I’m teaching Romeo and Juliet for the first time in eight years and it’s been a lot of fun to get back into the text with freshmen. One of the great benefits of teaching is getting to know a text really well, and I know Romeo and Juliet well enough that I don’t have to read it again.
When last I taught it I felt like there was an inexhaustible supply of things you could do with it. At the same time, I’m a better teacher than I was the last time and I have a better sense of what to do with the difficult language.
Here’s a good example. Here’s Lady Capulet explaining to Juliet that Paris will be at the Capulet ball and suggesting that she might fall in love with him:
This night you shall behold him at our feast.
Read o’er the volume of young Paris’ face,
And find delight writ there with beauty’s pen.
Examine every married lineament
And see how one another lends content,
And what obscured in this fair volume lies
Find written in the margent of his eyes.
This precious book of love, this unbound lover,
To beautify him only lacks a cover.
The fish lives in the sea, and ’tis much pride
For fair without the fair within to hide.
That book in many’s eyes doth share the glory
That in gold clasps locks in the golden story.
So shall you share all that he doth possess
By having him, making yourself no less.
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.
He kisses her.
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.
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