Romeo and Juliet

The sonnet

Along with his plays, Shakespeare wrote 154 love sonnets – 14 line poems. He also included several sonnets within his plays, namely Romeo and Juliet.

It is notable that Shakespeare gives Romeo and Juliet exactly 14 lines to speak to each other, before their first kiss.

Read the below extract from Act 1, Scene 5:

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.

Oh 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 prayer’s sake.

Then move not while my prayer’s effect I take.

  • Research the structure, rhyme and meter of a Shakespearean sonnet.
  • List the components that make up a sonnet and the themes that they often discuss.
  • Choose one of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets to analyse, or analyse one as a class.
  • Read the sonnet and translate each line, so you understand the meaning.
  • Identify different symbols or imagery that Shakespeare is using in the sonnet. Can you identify any recurring themes, or images?
  • What symbols or images does Shakespeare use in the extract above? Why do you think he has chosen these types of symbols/images?

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