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SEQUENCE : ROMEO AND JULIET, A SHAKESPEARIAN TRAGEDY

ACT I SCENE V THE FIRST MEETING


(Act I scene V lines 90 138)
The scene takes place in the Capulets' house. It takes place during the feast that Capulet has
organized. All the guests are wearing masks. Romeo and his friend Benvolio turn up, uninvited. It is
the moment when Romeo and Juliet first meet and when they fall in love at first sight.
1) Read the first fourteen lines of this extract. What can you notice ? What form is it written in ?
This extract (describing Romeo and Juliet's first meeting) is written in the form of a sonnet. When
Romeo and Juliet meet they speak just fourteen lines before their first kiss. These fourteen lines
make up a shared sonnet, with a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg (the typical Shakespearian
sonnet). A sonnet is a perfect, idealized poetic form often used to write about love. This sonnet
enables Romeo and Juliet to provide a shield to the moment of origin of their love, as if it were out
of time and extracted from the climate of hate between their families.
The use of the sonnet, however, also serves a second, darker purpose. The plays Prologue also is a
single sonnet of the same rhyme scheme as Romeo and Juliets shared sonnet. The Prologue sonnet
introduces the play, and, through its description of Romeo and Juliets eventual death, also helps to
create the sense of fate that permeates (= se rpandre, imprgner) Romeo and Juliet. The shared
sonnet between Romeo and Juliet therefore creates a link between their love and their destiny. With
a single sonnet, Shakespeare finds a means of expressing perfect love and linking it to a tragic fate.
2) Read these first fourteen lines again. What lexical field do the words and similes (=
comparaisons) the two lovers use belong to ?
If I profane..
This holy shrine (= chsse)
two blushing pilgrims
Good pilgrim
mannerly devotion...
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch
is holy palmer's kiss
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too ?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer
O then, dear saint, ...
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.
while my prayer's effect I take
Thus from my lips by thine my sin is purged
These words and similes belong to the religious langage. Their dialogue contains religious
metaphors that present Juliet as a saint or a shrine (that is a holy religious object, containing the
relics of a saint) and Romeo as a pilgrim who wishes to erase his sin. He tries to convince her to
kiss him, since it is only through her kiss that he might be absolved. Juliet agrees to remain still as
Romeo kisses her. Thus, in the terms of their conversation, she takes his sin from him. (Later on
Juliet makes it logical that if she has taken Romeos sin from him, his sin must now reside in her
lips, and so they must kiss again).
The first conversation between Romeo and Juliet is an extended Christian metaphor. Using this
metaphor, Romeo ingeniously manages to convince Juliet to let him kiss her. Using religious

metaphors was a convenient and respectable way of wooing a woman in Shakespeare's time.
Indeed, using metaphors was a diguised way of speaking about one's feelings. Thus, the woman
could pretend she had not understood the man's allusions and her honour was safe. As Romeo
wooes Juliet that way, the latter freely chooses to understand and to answer back to this
metaphor.
But the metaphor holds many further functions. The religious aspect of their conversation clearly
imply that their love can be described only through the vocabulary of religion, that pure association
with God. In this way, their love becomes associated with the purity and passion of the divine.
But there is another side to this association of personal love and religion. In using religious
language to describe their brand new feelings for each other, Romeo and Juliet adopt a blasphemous
attitude. Romeo compares Juliet to an image of a saint that should be revered (= vnrer), a role that
Juliet is willing to play. Whereas the Catholic church generally accepted reverence for saints'
images, the Anglican church of Elizabethan times saw it as a blasphemy, a kind of idol worship. In
that way, Romeos statements about Juliet can be viewed as heretical.
Romeo and Juliets love seems always to be opposed to the social structures of family, honour, and
the desire for order. Here it is also shown to have some conflict, at least theologically, with religion.
3) How does Juliet react to Romeo's wish to obtain a kiss from her ?
Saints move not, though grant for prayers' sake.
Then have my lips the sin that they have took
You kiss by th' book
Juliet accepts Romeo's kiss and after accepting the first kiss, makes it logical that if she has taken
Romeos sin from him, his sin must now reside in her lips, and so they must kiss again.
4) What does this first meeting reveal about the roles and the personalities of Romeo and Juliet ?
The first conversation between Romeo and Juliet announces the roles that each will play in their
relationship. In this scene, Romeo is clearly the aggressor. He uses all the skill at his disposal to win
over a timid, Juliet. Juliet does not move during their first kiss, she simply lets Romeo kiss her. She
is still a young girl. Though already in her dialogue with Romeo has proved herself intelligent, she
is not ready to throw herself into action. But Juliet is the aggressor in the second kiss. It is her logic
that forces Romeo to kiss her again and take back the sin he has placed on her lips. In a single
conversation, Juliet transforms from a timid young girl to one more mature, who understands what
she desires and is quick-witted enough to obtain it.
Juliets comment to Romeo, You kiss by th book, can be taken in two ways (1.5.107).
First, it can be seen as emphasizing Juliets lack of experience. This sentence can mean you are an
incredible kisser, Romeo. But it is possible to see an ironical observation in this line. Juliet's
comment that Romeo kisses by the book is similar to noting that he kisses as if he has learned how
to kiss from a manual and followed those instructions exactly. In other words, he is proficient (=
comptent), but unoriginal (It is worth noting that Romeos love for Rosaline is described in exactly
these terms, as learned from reading books of romantic poetry). Juliet is clearly in love with Romeo,
but it is possible to see her as the more incisive of both of them.
5) How do the two lovers react after learning that they belong to feuding families ?
Is she a Capulet ?
O dear account ! My life is my foe's debt.

Go ask his name. If he be married,


My grave is like to be my wedding bed.
My only love spring 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.
Romeo asks the Nurse who Juliets mother is. The Nurse replies that Lady Capulet is her mother.
Romeo is devastated. As the crowd begins to disperse, Benvolio shows up and Romeo is ready to
leave the feast. Juliet is just as struck with the mysterious man she has kissed as Romeo is with her.
She comments to herself that if he is already married, she feels she will die. The latter remark
sounds like an omen. It is indeed what is going to happen at the end, but not for the reason that she
evokes. It is connected to the theme of fate which permeates the play. The author the technique of
dramatic irony : the words and actions of the characters take on a different meaning for the audience
or reader than they have for the plays characters. In this case, Juliet thinks that if Romeo were
already married, it would kill her, but the audience knows from the beginning that it her marriage
with Romeo that will be fatal to both lovers. Juliet unwillingly expresses the fact that the play is
heading to a tragic outcome.
In order to find out Romeos identity without raising any suspicions, she asks the Nurse to identify a
series of young men. The Nurse goes off and returns with the news that the mans name is Romeo,
and that he is a Montague. Overcome with anguish that she loves a Montague, Juliet follows her
nurse from the hall.
Both Romeo and Juliet discover from the Nurse the other's identity. In an instant, Juliet concisely
expresses the connection between love and hate and marriage and death: "My only love sprung
from my only hate." She also declares immediately that if she cannot marry Romeo, she would
rather die: "If he be married. / My grave is like to be my wedding bed." The image of death as a
bridegroom for Juliet is repeated throughout the play to maintain an atmosphere of impending (=
imminent, prochain) tragedy.
COMMENTARY
This is the moment weve all been waiting for. Romeo sees Juliet and forgets Rosaline entirely.
Juliet meets Romeo and falls just as deeply in love. The meeting of Romeo and Juliet dominates the
scene with extraordinary language that captures both the excitement and wonder that the two
protagonists feel. Shakespeare fulfills the expectations he has set up by delaying the meeting for an
entire act.
First, we can notice that the two lovers' first meeting is written in the form of a sonnet, the
traditional written form to speak about love. It is as if the author had created a perfect frame to
shelter Romeo and Juliet's budding (= naissant) ove. Their love is thus protected from the climate of
hate and revenge between the two families that permeates the play. It is a happy, blessed moment,
extracted from hate and feud. Let's remember that the prologue has already announced the two
lovers' death right from the beginning of the play. All the members of the two feuding families
regularly fight and even their servants quarrel as the first act shows it.
Fate begins to assert itself in the instant when Romeo and Juliet first meet : Tybalt recognizes
Romeos voice when Romeo first exclaims at Juliets beauty. Capulet, acting cautiously, stops
Tybalt from taking immediate action, but Tybalts rage is set, creating the circumstances that will
eventually banish Romeo from Verona. In the meeting between Romeo and Juliet lie the seeds of
their shared tragedy.

The use of the sonnet, however, also serves a second, darker purpose. The plays Prologue also is a
single sonnet of the same rhyme scheme as Romeo and Juliets shared sonnet. The Prologue sonnet
introduces the play, and, through its description of Romeo and Juliets eventual death, also helps to
create the sense of fate that permeates (= se rpandre, imprgner) Romeo and Juliet. The shared
sonnet between Romeo and Juliet therefore creates a link between their love and their destiny. With
a single sonnet, Shakespeare finds a means of expressing perfect love and linking it to a tragic fate.
In this scene, the reader also becomes aware of the two lovers' personalities. From the moment
when he sees Juliet, Romeo completely forgets Rosaline and the childish love that he felt for her.
The love he feels for Juliet is more mature and more profound. As far as Juliet is concerned, she
instantly evolves from a timid and obedient young girl to a young woman who accepts the love she
feels for this newly met young man.
The love between Romeo and Juliet is not frivolous. In the fifth scene, the lovers speak in a sonnet
that invokes sacrilegious imagery of saints and pilgrims. This indicates the way in which these
lovers see each other when they are completely separated from the complications of the world
around them. Obviously, their attitude and their love create disorder in the well-ordered feuding
climate they evolve in. This disorder is ultimately the obstacle that keeps them apart - and they will
eventually decide to withdraw from the world in order to be together. Both Romeo and Juliet
believe in the purity of their love - their future may be uncertain, but in the moment, their passion is
all-consuming.

SEQUENCE : ROMEO AND JULIET, A SHAKESPEARIAN TRAGEDY


ACT I SCENE V THE FIRST MEETING
(Act I scene V lines 90 138)
The scene takes place in the Capulets' house. It takes place during the feast that Capulet has
organized. All the guests are wearing masks. Romeo and his friend Benvolio turn up, uninvited. It is
the moment when Romeo and Juliet first meet and when they fall in love at first sight.
1) Read the first fourteen lines of this extract. What can you notice ? What form is it written in ?

2) Read these first fourteen lines again. What lexical field do the words and similes (=
comparaisons) the two lovers use belong to ?

3) How does Juliet react to Romeo's wish to obtain a kiss from her ?

4) What does this first meeting reveal about the roles and the personalities of Romeo and Juliet ?

5) How do the two lovers react after learning that they belong to feuding families ?