David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET: A Retelling in Prose — Act 2, Prologue and Scenes 1-2

Prologue

Romeo’s old “love” for Rosaline has now died, replaced by Romeo’s new love for Juliet. Romeo had suffered during his “love” for Rosaline and he had thought that he would die, but Rosaline’s beauty could not compare with the beauty of Juliet. Juliet now loves Romeo, and Romeo loves Juliet. But Romeo must tell a Capulet — his enemy — that he loves her. Juliet also loves her enemy. Because Romeo is a Montague male, he has little opportunity to meet Juliet again and tell her of his love. Because Juliet is a Capulet female, she has even less opportunity to meet Romeo and tell him of her love. But they are passionately in love, and love will find a way, a time, and a place, and the danger they place themselves in when they meet will be sweetened with extreme pleasure.

 — 2.1 —

Running, Romeo appeared in a lane by the wall of Old Capulet’s garden. He wanted to be alone and he wanted to see Juliet, and so he was running from Benvolio and Mercutio.

Romeo said to himself, “How can I leave this lane when Juliet is so near? Let my body stay here and seek my soul, whose name is Juliet.”

Romeo climbed the wall and jumped down into Old Capulet’s garden.

Benvolio and Mercutio arrived in the lane by the wall of Old Capulet’s orchard. They were seeking Romeo.

Benvolio called, “Romeo! Where are you, Romeo?”

Mercutio said, “Romeo is wise, and I swear on my life that he has gone home to his bed.”

Benvolio disagreed: “He ran this way, and he climbed this garden wall. Call him, good Mercutio.”

“I will call him, and I will entreat him to reveal himself,” Mercutio replied. “Romeo! Romantic man! Madman! Passionate man! Lover! I conjure you to speak to us with a sigh. Speak but one rhyme, and I will be satisfied that you are well and did not break your neck and die when you jumped down from the wall. Sigh ‘Ah, me!’ Say ‘love” and ‘dove.’ Speak a word to Venus, goddess of love. Speak the name of her son Cupid, who shoots his arrows as if love were blind, as when he made King Cophetua fall in love with a beggar-maiden and make her his Queen.”

Mercutio said to Benvolio, “Romeo does not hear me. He does not stir. He does not move. The poor fool is dead, and I must conjure him alive!”

Mercutio called, “I conjure thee by Rosaline’s bright eyes, by her high forehead and her scarlet lip, by her fine foot, straight leg, and quivering thigh, and by the foxhole that there adjacent lies, that you appear to us!”

“If he hears what you are saying about Rosaline, he will be angry,” Benvolio said.

“What I say cannot anger him,” Mercutio said. “If I wanted to anger him, I would conjure up a male spirit to put some maleness in her honeyhole, leaving it there arisen until she laid it and conjured it down. That would make him angry. Benvolio, you are a good man, and you want me to speak of a conjurer’s circle, but I know of better, wetter circles to speak about. What I am saying now, however, is fair and honest. The purpose of my conjuration is merely to say the name of the woman Romeo loves and thereby make him rise — at least a part of him.”

“Romeo has hidden himself among these trees,” Benvolio said. “He wants the night to be his company. Love is blind, and so Romeo seeks the night.”

“If love is blind, how can a lover’s arrow hit the target’s circle?” Mercutio asked Benvolio. “Romeo will now sit under a tree and wish that his beloved lass were the medlar fruit that young ladies call ‘open-ass’ when they think that young men are not around to overhear them. I wish that Romeo were a pear — a pear that from the right angle looks like a standing-up penis and balls. In fact, I wish that Romeo were a poperin pear. With an open-ass lass and his pop-er-in pear, Romeo would be able to put his dick in her butt.”

Benvolio looked shocked.

Mercutio then called, “Romeo, good night! I’m going home to my warm bed. It’s too cold for me to sleep out in the open.”

He said to Benvolio, “Shall we go?”

“Let’s go,” Benvolio replied. “It’s useless to seek someone who does not want to be found.”

 — 2.2 —

In Old Capulet’s garden, Romeo listened to Benvolio and Mercutio leave.

Romeo said about Mercutio, “He who jests at the scars of love has never felt a wound.”

Juliet appeared at a window on the second story above Romeo.

Romeo said softly, “What light through yonder window breaks? The window is the East, and Juliet is the Sun. Arise, fair Sun, and kill the envious Moon, who is already sick and pale with grief because you are far more beautiful than she. Diana, the Moon, is a virgin goddess, and you, Juliet, serve her because you are still a virgin. Diana is envious of you. Don’t serve the Moon — the vestal clothing of her and her followers is sick and green, and only fools wear it. Cast off Diana’s vestal clothing — stop being a virgin!

“Here is Juliet! Here is my love! I wish that she knew I love her! She speaks yet she says nothing out loud, but so what? Her eyes speak. I will answer her eyes. But I assume too much — she is not speaking to me.

“Two of the brightest stars in all the Heavens, about to leave on business, beg her eyes to twinkle in their spheres until they return. What if her eyes were in the Heavens, and the two stars were in her head? The brightness of her cheeks would shame those stars, as daylight shames a lamp. Her eyes in Heaven would through the airy region stream so brightly that birds would sing and think it were not night. See, how Juliet leans her cheek upon her hand! Oh, that I were a glove upon her hand, that I might touch her cheek!”

Juliet said, “Sorrow defines my life.”

Romeo said to himself, “She speaks out loud. Speak again, bright angel! You are as glorious to me this night, standing in a window over my head, as is an angel — winged messenger of Heaven — to the upturned wondering eyes of mortals who fall back to gaze on him when he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds and sails upon the bosom of the air.”

Still not knowing that Romeo was in the garden beneath her window, Juliet said, “Romeo, Romeo! Why is your name Romeo? Deny your father and refuse your name — stop being a Montague. Or, if you will not do so, swear that you love me, and I will no longer be a Capulet.”

Romeo said to himself, “Shall I hear more, or shall I speak to Juliet?”

Juliet said, “Only your name is my enemy. If you give up your name, you will still be yourself. What is the name Montague? It is not hand, or foot, or arm, or face, or any other part belonging to a man.”

Juliet paused to smile at “part belonging to a man,” then she continued, “Be some other name! What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. If Romeo were not named Romeo, he would still be perfect. Romeo, put aside your name. In the place of your name, which is not part of you, take all of me.”

Romeo said out loud to Juliet, “I take you at your word — I believe what you have said. Call me your love, and I’ll be baptized a second time and take a new name. Henceforth, my name will not be Romeo.”

Not immediately recognizing Romeo’s voice, Juliet said, “Which man are you who, hidden by the night, have heard what I have said?”

Romeo replied, “I have a name that I know not how to tell you because, dear saint, my name is hateful to myself because it is an enemy to you. If my name were written down, I would tear up my name.”

Juliet said, “My ears have not yet heard a hundred words of your tongue’s utterance, yet I know by the sound of your voice who you are. Aren’t you Romeo and a Montague?”

“I am neither, dear saint, if you dislike them.”

“How did you come here, and why?” Juliet asked. “The garden walls are high and hard to climb, and for you this place is death because you are a Montague. If any of my relatives find you here, they will kill you.”

“With love’s light wings did I fly over these walls,” Romeo said. “Stony walls cannot stop love and keep love out. Whatever love can do, that will love attempt. Your relatives cannot stop me or my love for you.”

“If my relatives see you, they will murder you.”

“An angry look from you would hurt me more than twenty of their swords,” Romeo said. “But if you look at me sweetly, their hatred cannot hurt me.”

“I would not for the world have them see you here.”

“The night will hide me,” Romeo said. “But if you do not love me, let them find me here. It is better for them to kill me than for me to go on living without your love.”

“How did you find this place?”

“Love caused me to make inquiries and find it,” Romeo said. “Love lent me wisdom, and I lent love eyes. I am no pilot; yet, if you were as far away as that vast shore washed with the farthest sea, I would risk taking the journey there for such a prize as you.”

“Because of the darkness of the night, you cannot see my face, but if you could see my face, you would see a blush because of the words you have overheard me speak,” Juliet said. “I could put on an act and deny what I said, but I won’t do that. Let me ask you straight out: Do you love me? I know that you will say ‘Yes,’ and I know that I will believe you. Still, even if you swear that you love me, you may be lying. They say that Jove, the Roman king of the gods, laughs at the perjuries of male lovers. Romeo, if you really do love me, tell me the truth. But if you think that I am won too easily, I will play hard to get, if that will make you woo me, but I prefer not to play games. To be honest, fair Montague, I love you too much, and you may think me too easy, but trust me, gentleman, and I will be true to you, unlike those girls who only pretend to be virtuous. I should not have revealed my love for you so quickly, I admit, but you overheard my confession before I was aware that you were present. Therefore, pardon me. Do not think that because I have confessed so quickly during this dark night that I am not serious.”

Romeo started to reply romantically and poetically, “Lady, I swear by the blessed Moon that tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops —”

“Do not swear by the Moon, the inconstant Moon, that monthly changes in her circled orbit. If you swear by the ever-changing Moon, perhaps your love for me will change into a love for someone else.”

“What shall I swear by?”

“Do not swear at all, or if you must swear, swear by your gracious self, for you are the god of my idolatry. If you do so, I will believe you.”

“If my heart’s dear love —”

“Do not swear,” Juliet said, changing her mind. “You bring me joy, but I have no joy of our contact tonight. It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden. It is too much like the lightning, which ceases to be before one can say ‘It lightens.’ My sweet one, good night! This bud of love, ripening by the breath of summer, may prove a beauteous flower when next we meet. Good night, good night! May you enjoy the same sweet repose and rest that I feel within my breast!”

“Will you leave me so unsatisfied?”

“What satisfaction can you have tonight?”

“The exchange of your love’s faithful vow for mine.”

If Romeo had been a different kind of man — a man such as Mercutio — he would have asked for a different kind of satisfaction.

“I gave you my vow of love before you asked for it,” Juliet said. “I wish that I could take back that vow of love.”

“Why would you want to take it back?” Romeo asked.

“So that I could once more tell you for the first time that I love you,” Juliet replied. “But really, I am wishing for something that I already have: for you and me to be in love. My love for you is as boundless as the sea. My love for you is as deep as the sea. The more love I give to you, the more love I have left to give because my love for you is infinite.”

The Nurse called from within the mansion, “Juliet!”

Juliet said to Romeo, “I hear some noise within. Dear love, goodbye!”

She shouted to the Nurse inside the mansion, “Just a minute!”

Then she said to Romeo, “Sweet Montague, be true. Stay but a little while, and I will come to the window again.”

Juliet went inside to talk to the Nurse, and Romeo said to himself, “Blessed, blessed night! I am afraid lest that, this being night, all this is only a dream. It seems too flattering-sweet to be real.”

Juliet reappeared at the window, “Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed. If your love for me is honorable and you want to marry me, send me a message tomorrow by a person whom I will send to you. In your message tell me where and at what time you will marry me, and all my fortunes at your foot I will lay and I will follow you, my husband, throughout the world.”

The Nurse called from within, “Juliet!”

Juliet called to the Nurse, “I’m coming!”

Juliet then said to Romeo, “But if your love for me is not honorable, I beg you —”

The Nurse called, “Juliet!”

“Just a minute!” Juliet called, and then she said to Romeo, “But if your love for me is not honorable, I beg you to stop wooing me and to leave me to my grief. Tomorrow I will send someone to you.”

Romeo began, “So thrive my soul —”

But Juliet said, “A thousand times good night!” and went inside.

Romeo complained to himself, “Being away from you is a thousand times worse than being close to you. A lover goes toward his lover as eagerly as a schoolboy goes away from his books. A lover goes away from his lover as sorrowfully as a schoolboy walks to school.”

He began to leave, but Juliet reappeared at the window.

Not seeing Romeo, she hissed, “Romeo!” She was trying to be loud enough to be heard by Romeo but not so loud as to be heard by her family and the Nurse.

Juliet said, “I wish I could shout as loudly as a falconer who calls his falcon back to him. That way, Romeo would hear me. But I cannot shout. I must be hoarse and not draw my family’s attention, or I would make use of the voice of Echo, who was so talkative that Juno, Queen of the gods, punished her by making her repeat the words of other people. I would shout ‘Romeo’ into the cave where Echo lives, and she would repeat his name. Her voice would say his name so many times that it would grow more hoarse than mine.”

Romeo heard Juliet, and he returned to her.

He said, “Juliet, who is my soul, calls my name: How silver-sweet sound the tongues of lovers by night! They are like the softest music to attentive ears!”

“Romeo!” Juliet called.

“Yes, Juliet?”

“At what time tomorrow shall I send a messenger to you?”

“Nine in the morning.”

“I will not fail. It will seem like twenty years until nine a.m. comes.”

She turned to go inside, then turned back, hesitated, and said, “I have forgotten what else I wanted to say to you.”

“Let me stand here until you remember it.”

“I shall forget on purpose in order to have you still stand there because I love to be with you.”

“And I will continue to stay here, and let you continue to forget. I will forget that I have any other home than right here.”

“It is almost morning. Because of the danger you would face if you were found here, I would have you go, and yet I want you to go no further than a spoiled child’s bird. The child lets the bird hop a small distance from her hand like a poor prisoner in his twisted chains, and with a silk thread pulls it back to her. The child does not want the bird to leave her.”

“I wish that I were your bird.”

“So do I,” Juliet said. “But if I act like that now, I will get you killed by keeping you here too long. Good night! Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say ‘good night’ until it be tomorrow.”

She departed.

Romeo said to himself, “May sleep dwell upon your eyes, and may peace be in your breast! I wish that I were sleep and peace, so I could be with you. Now I will go to my priest’s home to beg for his help and to tell him about my good fortune.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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