The Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene: Analysis and Explanation
What Is the Balcony Scene in Romeo and Juliet?
The famous balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet occurs in act two, scene two of Shakespeare’s well-known play. Within the balcony scene there are several very important events that take place. Each one builds the intensity of the passionate attraction between these two iconic lovers.
What Happens in the Balcony Scene?
Romeo climbs the Capulet family’s garden wall, and sees Juliet alone on her balcony. Unaware that Romeo is nearby, Juliet sighs and speaks her feelings of love out loud. Romeo declares himself to Juliet, and she warns him of the danger of being there. Romeo and Juliet swear their true love to each other, plan a secret marriage, and finally say good night.
To recap, the key events in order are:
- Romeo sees Juliet
- Juliet thinks she is alone
- Romeo declares himself
- Juliet warns of danger
- Romeo and Juliet swear their love
- Romeo and Juliet plan their secret marriage
- Romeo and Juliet finally say good night
Why Is the Balcony Scene so Important?
In Romeo and Juliet, the balcony scene solidifies the bond of love for both characters. In the scene, Romeo and Juliet are completely alone for the first time. There is tension because of the danger that they may be discovered, but that simply adds to the excitement of the scene.
The balcony scene is critically important to the development of the plot of the play because it is during this scene that the lovers’ secret marriage is decided. Juliet will not give up her honor. Sher insists on marriage, or no relationship at all. Romeo is happy to pursue a wedding, and intends to enlist the help of Friar Laurence.
This development puts a central plot point in place. The marriage of Romeo and Juliet creates complications that drive the intensity of the conflicts in the rest of the play.
Famous Quotes in the Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene
The Romeo and Juliet balcony scene contains some of the most familiar quotes from the play. Contained in this scene are several famous lines.
Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Perhaps the most misunderstood of all of Shakepeare’s quotes, this line appears very early in the balcony scene. Juliet is NOT asking where Romeo is. She is asking why he has to be Romeo, a Montague.
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…
This philosophical statement is uttered by Juliet as she tries to come to terms with the fact that the man she loves is part of her family’s most hated rival clan.
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
Romeo speaks these famous words as soon as he sees Juliet standing alone on her balcony, framed within the shape of her bedchamber window.
Parting is such sweet sorrow…
When the lovers do, at last, say good night, it is after several goodbyes and returns. It is very late and they have made secret plans to be married.
Summary of the Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene
First, Romeo climbs over the wall of the Capulet orchard. He’s escaping the taunts of his friends, who simply do not understand his infatuation with Juliet. Romeo speaks disdainfully of them, saying “He jests as scars who never felt a wound.”
Almost immediately, Romeo sees Juliet leaning on her balcony. He speaks of her beauty as he listens to her speak her thoughts of love aloud. Juliet thinks she is in private, so she talks freely of her love for Romeo. Romeo, after several worrisome moments, announces himself, and swears his love. He startles Juliet, and she warns him how dangerous it is for him to be in the Capulet garden.
Next, Romeo swears his love clearly, and asks for Juliet’s feelings in return. She acknowledges that she loves him, but says she will accept only honorable love and a marriage proposal. Romeo implies that he want to marry her, and the two make secret plans for the following day. They finally part, and Romeo states that he will go immediately to find Friar Laurence to arrange the wedding details.
Analysis of the Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene
The balcony scene serves to develop the characters of Romeo and Juliet so that the audience can begin to sympathize and identify with the young people.
It also builds a certain amount of tension and danger with the constant threat of discovery. Not only does Juliet warn Romeo about the danger, but she also protects him form being discovered by the Nurse. The Nurse calls Juliet several times during the scene, giving the audience the feeling that they may be discovered at any time. This add suspense throughout the scene.
There is more to the scene than just the content. There are some complex poetic elements as well. The famous balcony scene is 210 lines long, and composed entirely in blank verse. Blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter. In the balcony scene, both Romeo and Juliet speak all their lines in this distinctive meter.
Romeo Says “He jests at scars that never felt a wound”
The scene begins with Romeo climbing into the Capulet family garden. He states that his friends can not understand his feelings because they have never been in love. That’s what Romeo means when he starts the scene with the line:
He jests at scars that never felt a wound.
Romeo continues with his monologue. He describes Juliet’s beauty with powerful metaphors and begins to build up his courage so that he might speak to her.
A Metaphor: Juliet Is the Sun
Then, Romeo sees Juliet on the balcony. He stops, and exclaims how beautiful she is. He uses the metaphor of the sun to describe how light and lovely she appears to him. He continues to expand on the metaphor by describing that the moon would be jealous of Juliet (the sun) because Juliet, as the sun, is much more beautiful than the moon itself.
Romeo. 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.
Romeo Wants to Speak, but Does Not Dare
Romeo looks up at her, and says that Juliet is his love. He wishes she knew how much he loves her. He notes that she is not speaking out loud, but the look in her eye shows that she might feel the same love for him. He is overcome with nerves, and holds back because he feels he is being too bold.
Romeo. 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:
Another Metaphor: Juliet’s Eyes are Bright Stars
Romeo compares Juliet’s eyes to stars in a complicated way. He says that the stars have business to do elsewhere, so they have asked Juliet’s eyes to shine in heaven. Her eyes, as stars, shine so brightly that even the birds will think that is it daytime.
Romeo. Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
…her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
Romeo Calls Juliet an Angel
Romeo says that Juliet is just like an angel, because she stands on the balcony above his head. He says she is just as magnificent as an angel flying above in the air.
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
When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.
Juliet believes she is alone in the garden. She stands on the balcony and talks to herself. She is thinking about Romeo and about how much she loves him. She is very conflicted, though, because Romeo is a Montague. The Montagues are the sworn enemies of the Capulets.
What “Wherefore Art Thou” Really Means
Juliet asks herself, WHY?? Why does the man she loves have to be Romeo Montague? In this line, Juliet is not asking where Romeo is. She is simply asking why must he be Romeo Montague?
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
So, you can see this line has nothing whatsoever to do with where Romeo is. Juliet has no idea that he is in the garden below her. She is just talking to herself, and wishing that Romeo could be some other name- or some other family.
Juliet Admits Her Feelings
Juliet speaks to the air, but imagines she is speaking to Romeo. She tells him to deny his family and get rid of his name. If he will not, then she will denounce her own name, and leave her family behind for him.
Juliet. 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 makes a quick aside, wondering if he should listen more to Juliet’s private thoughts, or if he should speak and announce his presence.
Juliet Considers the Meaning of a Name
Then, Juliet continues to muse aloud on her love, and the nature of names. She is, in essence, saying that the name of Montague is her enemy, not Romeo himself.
Juliet.‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
She goes onto say that the name is not any part of the actual person. A name is just a word, not the thing itself. Juliet cries out her deep desire that Romeo would have some other name.
Juliet.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!
A Rose By Any Other Name
Using the example of a rose, Juliet says a rose would be just as lovely if it had a different name–any other name, just like Romeo.
Juliet.What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
She extends the example with Romeo:
Juliet.So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.
Juliet Offers Her Love
At the end of this section, Juliet repeats her wish for Romeo to abandon his name, in exchange for her true love.
Juliet.Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
Romeo makes himself known to Juliet and she is startled. She asks who it is that has been hiding in the dark. Juliet is wanting to know who the person is that has been listening to her thoughts and words:
Juliet. What man art thou that thus bescreen’d in night
So stumblest on my counsel?
Romeo, cleverly, reveals himself and also answers Juliet’s earlier wishes. He says that he cannot tell his name, because he knows the name is her enemy. He says the name is hateful to him, also. If he had his name written on a piece of paper, he would rip it to shreds. That’s how much he hates the name.
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 recognizes Romeo’s voice, and asks hi if he is, indeed, Romeo Montague.
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 immediately demonstrates his willingness to let go of his name. This also implies that he is ready to receive Juliet’s love as well. He says he will be neither Romeo nor a Montague, if either one of those names makes Juliet unhappy. He does this very simply, by saying in response to her question:
Romeo. Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike.
Juliet asks Romeo how he got into the garden, and why he has come there. Take note of the word “wherefore” again here. It clearly means “why” in this case, too.
Juliet is asking why Romeo would climb the difficult walls and place himself in so much danger. She’s asking why she would take the risk of being killed if her family finds him in the garden with her.
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 Is Not Afraid
Romeo says he came to garden on the light wings of love, because even heavy stone walls cannot hold love out. He says that love will try to do everything that is possible. He is not afraid of Juliet’s family because he has so much love.
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 is afraid that Romeo will be killed. Romeo says he is more afraid of a bad look from Juliet than any other danger- even twenty swords could not frighten him as much as her disapproval. Likewise, he also says that if she looks at hims sweetly, he will be immune, or protected, from their hatred.
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.
Romeo Would Rather Die than Live Without Juliet’s Love
Of course, Juliet does not want this, and she says so clearly. Romeo reassures her that he can hide here in the dark.
He adds that he doesn’t even care if they find him, as long as Juliet loves him. He would rather die by violence from the Capulets than try to live without her love.He would not want his death delayed at all, if he had to live without the true love of Juliet.
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 has a famous monologue in this part of the scene. This is a complex monologue that bears analysis all by itself. As a part of this scene, though, the monologue can be broken into several parts.
Juliet’s Monologue: She Swears Her Love
First she playfully says that she would like to stand on ceremony and deny what she has spoken, but she cannot.
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!
Juliet then asks for Romeo’s answer as to whether or not he loves her. She says she will play hard to get, if necessary- but only so that Romeo will come closer.
Juliet. 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.
Finally, Juliet completely admits that she loves Romeo. She is worried that her behavior is not ladylike, and knows that she should be more reticent. But, she says, her love is true and strong. She also comments that she gave her feelings before she knew that Romeo was nearby.
Juliet. 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 Swears by the Moon
Romeo responds by swearing on the moon, but Juliet stops him. Juliet says that the moon is not reliable. She does not want Romeo’s love to be inconsistent. She does not want his love to be like the moon
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.
Juliet Makes Romeo Her God
So, Romeo asks what he should use to swear his love, and Juliet says that he can swear upon himself, because he is a god to her. She says she will believe anything he says in that case.
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 Tries to Say Good Night
Juliet now seems to have second thoughts about staying out in the dark with Romeo. She swears that she adores Romeo, but has not joy in their rash actions, so she tries to say goodnight. She swears her love in subtle words, and shows that she has hope for the future.
As a side note, it is this set of lines that give a hint as to the time of year the play takes place. Juliet mentions that their new love may blossom in the summer. In another scene, Juliet’s birthday is said to be a little ways in the future, on Lammastide, which is August 1st.
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 Asks For Juliet’s Vow
Romeo will not let Juliet go so easily. He tries to keep her near him, and asks for her to exchange her love’s vow with his.
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 Swears Her Devotion
Juliet now gives her lover the words he has been longing to hear. She says her love for him is as infinite as the sea.
Juliet. 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.
Juliet’s nurse calls from within, and Juliet must go. She promises to return quickly, and tells Romeo:
Juliet.Stay but a little, and I will come again.
It is Juliet who first speaks the idea of marriage. She tells Romeo that it must marriage for her, or nothing at all. Juliet insists on an honorable match. She will give Romeo everything she has if he will marry her. If he will not, she tells him to leave her alone to grieve, and, presumably, die.
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.
But if thou mean’st not well,
I do beseech thee—
To cease thy suit, and leave me to my grief:
Romeo agrees quite readily to this plan, and with a few interruptions fro the Nurse, the two lovers have it settled. Juliet goes inside, only to reappear a few seconds later.
Romeo. My dear?
Juliet. At what o’clock to-morrow
Shall I send to thee?
Romeo. At the hour of nine.
The very next morning, at nine o’clock the marriage will be arranged, and the lovers plan to be husband and wife only a few hours after they meet.
Finally, the two lovers say good night, and part company. Romeo plans to seek out Friar Laurence immediately to request his services and arrange the wedding.
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.