Shakespeare exploits his talent for realistic and plausible dialogue to make his characters and situations come alive. These two passages illustrate his great linguistic skill in portraying real people on the stage and making them memorable as individual credible full bodied characters, especially Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet.
Passage 1 #
The Dialogue when Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time
ROMEO [To JULIET]
If I profane with my unworthiest hand*
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
This is written in the form of a Love sonnet when Romeo and Juliet first meet and talk. Romeo has taken Juliet’s hand to hold and apologies to her for his effrontery, however she quickly excuses him and encourages his advances.
The language is filled with religious tones and images, symbolising the sanctity of their love at first sight. Romeo shows how fast a lover he is and Juliet demonstrates she has no interest in playing the coy mistress.
Passage 2 #
The playful repartee between Juliet and the Nurse where Juliet is desperate to hear what arrangements Romeo has made.
Now, good sweet nurse,–O Lord, why look’st thou sad?
Though news be sad, yet tell them merrily;
If good, thou shamest the music of sweet news
By playing it to me with so sour a face.
I am a-weary, give me leave awhile:
Fie, how my bones ache! what a jaunt have I had!
I would thou hadst my bones, and I thy news: Nay, come, I pray thee, speak; good, good nurse, speak.
Jesu, what haste? can you not stay awhile?
Do you not see that I am out of breath?
How art thou out of breath, when thou hast breath
To say to me that thou art out of breath?
The excuse that thou dost make in this delay
Is longer than the tale thou dost excuse.
Is thy news good, or bad? answer to that;
Say either, and I’ll stay the circumstance:
Let me be satisfied, is’t good or bad?
Well, you have made a simple choice; you know not
how to choose a man: Romeo! no, not he; though his
face be better than any man’s, yet his leg excels
all men’s; and for a hand, and a foot, and a body,
though they be not to be talked on, yet they are
past compare: he is not the flower of courtesy,
but, I’ll warrant him, as gentle as a lamb. Go thy
ways, wench; serve God. What, have you dined at home?
No, no: but all this did I know before.
What says he of our marriage? what of that?
Lord, how my head aches! what a head have I!
It beats as it would fall in twenty pieces.
My back o’ t’ other side,–O, my back, my back!
Beshrew your heart for sending me about,
To catch my death with jaunting up and down!
I’ faith, I am sorry that thou art not well.
Sweet, sweet, sweet nurse, tell me, what says my love?
Your love says, like an honest gentleman, and a
courteous, and a kind, and a handsome, and, I
warrant, a virtuous,–Where is your mother?
Where is my mother! why, she is within;
Where should she be? How oddly thou repliest!
‘Your love says, like an honest gentleman,
Where is your mother?’
O God’s lady dear!
Are you so hot? marry, come up, I trow;
Is this the poultice for my aching bones?
Henceforward do your messages yourself.
Here’s such a coil! come, what says Romeo?
Have you got leave to go to shrift to-day?
Then hie you hence to Friar Laurence’ cell;
There stays a husband to make you a wife:
Now comes the wanton blood up in your cheeks,
They’ll be in scarlet straight at any news.
Hie you to church; I must another way,
To fetch a ladder, by the which your love
Must climb a bird’s nest soon when it is dark:
I am the drudge and toil in your delight,
But you shall bear the burden soon at night.
Go; I’ll to dinner: hie you to the cell.
Hie to high fortune! Honest nurse, farewell.
This passage illustrates the frantic state Juliet is in; her anxiety about the news from Romeo as she eagerly searches for any signs as to whether the news is good or bad.
Juliet flatters and panders to Nurse’s ego to no avail as the Nurse is determined to delay the message as long as possible increasing Juliet’s frustration. This indicates the intimate, amiable, teasing relationship the two share.