William Shakespeare is probably the greatest author of the modern western civilization. His beloved plays are an everlasting legacy of the theatrical Elizabethan era and are displayed greatly in his 1590’s remake of a Greek play “Romeo and Juliet”. All over the globe Shakespeare’s plays bring to mind literary genius, a writer so creative and inspiring he is unmatched in playwrights. Writing 37 plays and a staggering amount of poetry, it is in no surprise that William Shakespeare is one of the most quoted writers of his or this time.
O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.
–From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 33)
Juliet cries these words, having just fallen in love with Romeo of the Montague family, the sworn enemy of her own the Capulets. A most misunderstood line Juliet is not asking where, but why, asking why are you Romeo and a Montague, my father’s (and family’s) divine hate? This line intrigues me mostly because Juliet doesn’t know she is being overheard by of the person of whom she speaks (Romeo), and although it is one of the most commonly known passages from the play but very few know what it actually means. This line is truly significant to the play’s development because she is proclaiming her love to him without knowledge of her doing so, letting Romeo know for the first time that he is not alone in these feelings.
Help me into some house, Benvolio,
Or I shall faint. A plague o’ both your houses!
They have made worms’ meat of me; I have it,
And soundly too, your houses
–From Romeo and Juliet (III, i, 94)
When Tybalt, nephew of Sir Capulet, spots Romeo on the street he challenges him to a duel and draws his sword. Romeo, who now considers Tybalt family, although he cannot say so due to the fact that he is keeping his marriage to Juliet a secret, refuses to fight. Romeo’s dear friend Mercutio takes up the sword in his stead, and is slain by Tybalt. As Mercutio dies, he utters this curse, damning both families for their bitter feud. This passage ends Mercutio’s life and sends Romeo in to a deep depression because he (correctly) thinks he is responsible for the death of his dear friend Mercutio. I focused on this line because I believe it was one of the biggest events in the play, changing the whole mood of the play for the worse. It is interesting that the only way for Mercutio to see the stupidity of the feud was for it to take his life, and it was only in his dying moments that he realized that life is much more important than an insignificant fight.
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark!
Here’s to my love! –O true apothecary!
Thy drugs are quick.–Thus with a kiss I die.
–From Romeo and Juliet (V, iii, 119-120)
With these words, Romeo dies. The lovers, belonging to families long at war with each other, have secretly married and wish to run away. Juliet, with the help of Friar Laurence, has taken a potion that allows her to feign death, planning to wake up and run off with her Romeo. A series of misunderstandings leads Romeo to believe Juliet is really dead, and so he buys poison from an apothecary. Standing over her body in the crypt, Romeo drinks the quick-acting poison, kisses Juliet’s lips, and falls to the floor, dead. The line Romeo proclaims his soon to be death with one sip of the quick acting drug. Thinking his one love is dead he decides to commit suicide as quickly as possible. This line is not as these are similar words to those Shakespeare used in hamlet “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Here, Romeo proves that there might be something worth dying for, it was the prospect of life without Juliet.
Then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath
There rest, and let me die.
–From Romeo and Juliet (V, iii, 169-170)
Juliet awakes from her feigned death to learn that her lover, Romeo, has taken his own life, believing she was truly dead. Juliet then tries to take her own life by drinking from Romeo’s vial of poison, and kissing the lips of her decided lover neither having any effect. At last, she picks up Romeo’s dagger, and plunges it into her chest, falling dead beside her lover. When the Capulets and Montagues realize what their feud has done, they vow to end their war, ending the play of two star-crossed lovers and their feuding families. I like the speech because it is explains her entire reaction in 4 lines and I also like the way it explains how she goes from one method of suicide to the next.
I believe that Shakespeare today remains one of the most often quoted writers is because his words, often very briefly, describe deep and universal themes that can affect every person. Romeo and Juliet contain many such “universal” lines.