ROMEO Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! and lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing Death! (5.3.112-115)
This is a moment that connects with, makes sense of, all those previous moments of body language in the play. And most of all, the scene in which Romeo and Juliet met, in which Romeo first saw true beauty, in which they first joined hands, palm to palm, and when they first kissed, by the book. He’s addressing his own eyes, arms, and lips, not Juliet’s, but there’s a sense both of dissociation – that he’s standing outside his own body – and that he is as much talking to her, at the same time as he knows that she cannot (as he thinks) look at, embrace and kiss him back. The contract being made, sealed, is a dateless, binding and permanent one, with Death, death who is engrossing, greedy, all-devouring, and the legal language is perhaps a reminder of the marriage contract, the marriage vows, and the way in which, in those terms, death is the only thing that can part husband and wife. Here, Romeo thinks, they will be reunited in death. He can’t bring himself to say, here, that it’s their last kiss; that is yet to come. The embrace here, and the kiss, have to be awkward, and poignant in their awkwardness in a way that doesn’t register on the page. They are actions which take time, and therefore necessarily disrupt the flow of the verse. And, of course, Juliet can’t participate (although a hand sometimes flutters, if a production has cut lots of the subsequent exchange between the Friar and Balthasar and she’s already starting to revive). She can’t kiss Romeo back, and she can’t hold him tight. She has to be a dead weight in Romeo’s arms, when previously she has been vital, eager, equal.