Romeo and Juliet

Act II

Summary

"What is the center of the universe?"  Romeo tells his view in the first two lines of Act II: "Can I go forward when my heart is here?  Turn back, dull earth, and find thy center out."

Eluding his friends Benvolio and Mercutio (Sc. 1), he hastens to the Capulet orchard to stand beneath Juliet's window (Sc.2).  Each lover wonders about the other and privately expresses fond admiration for each other (solliloquies, Sc.2, lines 2-49).  Overhearing Juliet, Romeo responds joyfully, willing to doff his own name if it be an obstacle to love.  Juliet fears for his safety, but Romeo declares that he would rather die from her kinsman's hate than her lack of love (lines 62-78).  Juliet also fears that her overheard declarations will cause Romeo to think her too easily won, but his tender vows begins to reassure her, and she speaks her own heart (lines 85-136).  She is the first to speak of marriage, and he promises to send word of the arrangements for a secret wedding (lines 142-168).  They linger over "sweet sorrow" of parting (lines 169-189).

Romeo and Juliet love each other spiritually, in keeping with the Renaissance concept of adoration and devotion, and also physically, longing to be together and "forgetting any other home but this."

In the reading of scene 4, you should enjoy the tomfoolery of Mercutio and the malapropisms of the nurse.  At the same time you should note Mercutio's anxiety about Tybalt's challenge of Romeo, and the Nurse's concern for the honor and happiness of her "sweetest lady," Juliet.

Scene 5 expresses Juliet's eagerness to hear from Romeo and the Nurse's teasing procrastination.  Although Scene 6 tells of happy preparations for a secret wedding, you should note the forewarnings of violence and "love-devouring death."