Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet

By William Shakespeare
c. 1593

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet, playwright, and actor. He wrote 38 plays, including
Romeo and Juliet, which recounts the tragic romance of two young lovers divided by their families’ ongoing
feud. The following excerpts are taken from the play’s prologue and its famous balcony scene. As you read,
take notes on how the figurative language used throughout the passage contributes to the themes.

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,1
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foe
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,

  1. In this context, “mutiny” means violence or turmoil. The more modern use of “mutiny” refers to a rebellion against

What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.2
Excerpt from Act II, Scene II
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore3
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.
[Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?4
’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, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff5
thy name;

  1. Whatever hasn’t been mentioned (in the prologue) will be explained on stage.
  2. “Wherefore” means “why.”
  3. Romeo says this line as an aside, or spoken dialogue that is heard by the audience but not by the other characters in
    the play. Romeo says this line as an aside because Juliet is not aware that he is listening.
  4. Doff (verb) to remove or rid of

And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.
I take thee at thy word.
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptiz’d;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.
What man art thou, that, thus be-screen’d in night,6
So stumblest on my counsel?
By a name
I know not how to tell thee who I am:
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,
Because it is an enemy to thee:
Had I it written, I would tear the word.
My ears have not yet drunk a hundred words
Of that tongue’s uttering, yet I know the sound:
Art thou not Romeo, and a Montague?
Neither, fair maid, if either thee dislike.

  1. hidden or shrouded in darkness
    How cam’st thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
    The orchard walls are high and hard to climb,
    And the place death, considering who thou art,
    If any of my kinsmen7
    find thee here.
    With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls;
    For stony limits cannot hold love out,
    And what love can do that dares love attempt;
    Therefore thy kinsmen are no stop to me.
  2. family member; relative
    Discussion Questions
    Directions: Brainstorm your answers to the following questions in the space provided. Be prepared to
    share your original ideas in a class discussion.
  3. Romeo maintains his feelings towards Juliet despite the conflict between their families.
    Discuss what this detail tells us about love and identity.
  4. Do you think the concept of identity has changed since Shakespeare’s time? Do last names
    hold as much weight as they once did? Explain your answer.
  5. What makes a person who they are—is it their genes, their upbringing, their family
    circumstances, their reputations, or something else? Explain your answer, using evidence
    from this text, your own experience, and other art, literature, or history.