Purest heaven

There is a beautiful moment in Act I of Romeo and Juliet, when the two teenagers meet for the first time at a masked ball, and immediately start flirting. They really are just two young kids (Juliet is only thirteen) but in Shakespeare’s heightened reality, transcendent emotion calls for transcendent language.

So without either character realizing it, their words of flirtation (leading to their first kiss) blend together perfectly to form one of Shakespeare’s greatest sonnets. I repeat this magical bit of dialog below, so you can see for yourself.

It’s one of the things I love about Shakespeare: The characters on stage generally have no idea that the words they speak just happen to form some of the greatest poetry in the history of the English language. But we in the audience do, and the effect is purest heaven.

ROMEO      

If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

JULIET

Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.

ROMEO

Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
JULIET

Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
ROMEO

O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

JULIET

Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
ROMEO Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.

2 Responses to “Purest heaven”

  1. admin says:

    That is an awesome coincidence!!

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