Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare
Quotes

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 2

O Romeo, Romeo,
wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name,
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

Juliet speaks these lines, perhaps the most famous in the play, in the balcony scene (2.1.74–78). Leaning out of her upstairs window, unaware that Romeo is below in the orchard, she asks why Romeo must be Romeo—why he must be a Montague, the son of her family’s greatest enemy (“wherefore” means “why,” not “where”; Juliet is not, as is often assumed, asking where Romeo is). Still unaware of Romeo’s presence, she asks him to deny his family for her love. She adds, however, that if he will not, she will deny her family in order to be with him if he merely tells her that he loves her.

A major theme in Romeo and Juliet is the tension between social and family identity (represented by one’s name) and one’s inner identity. Juliet believes that love stems from one’s inner identity, and that the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets is a product of the outer identity, based only on names. She thinks of Romeo in individual terms, and thus her love for him overrides her family’s hatred for the Montague name. She says that if Romeo were not called “Romeo” or “Montague,” he would still be the person she loves. “What’s in a name?” she asks. “That which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet” (2.1.85–86).