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Juliet’s Soliloquy (from Romeo and Juliet III.ii.1-25)(1596)

William Shakespeare

Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
MeterGallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Towards Phoebus’ lodging! Such a wagoner
MeterTowards Phoebus’ lodging! Such a wagoner
As Phaeton would whip you to the west
MeterAs Phaeton would whip you to the west
And bring in cloudy night immediately.
MeterAnd bring in cloudy night immediately.
Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
MeterSpread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
That runaways’ eyes may wink, and Romeo
MeterThat runaways’ eyes may wink, and Romeo
Leap to these arms untalked of and unseen.
MeterLeap to these arms untalked of and unseen.

Note on line 7:Our basic, invigorating principle that scansion varies with vocal performance holds especially true for a speech like this, which was written with a view to interpretation on stage. For this line 4B4V proposes a rather chaste option, conceding that an actress might well throw stress on the first syllable of “untalked,” “unseen,” or both. (Ditto “unmanned” in line 14 below.) As will appear, the actress we have in mind will be emoting shamelessly before the soliloquy is over.

Lovers can see to do their amorous rites
MeterLovers can see to do their amorous rites
By their own beauties; or, if love be blind,
MeterBy their own beauties; or, if love be blind,
It best agrees with night. Come, civil night,
MeterIt best agrees with night. Come, civil night,
Thou sober-suited matron all in black,
MeterThou sober-suited matron all in black,
And learn me how to lose a winning match,
MeterAnd learn me how to lose a winning match,
Played for a pair of stainless maidenhoods.
MeterPlayed for a pair of stainless maidenhoods.
Hood my unmanned blood, bating in my cheeks,
MeterHood my unmanned blood, bating in my cheeks,
With thy black mantle till strange love grow bold,
MeterWith thy black mantle till strange love grow bold,
Think true love acted simple modesty.
MeterThink true love acted simple modesty.

Note on line 16: Yes, that’s an awful lot of spondees in these two lines, and the reader must gird for more in the line that follows. “Grow” may be left slack in the last foot of line 15, and “Think” at the head of line 16. Yet these are monosyllabic main verbs and have some prescriptive right to stress. 4B4V prefers to grant that right, and to register the prosodic tumescence here – Juliet was just feeling the blood in her cheeks 3 lines ago – as fore-tremors rehearsing one of literature’s most famous couplings.

Come, night; come, Romeo; come, thou day in night;
MeterCome, night; come, Romeo; come, thou day in night;
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
MeterFor thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow upon a Raven’s back.
MeterWhiter than new snow upon a Raven’s back.
Come, gentle night; come, loving, black-browed night;
MeterCome, gentle night; come, loving, black-browed night;
Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
MeterGive me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
MeterTake him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
MeterAnd he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
MeterThat all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
MeterAnd pay no worship to the garish sun.

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