No wall is high enough… (2.2.62-73)

JULIET                        How cam’st thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?

                        The orchard walls are high and hard to climb,

                        And the place death, considering who thou art,

                        If any of my kinsmen find thee here.

ROMEO           With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls,

                        For stony limits cannot hold love out,

                        And what love can do, that dares love attempt:

                        Therefore thy kinsmen are no stop to me.

JULIET                        If they do see thee, they will murder thee.

ROMEO           Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye

                        Than twenty of their swords. Look thou but sweet,

                        And I am proof against their enmity. (2.2.62-73)

Juliet is the realist: how did you get here, and why have you come? There’s the wall again, and the orchard; what we’re (again) being cued to imagine is an enclosed garden, not just a high-security compound; it’s a conventional setting for declarations of love and encounters between lovers. When Juliet says kinsmen, she means Tybalt, or at least that’s who we imagine, rather than her father, and her understanding of the brutality of the situation is quite unequivocal: death, murder. Romeo answers her point by point (which is neat, and continues something of the on-the-same-page-ness of the sonnet), but in a much more lyrical idiom: he has flown over the walls because love has given him wings; the walls have become stony limits, which love can – of course – overcome, because love can do anything it sets its mind to, leap tall buildings in a single bound, etc. Romeo himself is now love personified. And he’s definitely not afraid of Tybalt. Juliet’s practical again, but he transforms her real anxiety into a romantic commonplace: she alone has the power of life and death over him (a half-recollection, here, of her promise to her mother, way back in 1.3, that she will not endart her eye, fall in love with anyone – even Paris – without parental permission – although eyes as arrows or bladed weapons are pretty standard). If Juliet looks kindly on him, Romeo will be bulletproof. Or rapier-proof.

 

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