Romeo and Juliet | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 2, Scene 2

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides in-depth summary and analysis of Act 2, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet | Act 2, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Romeo comes forward into the garden when Juliet suddenly appears in a window above him. (Some productions use a balcony, and this is commonly called the "balcony scene.") Hiding in darkness, Romeo watches her with awe as she seems to light the sky: "What light through yonder window breaks?" She speaks to herself, and Romeo dares to hope she speaks of him. She does: "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" she asks herself. Then Juliet confesses to the night that, if Romeo will swear his love, she will "no longer be a Capulet."

Romeo finally responds. Juliet is stunned that he's there—how did he get over the orchard wall, and what of the risk to his life? "With love's light wings," Romeo responds. Juliet is skeptical of Romeo's intentions, reasoning that he will, of course, say he loves her in order to woo her, whether it's the truth or not. She runs through the possibilities for deception but, knowing and accepting her feelings, confesses plainly to being "too fond."

Romeo asks, "Wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?" When Juliet challenges him by asking "what satisfaction" he could have that night, he says that her "faithful vow" will satisfy him. She agrees to give it again and describes the fullness of her love: "The more I give to thee,/The more I have." Called inside by the nurse, Juliet leaves and then returns and seizes control by offering herself for marriage. If he agrees she will go when and where he tells her, "and all my fortunes at thy foot I'll lay/And follow thee my lord throughout the world." They discuss making arrangements for their wedding. Before Juliet departs again, she calls him her "bird," tied to her with "a silken thread." Finally, Romeo leaves to arrange the ceremony with Friar Lawrence.

Analysis

Romeo's first metaphor for Juliet's beauty describes a life- and light-giving power that eclipses the lesser beauty of the "envious moon," though perhaps the cycles of the moon foreshadow that Juliet's light must also go dim. For now, however, she is a "bright angel ... glorious to this night." Ideas of light and night are both associated with love in this scene. Romeo says he wears "night's cloak," and Juliet says "the mask of night" is on her face. Romeo and Juliet's love is both a benefit to them and a destructive force.

In contrast Juliet dwells not on Romeo's beauty but on his name and identity. Why must he be Romeo? Can he not sever himself from his father and his name? Alternately she would instead "no longer be a Capulet." Juliet makes a distinction between Romeo's name, Montague, and the real person, concluding that his name is "no part of" him. At this point Juliet cannot see Romeo, so for these moments at least, her love is not attached to his beauty. In this scene voice becomes more powerful (although beauty still influences Romeo).

The metaphor of the bird at the end of the scene is a complex one. It both describes their ties and compares Romeo to "a poor prisoner." She says that she would likely "kill [him] with much cherishing." Her words foreshadow perfectly the events to come later in the play.

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