A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature. Over 15,000 daily subscribers. Over 7,000 archived posts.
Act One, Scene Four
ROMEO [To JULIET]
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine 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.
O, 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 prayers’ sake.
Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
Note: This scene takes place at the Capulet ball, and it is the first meeting between the two main characters.
These 14 lines form a sonnet, a perfect Shakespearean sonnet in fact, with three ABAB quatrains and a rhyming couplet at the end. The form is subtle, easy for a modern listener to miss, but most members of Shakespeare’s theater audience would have recognized it immediately because the sonnet, which was very popular in Renaissance England, is closely associated with romantic love.