Quotes from Romeo and Juliet

From forth the loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows,
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife. (Opening Prologue)

From the play's opening prologue we can garner the events of the play in a nutshell. The ill-fated union of Romeo and Juliet will result in their (and others) deaths, but with this will come an end to the ancient feud between the Montagues and Capulets.


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 loathed enemy (I, v)

Juliet speaks with her nurse after meeting Romeo at the conclusion of Act I. She remarks that she fell in love with Romeo right away, and only later discovered that he is a Montague ("known too late"). This quote highlights the heart of the theme in the play: the "star-crossed" lovers.


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 (III, ii)

After their initial meeting, the lyrical and imaginitive quality of Romeo and Juliet's love reaches sublime heights. Juliet speaks to herself here while waiting for Romeo, her imagination the stuff of "heaven" and "stars".


O serpent heart, hid with a flowering face!
Did ever dragon keep so fair a cave?
Beautiful tyrant! fiend angelical!
Dove-feather'd raven! wolvish-ravening lamb! (III, ii)

Juliet learns that Romeo has killed Tybalt and vents her anger in good/evil terms. Thus Romeo, is a "serpent" with the face of a flower, a "dragon" in a "fair" cave. Her love for Romeo overcomes her anger shortly after.


And world's exile is death,--then banished
Is death mis-term'd: calling death banishment,
Thou cutt'st my head off with a golden axe,
And smil'st upon the stroke that murders me. ... (III, iii)

Romeo speaks with Friar Laurence after learning of his banishment from Verona. Juliet, in Verona, is his "world" and he likens banishment to exile from the world, and thus death by means of a "golden axe."


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! (I, v)

Romeo's words upon seeing Juliet for the first time. Immediately his speech begins to transcend anything earlier in the play. Love and the night are equated, just as Juliet will later speak of Romeo as fit to grace the stars of the night.


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 (II, ii)

Another fine lyrical example of Romeo's love for Juliet. The light/dark motif (discussed in the critical discussion) is evident here, with the contrasts between night and day, and the stars and the sun.


These violent delights have violent ends,
And in their triumph die; like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume: the sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness,
And in the taste confounds the appetite:
Therefore love moderately: long love doth so;
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow (II, vi)

The voice of reason in the play, the Friar here speaks with Romeo. He remarks on the "violent" delights of love and how they can have "violent ends" and he urges to love moderately. The quote highlights one of the inherent contradictions of love and falling in love. His remarks, of course, are prescient.


O fortune, fortune! all men call thee fickle:
If thou art fickle, what dost thou with him
That is renown'd for faith? Be fickle, fortune;
For then, I hope, thou wilt not keep him long
But send him back
(V, ii)

Fortune is a prominent theme in the play, as in many of Shakespeare's works. Here, Juliet speaks to herself after Romeo leaves, urging Fortune to send Romeo back to her. Her words suggest that no matter how much faith one puts into something, we are, in some sense, at the whim of Fortune.


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. . . .
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars
As daylight doth a lamp; her eye in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.

Romeo speaks these lines in the so-called balcony scene, when, hiding in the Capulet orchard after the feast, he sees Juliet leaning out of a high window (II.i.44-64). Though it is late at night, Juliet's surpassing beauty makes Romeo imagine that she is the sun, transforming the darkness into daylight. Romeo likewise personifies the moon, calling it "sick and pale with grief" at the fact that Juliet, the sun, is far brighter and more beautiful. Romeo then compares Juliet to the stars, claiming that she eclipses the stars as daylight overpowers a lamp-her eyes alone shine so bright that they will convince the birds to sing at night as if it were day.
This quote is important because in addition to initiating one of the play's most beautiful and famous sequences of poetry, it is a prime example of the light/dark motif that runs throughout the play. Many scenes in Romeo and Juliet are set either late at night or early in the morning, and Shakespeare often uses the contrast between night and day to explore opposing alternatives in a given situation. Here, Romeo imagines Juliet transforming darkness into light; later, after their wedding night, Juliet convinces Romeo momentarily that the daylight is actually night (so that he doesn't yet have to leave her room).


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.

Juliet speaks these lines, perhaps the most famous in the play, in the balcony scene (II.i.74-78). Leaning out of her upstairs window, unaware that Romeo is below in the orchard, she asks why Romeo must be Romeo-why he must be a Montague, the son of her family's greatest enemy ("wherefore" means "why," not "where"; Juliet is not, as is often assumed, asking where Romeo is). Still unaware of Romeo's presence, she asks him to deny his family for her love. She adds, however, that if he will not, she will deny her family in order to be with him if he merely tells her that he loves her.

A major theme in Romeo and Juliet is the tension between social and family identity (represented by one's name), and one's inner identity. Juliet believes that love stems from one's inner identity, and that the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets is a product of the outer identity, based only on names. She thinks of Romeo in individual terms, and thus her love for him overrides her family's hatred for the Montague name. She says that if Romeo were not called "Romeo" or "Montague," he would still be the person she loves. "What's in a name?" she asks. "That which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet" (II.i.85-86).


O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you. . . .
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomi
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep.

Mercutio's famous Queen Mab speech is important for the stunning quality of its poetry and for what it reveals about Mercutio's character, but it also has some interesting thematic implications (I.iv.53-59). Mercutio is trying to convince Romeo to set aside his lovesick melancholy over Rosaline and come along to the Capulet feast. When Romeo says that he is depressed because of a dream, Mercutio launches on a lengthy, playful description of Queen Mab, the fairy who supposedly brings dreams to sleeping humans. The main point of the passage is that the dreams Queen Mab brings are directly related to the person who dreams them-lovers dream of love, soldiers of war, etc. But in the process of making this rather prosaic point Mercutio falls into a sort of wild bitterness in which he seems to see dreams as destructive and delusional.

This trio of quotes advances the theme of fate as it plays out through the story: the first is spoken by the Chorus (Prologue.5-8), the second by Romeo after he kills Tybalt (III.i.131), and the third by Romeo upon learning of Juliet's death (V.i.24). The Chorus' remark that Romeo and Juliet are "star-crossed" and fated to "take their li[ves]" informs the audience that the lovers are destined to die tragically. Romeo's remark "O, I am fortune's fool!" illustrates the fact that Romeo sees himself as subject to the whims of fate. When he cries out "Then I defy you, stars," after learning of Juliet's death, he declares himself openly opposed to the destiny that so grieves him. Sadly, in "defying" fate he actually brings it about. Romeo's suicide prompts Juliet to kill herself, thereby ironically fulfilling the lovers' tragic destiny.

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