Wherefore Art Thou Romeo? Examples
This line comes from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and it is spoken by Juliet in the famous balcony scene, just after she has first met Romeo at a party. Unbeknownst to Juliet, Romeo has wandered into the garden below her balcony, and he can hear her speaking her thoughts aloud. This is an excerpt from the scene:
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.
Many people who read these lines think that Juliet is asking where Romeo is-as in a physical location. However, "wherefore" means "why." So, Juliet is really asking "Why are you Romeo?" She goes on to say that a name really has no meaning or bearing on the character of the person:
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name, which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
Meaning of these Lines
From the beginning of the play, when the chorus sets the scene in the prologue, the audience knows that Romeo and Juliet's families are enemies. Juliet has just learned that the young man she saw, and immediately loved, at the party is a Montague, the son of her parents' enemy.
In these lines, Juliet is lamenting the fact that Romeo is a Montague-asking aloud why did it have to be Romeo (a Montague) that has captured her heart. She goes on to say that Romeo should deny his family and his name-or if he won't, and he loves her, she will deny her Capulet family.
As the play goes on, the two young lovers essential do try to deny their names-they wed in secret, and hope to one day help their families overcome their hatred. Yet, through a series of tragic events, both Romeo and Juliet die, and with their deaths, "bury their parents' strife."
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