Compare and Contrast the Language of Romeo and Juliet in the balcony scene.


Act II Scene 2 is one of the most famous scenes of the play. It is commonly known as the "Balcony Scene" because Juliet appears on a small balcony outside her bedroom window, and exchanges words, expresses true love with Romeo who is standing below in her father's orchard. The scene is famous for its moving and vivid images, used to express love between two people of contrasting nature. In my study I will compare the language of Romeo and Juliet in this famous scene.
The balcony scene is physically separate from the rest of the play by being set in a moonlit garden. The lovers exist outside the feuding and quarreling but cannot completely ignore it. Their love is shown as eternal and pure, rather than motivated by physical desire, lust or money grabbing. This is reflected in the kind of language and imagery that the lovers use.
In this scene we notice that the way Romeo expresses his love is different from the way Juliet expresses her love. Romeo speaks in high-flown language to express his love but compared to his, Juliet's language it is more sincere and filled with sweet seriousness.
Romeo expresses his love for Juliet right at the beginning of the scene through the use of light imagery. He declares:

"It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon Her vestal livery is but sick and green"

Romeo connects the pale moonlight with sickness and grief and says that only fools have anything to do with it. Here Romeo refers to how foolishly he fell in love with Rosaline. He could also be referring to the court jesters. In those days Elizabethan court jesters wore a chequered costume of pale and green which is why he said

"none but fools do wear it."

Romeo's comparison of Juliet to the sun provides an understanding to his state of mind. Previously when Romeo was in love with Rosaline he always sad, depressed and associated her with darkness. When Romeo uses light imagery it stands in contrast to the imagery of darkness used earlier and shows how powerful and true his love is for Juliet. His love for Juliet kills the sick love and gives new life with its radiance.

"Two of the fairest stars in all heaven having some business, do entreat her eyes To twinkle in their spheres ... That birds would sing and think it were not night."

Here Romeo describes Juliet's eyes as stars and not just any stars but the "fairest stars" in the heaven. He also says that her cheeks would be so bright and full of light that the surrounding stars would feel ashamed, and the brightness of her eyes would make the birds on earth think that its day time. Romeo here exaggerates Juliet's beauty to a great extent.
Later, he speaks of her as a "bright angel" who, as a "winged messenger of heaven", is far above ordinary mortals on earth. Unlike Rosaline, Juliet is not compared to a pagan goddess. Romeo's and Juliet's speeches are full of the religious register. Juliet uses the religious register when she says

"Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self, Which is God by... believe thee."

Juliet here takes Romeo as her Lord as it was a practice in those days to consider their husbands as Gods. Thus Juliet refers to Romeo as her God. The use of religious register elevates their love to a higher plane. The use of religious terms also gives dignity to their love and elevates their experience of love to a spiritual level.
Juliet speaks about her love for Romeo unaware that he is beneath her window. She does not care whether he is a Montague. She believes that a name does not make any difference to a person's character.

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet".

Even though these words are simple they are poetic in thought. These words show that Juliet is unprejudiced and fair. When she hears Romeo's voice she realizes that Romeo is present beneath her window and she

"My ears have not yet drunk a hundred words".

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