Copy Book Archive

What’s in a Name? Juliet complains that the man she loves has the wrong name, and the man she loves hears her doing it.

In two parts

Queen Elizabeth I 1558-1603
Music: Edward German

By John William Waterhouse (1849–1917), via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. Source

Juliet, by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917).

About this picture …

Juliet, or the Blue Necklace, by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). For all its sentimentality, Romeo and Juliet is an unrelenting tragedy. The Prologue, which describes them so memorably as ‘star-crossed lovers’, does not hide from the audience that the wretched feud between the Montagues and the Capulets will be ended only by the death of their children and the overthrow of all their hopes.

What’s in a Name?

Part 1 of 2

One night, Romeo Montague slips into a masked ball at the Capulet residence in Verona — chasing a girl as usual. There he meets Juliet, and Rosaline is forgotten. When he learns that Juliet is the daughter of his father’s sworn enemy, he rushes from the dance, and soon afterwards we find him in the garden, thinking furiously. Suddenly he sees a light at a window above: it seems Juliet has been thinking too.

Capulet’s Orchard.


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:*
It is my lady; O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing; what of that?
Her eye discourses, I will answer it.
I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.*
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars.
As daylight doth a lamp; her eye in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.*
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O! that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

Juliet Ay me!*

Jump to Part 2

* The first in a series of absurd and infatuated comparisons dreamt up by Romeo, between Juliet and the heavens. Romeo compares the moon, evidently out on the night of the Capulet ball, unfavourably with Juliet’s sunshine.

* Romeo imagines that two stars of heaven, pursuing some private business of their own, have left the heavens and engaged Juliet’s eyes to shine so that no one will notice they have gone.

* Now Romeo’s wonders what we would see if Juliet’s eyes and two heavenly stars actually exchanged places. The lustre of her cheeks, he declares, would make the stars in her eye-sockets appear dull; meanwhile Juliet’s eyes up in heaven would shine down onto the earth like daylight.

* Juliet’s sigh follows on the same line as Romeo’s extravagant musings, indicating that it should appear to break in on them.


In the famous ‘balcony scene’ from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Romeo Montague is in the garden of the Capulet mansion when his new love Juliet appears at her bedroom window above. As he gazes up, the infatuated young man breathes admiration of Juliet’s beauty, comparing her favourably with the sun, the moon and the stars of heaven. (58 / 60 words)

Part Two

By Frank Bernard Dicksee (1853–1928), via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. Source

Romeo and Juliet, by Sir Francis Bernard Dicksee (1853–1928).

About this picture …

Romeo and Juliet, painted in 1884 by English artist Sir Francis Bernard Dicksee (1853-1928). Throughout the famous ‘balcony scene’ in the accompanying passage, Romeo remains down in the garden. When at last he visits Juliet in her chamber in this romantic fashion, much has happened. The two lovers have married in secret, thanks to Friar Laurence. Juliet’s cousin Tybalt has picked a quarrel with Mercutio; Romeo, in trying to stop the fight, has got Mercutio killed; and now Romeo has slain Tybalt in a frenzy. It is Friar Laurence who persuades him to cool off by spending some quiet time with Juliet in her chamber, which Romeo reaches by climbing up a rope-ladder.

Rom. [Aside,] She speaks:—*
O, speak again, bright angel!
As glorious to this night, being o’er my head,
As is a winged messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturned* wondering eyes
Of mortals, that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy-pacing* clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.

Jul. 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.

Rom. [Aside,] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?

Jul. ’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 word would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called.
Retain that dear perfection which he owes,
Without that title.— Romeo, doff* thy name.
And for thy name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

Rom. [Aloud,] I take thee at thy word:*
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptised;*
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

Copy Book

* Romeo’s whispered exclamation is indented, because we are still on the same line as Juliet’s sigh.

* White-upturned eyes: showing the whites of the eyes because the gaze is straining upwards.

* Lazy-pacing clouds: slowly moving, in contrast to the swift angel.

* That is to say, “Why did you have to be Romeo Montague, of all people?” Her parents would have looked kindly on almost any other handsome young gentleman of the city.

* That is, Romeo is who he is in himself, and would always be the same, even if (‘though’) he were not a Montague.

* Doff is a contraction of do off, meaning ‘put off, remove’; likewise, don is a contraction of do on, and means ‘put on’. Neither verb is used much today, except humorously: to doff one’s cap is to show exaggerated respect to someone; to don an overcoat is to put an overcoat on.

* Romeo’s outburst (now speaking out loud) follows on the same line as Juliet’s plea, without any pause or hesitation.

* In Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Cecily Cardew shyly confesses that “it had always been a girlish dream of mine to love some one whose name was Ernest”, and a besotted Algernon Moncrieff at once engages for Canon Chasuble to christen him Ernest.


Juliet breaks in on Romeo’s flights of ecstasy, talking aloud to herself and regretting that of all the handsome young men of the world, the one she loves bears the surname of her father’s bitterest enemy. Hearing this, Romeo cannot keep silence, and bursts out with an offer to be rechristened at once. (53 / 60 words)

Suggested Music

Romeo and Juliet


Edward German (1862-1936)

Performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Adrian Leaper.

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How To Use This Passage

You can use this passage to help improve your command of English.

IRead it aloud, twice or more. IISummarise it in one sentence of up to 30 words. IIISummarise it in one paragraph of 40-80 words. IVMake notes on the passage, and reconstruct the original from them later on. VJot down any unfamiliar words, and make your own sentences with them later. VIMake a note of any words that surprise or impress you, and ask yourself what meaning they add to the words you would have expected to see. VIITurn any old-fashioned English into modern English. VIIITurn prose into verse, and verse into prose. IXAsk yourself what the author is trying to get you to feel or think. XHow would an artist or a photographer capture the scene? XIHow would a movie director shoot it, or a composer write incidental music for it?

For these and more ideas, see How to Use The Copy Book.

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