Within a dramatic play, an insightful monologue that conveys a character’s feelings, viewpoints and thoughts is referred to as a Soliloquy. Regarded as an essential dramatic device, a soliloquy is delivered by a character who is alone on the stage. In Elizabethan tragedies in general and Shakespearean plays in particular, a soliloquy offers key insights into the psychological workings of a certain character.
The soliloquies featured in “Romeo and Juliet” are detailed and delivered with passionate intensity. These soliloquies add complexity and depth to various characters thereby magnifying their life-like appeal. Moreover, the riveting and heart-rending disclosure made by Romeo, Juliet, Juliet’s nurse and other characters in these soliloquies, elicits profound empathy on the audience’s part. Some of the soliloquies are discussed below:
Examples of Soliloquy in Romeo and Juliet
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. (II. ii. 7-11)
This soliloquy is delivered by Romeo in the balcony scene. After his initial meeting with Juliet at the Capulet ball, Romeo spends hours pining for her and eagerly waiting to reunite with her. This soliloquy highlights Romeo’s profuse love and admiration for Juliet. After seeing Juliet standing by her window, Romeo is overwhelmed by his love for her and regards Juliet as being more beautiful than the ascending sun. He further claims that the moon is grief-stricken and envious because Juliet is infinite times more beautiful than the moon.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. (II. ii. 46- 50)
This passionate soliloquy is delivered by Juliet during the balcony scene. Intense, eloquent and infused with emotion, this beautiful and oft-quoted soliloquy makes the audience aware of the true depth of Juliet’s feelings for Romeo. Dismissing and trivializing the significance of a name, Juliet passionately maintains that the essence and fragrance of a rose would remain unchanged disregard of a change in its name. Likewise, Juliet’s beloved Romeo would remain equally untainted and precious if he were addressed by any other name.
For naught so vile that on the Earth doth live
But to the Earth some special good doth give;
Nor aught so good but, strained from that fair use,
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse. (II. iii. 17-20)
This soliloquy is delivered by Friar Lawrence to highlight the essential function of everything existing in this world. In his preacher-like tone, Friar Lawrence emphatically maintains that nothing inhabiting this earth can be deemed evil that the earth does not derive some sort of benefit from it. The Friar also highlights the duality of good asserting that everything perceived good also has an inherent destructive element. The significant lesson implicit in this soliloquy is that both good and evil have the tendency to transform into their respective antithesis.
The clock struck nine when I did send the Nurse.
In half an hour she promised to return.
Perchance she cannot meet him. That’s not so.
O, she is lame! Love’s heralds should be thoughts,
Which ten times faster glides than the sun’s beams (II. v. 1-5)
This particular soliloquy is delivered by Juliet while she is eagerly waiting for her nurse’s return. Juliet says that although the nurse promised to return by nine-thirty after meeting Romeo, she has not returned as expected. Anxious, Juliet entertains the idea that the nurse was perhaps unable to meet Romeo and confirm if he actually wants to marry Juliet. Abruptly dismissing this idea the next instant, Juliet states that the nurse is probably slow and that love’s messengers should be faster than the sun’s beams. This soliloquy highlights Juliet’s impatience in terms of confirming her highly anticipated marital bond with Romeo.
Come, gentle night; come, loving black-browed
Give me my Romeo, and when I shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night… (III. ii. 18-23)
In this particular soliloquy, Juliet professes her love for Romeo once again. While waiting for her much-awaited union with Romeo, Juliet invokes the night, asking it to hasten its arrival. She further states that if Romeo were to be cut up in little stars after his death, he would brighten the sky with his unprecedented beauty. This soliloquy reflects Juliet’s immense adoration for Romeo.
Farewell.—God knows when we shall meet again.
I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins
That almost freezes up the heat of life.
I’ll call them back again to comfort me.—
Nurse!—What should she do here?
My dismal scene I needs must act alone. (IV. iii. 15-20)
This soliloquy is uttered by Juliet, moments prior to her drinking the sleeping potion. The detailed passionate quote reflects Juliet’s fear pertaining to the outcome of her plan. She bids farewell to her loved ones exclaiming that she does not know when they will meet again. She then acknowledges the chilling fear that runs down her spine and wonders if she should ask her nurse to comfort her. Juliet then immediately dismisses this thought and asserts that she must carry out her dismal plan of drinking the potion herself.
Mistress! What, mistress! Juliet!—Fast, I warrant
Why, lamb, why, lady! Fie, you slugabed!
Why, love, I say! Madam! Sweetheart! Why, bride!—
What, not a word? (IV. v. 1-5)
This soliloquy is delivered by Juliet’s nurse after she sees Juliet deep asleep in her bed and mistakenly perceives her as being dead. After using several terms of endearment for Juliet in an effort to wake her up, the nurse becomes slightly anxious when Juliet is completely nonresponsive. The nurse’s frightful reaction makes the audience aware of the fact that she is not aware of the plan formulated by Juliet and Friar Lawrence.
I dreamt my lady came and found me dead
(Strange dream that gives a dead man leave to
And breathed such life with kisses in my lips
That I revived and was an emperor. (V. i. 6-10)
This significant soliloquy is uttered by Romeo and serves as a prelude to the events that unfold in the following scenes. Romeo says that he had a dream in which his beloved Juliet found him dead and kissed him as a result of which, he was brought back to life and became an emperor. This detailed monologue of Romeo is heard only by the audience and serves as a testament to the fact that a mere dream of Juliet has the power to rekindle hope and joy in Romeo. Thus, Juliet is Romeo’s lifeline in a way.
Sweet flower, with flowers thy bridal bed I strew
(O woe, thy canopy is dust and stones!)
Which with sweet water nightly I will dew,
Or, wanting that, with tears distilled by moans.
The obsequies that I for thee will keep
Nightly shall be to strew thy grave and weep. (V. iii. 12-17)
This heartfelt soliloquy is delivered by Paris while he is scattering flowers near Juliet’s tomb. This soliloquy delineates Paris’ immense love and reverence for Juliet. By exclaiming that he will either water the flowers scattered near Juliet’s tomb every night or hold a special ritual in her remembrance and weep for her daily, Paris is able to evoke sympathy on the audience’s part. It is primarily because of this soliloquy that the audience is able to dismantle the hitherto held cold and aloof image of Paris.
He told me Paris should have married Juliet.
Said he not so? Or did I dream it so?
Or am I mad, hearing him talk of Juliet,
To think it was so?—O, give me thy hand,
One writ with me in sour misfortune’s book! (V. iii. 78- 82)
This soliloquy delivered by Romeo is replete with remorse and is spoken moments after Romeo’s senseless killing of Count Paris. After identifying Paris as his victim, Romeo remorsefully reflects on whether his servant had informed him of Paris’ plan of marrying Juliet and whether this information had subconsciously led him to kill Paris. Unable to think clearly, Romeo entertains the notion that perhaps his servant said no such thing and he merely dreamt it. Thereafter, in a state of agonizing regret, Romeo addresses Paris’ body and sadly exclaims that both he and Romeo are similar in terms of experiencing bad fortune. This insightful soliloquy emphasizes Romeo’s guilt and remorse thereby redeeming him in the eyes of the audience.
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