Romeo and Juliet

by

William Shakespeare

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Romeo and Juliet: Soliloquy 6 key examples

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Definition of Soliloquy
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost thoughts and feelings as if... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself... read full definition
Act 2, Scene 2
Explanation and Analysis—Juliet's Balcony Speech:

In Act 2, Scene 2, Juliet reflects on her encounter with Romeo at the ball—and her confusion at having fallen in love with her supposed enemy—in a wistful soliloquy: 

’Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face.
O, be some other name
Belonging to a man.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.

Though Juliet is not alone, as she assumes (Romeo is actually listening to Juliet's monologue, eavesdropping on her and responding to her speech in asides), this is an important moment in the development of Juliet's autonomy. By reflecting openly on her interest in Romeo and questioning the righteousness of the fundamental rift between the Capulets and the Montagues, Juliet is consciously defying her family. She knows that the Montagues are her "enemy," but Romeo himself is gentle and loving—a contradiction that leads Juliet to recognize that the feud between their families is meaningless. Moreover, names, and the history and family pride attached to them, are far less important than the real people behind them. "That which we call a rose," she concludes, "By any other word would smell as sweet." 

Juliet is also rebelling against the patriarchy in which she has grown up, in which women are expected to marry men chosen for them by their fathers and are viewed as status symbols for their husbands and families instead of free-thinking, autonomous humans. Yet by refusing to write off her love for Romeo, Juliet turns away from her upbringing, embracing the new and unknown over the old traditions that have controlled her life. 

Explanation and Analysis—Juliet as the Sun :

In Act 2, Scene 2, Romeo spies Juliet at her balcony after encountering her at the Capulets' ball. In one of the play's most well-known soliloquies, he uses both metaphor and personification to praise her beauty: 

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 metaphorically presents Juliet as the "fair," rising sun to emphasize the power she has begun to hold over him. Previously, his mood has been dark as night, but Juliet's newfound presence in his life has enlivened his spirits, just as daybreak lifts the darkness of nighttime. Next, Romeo compares Juliet to the "envious moon," whom he personifies as a jealous, matronly woman who is "pale with grief." Nighttime in Romeo and Juliet is often figured as a time of intrigue, danger, and potential hostility. Therefore, Juliet, as the "fair sun," represents the relative safety and splendor of the daytime, which ultimately consoles Romeo.

Moreover, Juliet looms as large as the sun in Romeo's poetic imagination—in contrast to Rosaline, whom Romeo also venerates but does not directly liken to the sun. This comparison therefore helps the audience understand Romeo's profound passion for Juliet, which makes his previous infatuation with Rosaline seem childish and surface-level.

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Act 2, Scene 3
Explanation and Analysis—Friar Laurence's Entrance:

Friar Laurence—a friendly friar who is close to Romeo and ends up marrying him to Juliet—first appears in Act 2, Scene 3. As he walks onto the stage, carrying the weeds and flowers he uses to make potions, he muses on the subject of nature in a soliloquy that features a paradox: 

I must upfill this osier cage of ours
With baleful weeds and precious-juicèd flowers.
The Earth that’s nature’s mother is her tomb;
What is her burying grave, that is her womb;

Friar Laurence describes the Earth as both nature's "mother" or "womb," and her "tomb" or "burying grave," underscoring the proximity of life to death. Land serves as a terrain in which to grow crops and plants (such as those he uses for his own potion-making), but it is also where bodies are buried, and where those crops and plants will eventually die and decompose. 

This paradox is a commentary on both the inevitability of death—which is present in the land all around us—and its inextricability from life. As a healer and potion-maker, Friar Laurence is intimately familiar with nature and connected to the life-and-death cycle in a profound way. In contrast to the violent, tempestuous Montagues and Capulets, who treat life and death casually (at least until one of their own is killed), Friar Laurence is a pacifist. He understands that death is a natural part of life, something that cannot be avoided; yet he also relishes life, and believes in its preservation. This pacifism will lead him to help Romeo and Juliet marry in secret, since he believes that their union will restore peace to Verona. 

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Act 3, Scene 2
Explanation and Analysis—Juliet's Desires:

In Act 3, Scene 2, Juliet dreamily reflects on her next meeting with Romeo, when they will consummate their marriage, in a soliloquy:

Come, night. Come, Romeo.
Come, thou day in night,
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow upon a raven’s back.

Though Juliet's soliloquy may seem like a simple ode to the pleasures of nighttime revelry, she is in fact obliquely referencing the impending loss of both her and Romeo's virginities, which she refers to as "a pair of stainless maidenhoods." (The term "maidenhood," though typically used to refer to a woman's virginity, could also indicate a man's virginity.) By urging Romeo to "come" to her ("Come, night / Come, Romeo"), Juliet is using clear sexual innuendo to express her excitement about having sex. It is not just marriage that she has been eagerly anticipating, but the consummation of that marriage, too. 

Later in the soliloquy, Juliet refers to sex as an act that will allow her to "possess" her own love for Romeo, while simultaneously allowing Romeo to "enjoy" her:

Oh, I have bought the mansion of a love,
But not possessed it, and though I am sold,
Not yet enjoyed.

Juliet is describing herself as both a sexual object (something "sold" to Romeo that he can "enjoy") and an autonomous, liberated individual who can "possess" love herself (by buying "the mansion of a love"). Therefore, she seems aware of her own circumscribed position in society, yet capable of defying that position by articulating her own desires. Though women in Verona are expected to remain chaste and uninterested in sex—like Rosaline, Romeo's original love—Juliet is openly rebelling against that mandate.

Up until this point in the play, only male characters have expressed sexual excitement, using cunning wordplay to mask their true intentions and feelings. Here, though, Juliet seizes this supposedly masculine power for herself. She, too, is able to express sexual excitement with euphemisms and seek out pleasure on her own terms. 

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Explanation and Analysis—Juliet and the Night:

In Act 3, Scene 2, Juliet invokes the night, which she is looking forward to as the time when she can consummate her marriage to Romeo. This soliloquy serves as another instance of foreshadowing, while also personifying the night as a "sober-suited matron all in black": 

Come, civil night,
Thou sober-suited matron all in black,
And learn me how to lose a winning match
Played for a pair of stainless maidenhoods.
Hood my unmanned blood, bating in my cheeks,
With thy black mantle till strange love grow bold,
Think true love acted simple modesty.

To Juliet, the night is a cunning "matron" who will teach her how to lose her virginity ("how to lose a winning match / Played for a pair of stainless maidenhoods"), thus helping her gain control over her own wild lust for Romeo (by "hooding" her "unmanned blood" and "bating in [her] cheeks"). In the play, nighttime enables adventure and rebellion—nearly all of Romeo and Juliet's encounters take place under cover of darkness—while also indicating danger. Therefore, the helpful "matron" who will facilitate Juliet's first sexual experience is also "sober-suited" in black, as if dressed for a funeral, and she appears both powerful and forbidding: she instructs Juliet and controls her moods. 

Moreover, Juliet is unwittingly foreshadowing her own death, further underscoring the danger found in nighttime. Though Juliet has no actual foreknowledge of the future, the night will indeed end up "hooding" her "unmanned blood": she will learn that Romeo has been exiled for killing Tybalt, which will lead her to take Friar Laurence's sleeping potion and make her appear dead (literally "bating in [her] cheeks"). 

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Act 5, Scene 1
Explanation and Analysis—Romeo's Dreams:

In Act 5, Scene 1, Romeo, who is now in exile in Mantua, awakes from a dream in which a tragic event—his own death—is miraculously resolved. This foreshadows the circumstances surrounding his eventual death in real life: 

If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep,
My dreams presage some joyful news at hand.
My bosom’s lord sits lightly in his throne,
And all this day an unaccustomed spirit
Lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts.
I dreamt my lady came and found me dead
(Strange dream that gives a dead man leave to think!)
And breathed such life with kisses in my lips
That I revived and was an emperor.
Ah me, how sweet is love itself possessed
When but love’s shadows are so rich in joy!

Romeo's dream foreshadows the end of the play, but with a notable twist. At the end of Act 5, Juliet finds Romeo's body beside her in her family's tomb, but she is not able to revive him. She kisses him to try to use the leftover poison on his lips to kill herself; when this proves unsuccessful, she decides to kill herself with his dagger instead. Romeo's partially accurate vision of the future indicates his own desperate optimism. Though he has been pessimistic and pragmatic in the past—envisioning his own "untimely death" before he has even met Juliet—Romeo's love for Juliet has given him some hopefulness and blind faith in the future, leading him to believe that love can overcome violence and tragedy. To Romeo, a true romantic, even "love's shadows," meaning his dreams about love, are "rich in joy"; "possessed" love, which he experiences when he is with Juliet, is transcendent. 

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