Romeo and Juliet: Love and Light

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

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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 tonight.

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,

They 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 and 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 coying 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.

This is my third time reading Romeo and Juliet in a class setting, and the intricacies of the balcony scene never cease to astonish me. The beautiful language that Romeo and Juliet engage in during this scene is beautiful, but I never fully explored the logistics of setting this scene in early modern London until we discussed it today in class. This aloft scene required the audience to look up because Juliet is elevated, so I began to wonder if the sun would get in the audience’s eyes, and if so, how this would affect the staging of night. I think Shakespeare plays with this dynamic in the young lovers’ language. In this passage, Juliet begins by pronouncing, “Thou know’st the mask of night is on my face,” to reassure the viewers that the scene is occurring at night and ironically alludes to the darkness’ ‘necessity in hiding her reactions. The actions of Juliet are clearly on display and broad daylight, so Shakespeare was teasing the audience with this line. The lighting is not only correlated to Juliet’s appearance, but also tied to the romance of the scene, which is the main aspect of the scene. The words, “’havior light.” Do not correlate to physical light’s properties, but the mere word “light” would subconsciously trigger the audience to notice the lack of darkness.  The last two lines of this expert and Juliet’s reply also focus on light and the darkness’ crucial role in enlighting the young love. In the lines, “And not impute this yielding to light love,\ Which the dark night hath so discovered.” Juliet once again points out that darkness is vital in making the connection between her and Romeo. Because this is towards the beginning of the play, the sun would have definitely been burning, so it makes me wonder if these references to the darkness’s’ vitality are supposed to make the audience members question if the love between Romeo and Juliet is genuine.

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