Thy lips are warm! (5.3.160-167)

JULIET                        Go get thee hence, for I will not away.

                        What’s here? a cup closed in my true love’s hand?

                        Poison I see hath been his timeless end.

                        O churl, drunk all, and left no friendly drop

                        To help me after? I will kiss thy lips,

                        Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,

                        To make me die with a restorative.

                        Thy lips are warm. (5.3.160-167)

Juliet’s first line here, poignantly, forms a couplet with the Friar’s exit line, I dare no longer stay, and her intention is clear from that very first line: she is not going anywhere, she is going to stay with Romeo, just as he said, only a moment or two earlier, I still will stay with thee. That couplet, like Romeo’s talking to Juliet, emphasises her aloneness, and the rest of her speech is in blank verse – but with hints of half-rhyme (hand/end, drop/lips) which sound just enough like pairs emphatically not to be pairs. The thing that used to be one of two, that has lost its other half, is of a different order of loneliness and loss to the thing which has always been alone. As with Romeo’s speech, what looks regular on the page is interrupted by action. She finds the container closed in Romeo’s hand, and gently prises it from his fingers. Almost certainly, she lifts it to her lips, in a futile attempt to drink any friendly drop that might remain. Both of these take time. And then the longest pause, as she kisses him, the kiss which should be a restorative, something healing, life-giving, imagined as potentially deadly. (But it could be restorative if it reunited them in death, restoring them to each other.) The hand and the lips and the kiss take us back (as Romeo did in his speech, too) to the scene of the lovers’ first meeting, where hands were joined and the first – and subsequent – kisses were exchanged with such wonder, and alacrity. (Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged. Then have my lips the sin that they have took. Sin from my lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again. You kiss by th’book.) The awful irony here is that she is indeed attempting to take sin from his lips, the sin (as it is imagined, in early modern doctrine) of suicide. This is the last kiss. And then that awful half-line: thy lips are warm. Familiar, comforting, physical, sensual; noticing every little thing (and making the audience too, perhaps, think of kisses, first and last). But also indicating that Romeo has only, just, this moment, died, that she is only, just, too late. As he so mistakenly asked, why art thou yet so fair? I think, at this moment, before the Watch are heard again, I want her to rest quietly with her Romeo, for just a little longer.

In the UK,  Samaritans, phone 116 123, and, for young men in particular, CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (for resources, not crisis support).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *