: By and by, I come:--
To cease thy suit, and leave me to my grief:
To-morrow will I send.
ROMEO: So thrive my soul--
JULIET: A thousand times good night!
ROMEO: A thousand times the worse, to want thy light.
Love goes toward love, as schoolboys from
But love from love, toward school with heavy looks.
[Re-enter JULIET, above]
JULIET: Hist! Romeo, hist! O, for a falconer's voice,
To lure this tassel-gentle back again!
Bondage 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.
ROMEO: It is my soul that calls upon my name:
How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night,
Like softest music to attending ears!
ROMEO: My dear?
JULIET: At what o'clock to-morrow
Shall I send to thee?
ROMEO: At the hour of nine.
JULIET: I will not fail: 'tis twenty years till then.
I have forgot why I did call thee back.
ROMEO: Let me stand here till thou remember it.
JULIET: I shall forget, to have thee still stand there,
Remembering how I love thy company.
ROMEO: And I'll still stay, to have thee still forget,
Forgetting any other home but this.
JULIET: 'Tis almost morning; I would have thee gone:
And yet no further than a wanton's bird;
Who lets it hop a little from her hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silk thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty.
ROMEO: 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
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.
ROMEO: 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 father's cell,
His help to crave, and my dear hap to tell.
The website Shakespeare Online has published the scene with helpful explanatory notes. Her is also a traditional vocabulary list, to help you better understand the excerpt.
thou her maid art
you her maid is
virginal costume worn by the ancient Roman goddesses
thou wilt not
you will not
get rid of
and for thy name
and in exchange of
concealed that way
stumblest on my counsel
if either thee dislike
if you don’t like any of the names
how camest thou hither
how did you come here
from now on
and but thou love me
unless you love me
prompt me to inquire
made me ask
paint with colour
dwell on form
do things correctly
Jove, or Jupiter, was the king of Gods, he was repeatedly unfaithful
but that thou overheard'st
except that you overheard it
ere I was ware
before I was aware of it
the elliptical path the moon has around the Earth
for fear that
worship of idols
a person that hunts with falcons calling for his falcon
to lure this tassel gentle back again
the falcon is lured back by his master's call
a nymph in Greek mythology who loved her own voice
a person that is playful or immoral