A Library of Literary InterestingnessFriday, September 17, 2021

First, the conmessage of Romeo’s words: Romeo is at the Capulets’ masked ball, via his frifinish Mercutio. Mercutio has simply told Romeo around a fairy called Queen Mab who enters young men’s minds as they dream, and also provides them dream of love and also romance. At the masked round, Romeo spies Juliet and instantly drops in love with her; she additionally falls for him. ‘O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright’ is Romeo’s initially response to clapping eyes on Juliet.

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It’s worth dwelling on this picture for a minute. ‘O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright’: i.e. the torches don’t actually seem to be all that bideal at all, when compared with the brightness and radiance of Juliet’s beauty. ‘Teach’ right here is a bit prefer ‘teaching someone a lesson’ or ‘schooling’ someone: it’s obtained an air of competition to it. Romeo is saying that the (poor, dim) torches can learn a thing or 2 from Juliet about exactly how to shine brightly.


The ‘measure’ is the dance that is being performed as Romeo speaks these words: when this dance is over, he says, he will certainly go approximately her and touch her hand also (as dancing partners can execute prior to dancing together), and thus make ‘blessed’ his own poor hand by coming right into contact with hers. Romeo concludes his speech by asking rhetorically whether his heart really did love anyone prior to he met Juliet. The answer, of course, is a big ‘No’. He ‘forswears’ or rejects any type of idea that he truly loved anyone (e.g. Rosaline) that came before Juliet. Now, though, he has actually viewed true beauty, and its name is Juliet.

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‘O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright’ is obviously rather over-the-peak language, and it’s worth bearing in mind the comment of T. J. B. Spencer, in his notes to Romeo And Juliet (Penguin Shakespeare)

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, that Romeo has actually not lost his ‘power of exaggerated language’. He is still susceptible to autumn head-over-heels in love: at this stage he’s still in love via the principle of being in love, if you will. This is not to say that his feelings for Juliet will certainly not rotate out to be even more than simply ‘love for its very own sake’, of course; yet in many methods this speech marks the point at which Romeo’s wandering heart ultimately finds an item truly worthy of its admiration and devotion. But it’s not clear till afterwards – perhaps the moment as soon as he and Juliet flirt and kiss – that she, unprefer Rosaline, is a match for him.