Juliet had stopped dancing, and Romeo — whose name means “a pilgrim to Rome” — went over to her and held her hand, saying, “If I profane with my unworthiest hand this holy shrine, your hand, the gentle fine is this: My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”
Juliet, using the same metaphor of a pilgrim — sometimes also called palmers — visiting a holy shrine, replied, “Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much. By holding my hand, you show proper devotion. For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch, and palm-to-palm is holy palmers’ kiss. By holding my hand, you have showed proper devotion, but let’s not otherwise kiss.”
Romeo asked, “Have not saints lips, and holy palmers, too?”
“Yes, pilgrim,” Juliet said. “They have lips that they must use in prayer.”
“Oh, then, dear saint, let our lips do what our hands are doing — let our lips touch. My lips pray to you for a kiss. Grant their prayer, lest my faith turn to despair.”
“Saints do not take the initiative, even when through the intercession of God they grant prayers.”
“Then move not, while you grant my prayer. Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin you take.”
Romeo kissed Juliet.
“Now my lips have the sin that they have taken from your lips,” Juliet said.
“Your lips have taken sin from my lips?” Romeo said. “That is a trespass I sweetly urged! Give me my sin again.”
He kissed her again.
Juliet said, “You kiss by the book — you get your kisses in accordance with the pilgrim metaphor we have been following.”
The Nurse arrived and said to Juliet, “Madam, your mother craves a word with you.”
Juliet left, and Romeo asked the Nurse, “Who is her mother?”
The Nurse replied, “Young man, her mother is the lady of the house, and a good lady, both wise and virtuous. I was wet nurse to her daughter, with whom you have been talking. Whoever marries her will inherit much wealth from her father.”
The Nurse went to Juliet.
Romeo thought, She is the only daughter of Old Capulet! My life is forfeited to my enemy! If I can’t be with Juliet, I cannot live!
Benvolio came over to Romeo and said, “It is time for us to leave — we have had a good time here.”
“Yes,” Romeo said. “I wonder if I ever again will have as good a time.”
Old Capulet heard the two talking and said, “No, gentlemen, don’t leave now. Stay and eat a snack before you go.”
Benvolio shook his head no, and Old Capulet said, “What? You must leave? Then I thank you gentlemen for coming tonight. Good night, young sirs.”
Old Capulet said, “Bring more torches here to provide light for these gentlemen.”
Romeo and Benvolio waited for Mercutio to come, and Old Capulet said to Juliet and the Nurse, “It really is getting late, so I’m going to bed.”
Old Capulet left, but Juliet and the Nurse stayed.
Juliet still did not know the name of the young man who had kissed her, and she did not want the Nurse to know that she was interested in him, so she asked what were the names of some other young men before she asked for the name of the young man who had kissed her.
Juliet pointed and asked the Nurse, “Who is that gentleman?”
The Nurse replied, “The son and heir of old Tiberio.”
“Who is that person who is now going out of the door?”
“He, I think, is young Petruchio.”
Juliet pointed and asked, “Who is the young man who would not dance?”
“I don’t know.”
“Please go and ask him his name.”
The Nurse left to inquire, and Juliet thought, If he is married, I think that I will die. My grave will be my wedding bed.
The Nurse returned and said, “His name is Romeo, and he is a Montague. He is the only son of your great enemy.”
Juliet said softly, “My only love sprung from my only hate! I saw and loved him before I knew who he was, and I found out who he is too late to stop loving him. Love is born in me, and I now love a loathed enemy.”
“What did you say?” the Nurse asked.
“Just a rhyme that I learned at this dance.”
Someone in another room called “Juliet.”
The Nurse said loudly, “We’re coming! We’re coming!”
She said to Juliet, “Let’s go now. The guests have all left. All who remain are family and servants.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce
Note: The above is an excerpt from my book William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: A Retelling in Prose, which is available here: