Juliet's Monologues From Shakespeare's Tragedy

Scene from Romeo and Juliet
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Who is the protagonist of Romeo and Juliet? Do both titular characters share that role equally?

Typically, stories and plays focus on one protagonist and the rest are supporting characters (with an antagonist or two thrown in for good measure). Some might argue that Romeo is the main character because he gets a bit more stage time, not to mention a couple of sword fights!

However, Juliet experiences a great deal of family pressure as well as an ongoing inner conflict. If we label the protagonist as the character that experiences the deepest level of conflict, then maybe the story is really about this young girl who is swept up by her emotions, caught up in what will become the most tragic love story in the English language.

Here are some key moments in the life of Juliet Capulet. Each monologue reveals the growth of her character.

The Balcony Scene

In her most famous speech and her first monologue, Juliet wonders why the newfound love (or lust) of her life is cursed with the last name Montague, the long-standing enemy of her family.

The monologue beings with the now famous line:

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?

She then continues to say:

Deny thy father and refuse thy name

This reveals how their families have an antagonist history, thus their love would be frowned upon and difficult to pursue. However, Juliet justifies to herself why she should continue to love Romeo despite their family history, essentially saying that a name is superficial and does not necessarily make up a man.

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Declarations of Love

In the balcony scene, Juliet is talking to herself, not realizing that Romeo is hidden in the garden, listening to her every word. After she discovers that he has been there all along, they two star-crossed lovers profess their affections.

Here are some lines from the monologue and a translation into simple English.

Thou know'st the mask of night is on my face,
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek

Juliet is blushing from thinking about Romeo and is happy that it is night time so that no one can see how red her face is and how excited she is. 

Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say 'Ay,'
And I will take thy word: yet if thou swear'st,
Thou mayst prove false; at lovers' perjuries
Then say, Jove laughs.

As any person giddily in love can relate to, you always are wondering if that person loves you back. Juliet is anxious about whether or not Romeo likes her, and even if he says he loves her, does he mean it or is he being a flirt?

Juliet's Choice

In her last lengthy monologue, Juliet takes a big risk by deciding to trust in the friar's plan to fake her own death and wake within the tomb to find Romeo waiting for her.

Here, she contemplates the potential danger of her decision, unleashing a combination of fear and determination.

The following are some lines with a quick breakdown.

Come, vial.
What if this mixture do not work at all?
Shall I be married then to-morrow morning?
No, no: this shall forbid it: lie thou there.
(Laying down her dagger.)

These lines reveal that Juliet has a plan b in case the potion doesn't work and she is forced to marry someone else her family has chosen for her. Her backup plan is to kill herself with her dagger.

What if it be a poison, which the friar
Subtly hath minister'd to have me dead,
Lest in this marriage he should be dishonour'd,
Because he married me before to Romeo?
I fear it is: and yet, methinks, it should not,
For he hath still been tried a holy man.

Now, Juliet is second-guessing whether or not the friar is being honest with her, is the potion a sleeping potion or a lethal one? Since the friar married the couple in secret, Juliet is nervous that the friar is now trying to cover up what he did by killing her in case he gets in trouble with either the Capulets or Montagues. In the end, Juliet calms herself by saying the friar is a holy man and wouldn't trick her.

How if, when I am laid into the tomb,
I wake before the time that Romeo
Come to redeem me? there's a fearful point!
Shall I not, then, be stifled in the vault,
To whose foul mouth no healthsome air breathes in,
And there die strangled ere my Romeo comes?

Thinking of other worst-case scenarios, Juliet wonders what would happen if the sleeping potion wore off before Romeo could remove her from the tomb and she suffocated to death. 

But in the end, Juliet rashly decides to take the potion as she exclaims:

Romeo, I come! this do I drink to thee.