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Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare

  Act 3 Scene 3

page Act 3 Scene 3 Page 2

Original Text

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Is death mistermed. Calling death “banishment,”
Thou cutt’st my head off with a golden ax
And smilest upon the stroke that murders me.
Banishment is death by the wrong name. Calling death banishment is like cutting off my head with a golden ax and smiling while I’m being murdered.


O deadly sin! O rude unthankfulness!
25Thy fault our law calls death, but the kind Prince,
Taking thy part, hath rushed aside the law,
And turned that black word “death” to “banishment.”
This is dear mercy, and thou seest it not.


Oh, deadly sin! Oh, rude and unthankful boy! You committed a crime that is punishable by death, but our kind Prince took sympathy on you and ignored the law when he substituted banishment for death. This is kind mercy, and you don’t realize it.


'Tis torture and not mercy. Heaven is here,
30Where Juliet lives, and every cat and dog
And little mouse, every unworthy thing,
Live here in heaven and may look on her,
But Romeo may not. More validity,
More honorable state, more courtship lives
35In carrion flies than Romeo. They may seize
On the white wonder of dear Juliet’s hand
And steal immortal blessing from her lips,
Who even in pure and vestal modesty,
Still blush, as thinking their own kisses sin.
40But Romeo may not. He is banishèd.
Flies may do this, but I from this must fly.
They are free men, but I am banishèd.
And sayst thou yet that exile is not death?
Hadst thou no poison mixed, no sharp-ground knife,
45No sudden mean of death, though ne'er so mean,
But “banishèd” to kill me?—“Banishèd”!
O Friar, the damnèd use that word in hell.
Howling attends it. How hast thou the heart,
Being a divine, a ghostly confessor,
50A sin-absolver, and my friend professed,
To mangle me with that word “banishèd”?


It’s torture, not mercy. Heaven is here because Juliet lives here. Every cat and dog and little mouse, every unworthy animal that lives here can see her, but Romeo can’t. Flies are healthier and more honorable and better suited for romance than Romeo. They can take hold of Juliet’s wonderful white hand and they can kiss her sweet lips. Even while she remains a pure virgin, she blushes when her lips touch each other because she thinks it’s a sin. But Romeo can’t kiss her or hold her hand because he’s been banished. Flies can kiss her, but I must flee the city. Flies are like free men, but I have been banished. And yet you say that exile is not death? Did you have no poison, no sharp knife, no weapon you could use to kill me quickly, nothing so disgraceful, except banishment? Oh Friar, damned souls use the word banishment to describe hell. They howl about banishment. If you’re a member of a divine spiritual order of men who forgive sins, and you say you’re my friend, how do you have the heart to mangle me with the word banishment?


Thou fond mad man, hear me a little speak.


You foolish madman, listen to me for a moment.