“Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene. From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes a pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.”
This week’s Women Who Wow Wednesday celebrates Shakespeare’s Juliet.
Born to the house of Capulet, the young Juliet discovers her life is not her own. Her father plans to betroth his daughter to the wealthy Count Paris of Prince Escalus’ family. Under formal agreement, the engagement would provide an honorable means to secure the Capulet’s future among the elite. Not part of the arrangement is Juliet’s reaction.
At thirteen, Juliet believes in love—the kind of love that would stop thunder from cracking over the skies, but at the same time, the kind of love that would strike like a lightning bolt searing an unsuspecting heart. When she sees Romeo for the first time, her legs buckle at the knees.
His words give her life:
(taking JULIET’s hand)
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
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.
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do.
They pray; grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged.
Then have my lips the sin that they have took.
Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.
(They kiss again)
A consuming flame overtakes her heart causing her to inquire of the handsome boy. But to Juliet’s dismay, she discovers Romeo is a Montague, an enemy of her family. If her father ever found out of their love, she would surely die by his own hands.
No one must know.
She resolves to marry Romeo in secret.
And there’s more.
Given today is New Year’s Day, a day of new beginnings, best knowing Juliet makes the decision of a lifetime out of love and nothing more. In her short life she learns about being happy from a boy who shows her the world through his eyes. A set of eyes filled with hope and dreams. Juliet grabs a hold in faith and never lets go. She doesn’t know what comes next, but she knows it feels right. And that’s all that matters to her.
Have you read Romeo and Juliet? If so, what did you learn from it?