O me, what fray was here?
Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.
Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love. (I.i.)
Romeo makes his first appearance a few moments after the Prince has ended a fight between Montagues and Capulets. These lines establish that Romeo is tired of the feud between the two families. He compares the families’ hatred to his own love for Rosaline, which establishes the close connection between love and violence running throughout the play.
I fear too early, for my mind misgives;
Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars,
Shall bitterly begin. (I.iv)
Romeo agrees to attend the Capulets’ ball, but he fears his decision may set off a chain of events that will end in tragedy. Throughout the play we get a strong sense that Romeo and Juliet cannot escape their fates. When Romeo says that the consequences of his decision are “hanging in the stars,” he reminds the audience that the “star-crossed” lovers of the Prologue are doomed to die.
O she doth teach the torches to burn bright.
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear. (I.v.)
These lines express Romeo’s first impression of Juliet. In discussing his love for Rosaline, Romeo uses stale clichés drawn from the Petrarchan love poetry that was popular in Shakespeare’s day. As soon as he sees Juliet, Romeo’s language takes on a striking and original quality, which suggests that his passion for her is authentic.
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. (II.ii.)
As Romeo approaches Juliet’s bedroom, he describes her in language drawn from astrology, such as suns, moons, and stars. This grandiose imagery suggests that Romeo believes his love for Juliet is not earthbound, but transcendent. Juliet herself is a force as powerful as the sun, the literal center of the universe. However, astrological imagery also reminds the audience that Romeo and Juliet are “star-crossed”—in other words, fated to die. The following lines read “arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,” suggesting that Romeo’s love for Juliet has supplanted his previous, weaker infatuation with Rosaline.
With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls,
For stony limits cannot hold love out. (II.ii.)
Juliet asks Romeo how he has managed to reach her bedroom, and this is his reply. These lines show that for Romeo, love is freedom. As a lover, he can ignore the boundaries set by the feud between Montagues and Capulets. Yet Romeo’s words also suggest that he retains a primarily abstract and poetic understanding of love, more fantasy than reality.
O sweet Juliet
Thy beauty hath made me effeminate
And in my temper softened valor’s steel! (III.i.)
When Tybalt kills Mercutio, Romeo regrets not fighting Tybalt himself. This is a turning point in Romeo’s story. Up until now, Romeo has been trying to free himself from the feud between Montagues and Capulets as well as the masculine code of honor that keeps the feud going. When he blames Juliet for making him “effeminate,” he is embracing the masculine code once more.
Let’s talk; it is not day. (III.v.)
This line is the first moment in the play when it seems Romeo and Juliet might have a chance to talk about something besides their love for one another. However, the chance never comes, because Romeo has to escape from Verona. This moment emphasizes that Romeo and Juliet’s love is new and immature. Part of the play’s tragedy is that the lovers will never have the chance to have an adult relationship.
I defy you, stars! (V.i.)
Romeo refuses to accept Juliet’s death. He decides to return to Verona, but his attempt to defy the “stars” only succeeds in bringing about his tragic fate, which emphasizes that the lovers’ destiny is inescapable. Because the Prologue references the lovers’ “star-crossed” fate, every subsequent reference to the stars, or to the heavens in general, reminds the audience of the sad fate awaiting the lovers, and their inability to avoid it, try though they might.