The story of Romeo and Juliet seems sowed into our collective consciousness. This classic Shakespearean tragedy has been retold countless times, and remains one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. This tale of young love gone horribly wrong is also a goldmine for actors everywhere. And the character of Juliet is one that young actors turn to again and again. Today we take at Juliet’s monologue from Act 2 scene 5. This is probably the lesser known of Juliet’s monologues and many actors often turn to the more poetic “Gallop apace you fiery footed steed“, but in my opinion this piece is simpler and gives young actors more to play with. So let’s dive in.
Romeo and Juliet Synopsis
As always in our monologues unpacked section, I encourage you all to read the play! If you haven’t done so, stop reading this and go do it. If you are really struggling with the language, watch one of the many movie versions. Baz Luhrmann’s is by far the most engaging, but there are many film versions you can watch (just remember if you do this, not to be too influenced by Juliet’s performance – that is a common trap for young actors).
I won’t go into the full synopsis, but if you are struggling to piece together the time line I always recommend watching one of these short summaries (they are really helpful):
So you hopefully now have read the play and have a good understanding of what has just happened in the preceding scenes. Getting this context will inform many of the choices you make in the monologue.
What has just happened?
Juliet has just sent her Nurse to give Romeo an important message. She is now waiting for her Nurse to return with the news.
What to think about?
Have you ever been into someone and you message them and they don’t get back to you for 3 hours!? Your mind starts playing all the negative thoughts like, “they don’t like me”, “why did I write that stupid message!”. This is the Shakespearean version of that. Juliet is a young girl who is madly in love for the first time. In this piece she is scared, frustrated, confused and many other things. Explore all of this in your monologue. Try to connect with that feeling as genuinely as possible, remember like with all Shakespeare’s monologues, the core themes are very contemporary. Though the language is more floral, you are really just dealing with that frustrated feeling of someone taking ages to get back to you with very, very important news.
Where are we?
The text says Capulet’s Orchard. So we imagine we are in the family orchard, which is a location Juliet is familiar with. She would most likely know the place very well (so she is very comfortable) and be in a private place (so she can speak freely).
Juliet Monologue Act 2 Scene 5 (Original Text)
Juliet: The clock struck nine when I did send the nurse;
In half an hour she promised to return.
Perchance she cannot meet him – that’s not so.
O, she is lame! Love’s heralds should be thoughts,
Which ten times faster glide that the sun’s beams
Driving back shadows over louring hills;
Therefore do nimble-pinion’d doves draw Love,
And therefore hath the wind-swift Cupid wings.
Now is the sun upon the highmost hill
Of this day’s journey; and from nine till twelve
Is three long hours, yet she is not come.
Had she affections and warm youthful blood,
She would be as swift in motion as a ball;
My words would bandy her to my sweet love,
And his to me.
But old folks – many feign as they were dead
Unwieldy, slow, heavy, and pale as lead.
O God, she comes. O honey Nurse, what news?
The first thing you should always do is look up unfamiliar words in Shakespeare’s words. It’s important to make sure you understand every word you are saying. However, today I will help you out:
Louring: frown, scowl, look dark and threatening
Nimble-pinioned: swift winged
Ball: tennis ball (though you can use whatever image works for you)
Bandy: hit, strike, toss back
Honey: sweet, darling
Juliet Monologue – Modern Translation
It was nine o’clock when I sent the Nurse.
She promised to be back in half an hour.
Maybe she can’t find him. No, that makes no sense.
Oh, she’s so slow! Love’s messengers should be like thoughts, which fly ten times faster than sunbeams and drive the shadows back over the dark and threatening hills.
That’s how fast swift winged doves carry the goddess of love (Venus) in her chariot, and why Cupid has wings that propel him as quickly as the wind.
Now the sun is at its highest point in the sky – it’s noon.
In these three hours that have passed since nine o’clock, she still hasn’t returned.
If she were young and in love, she’d move as fast as a struck tennis ball.
My words would bounce her to my sweet love, and his words would bounce her back to me.
But old people act as though they’re already dead—awkward, slow, heavy, and pale.
Oh God, she’s here! Sweet Nurse, what’s your news?
Should you work on this monologue? Absolutely. This is a great monologue especially for a young actor. It’s fun and can be very physical! The problem with most Shakespeare monologues is that they feel like Shakespeare monologues. I think this monologue gives you a chance to really bring yourself to the piece. Juliet can be played in so many different ways.
Remember to always do the detective work first and then start playing around with the piece. Only if you truly understand it can you perform it in an authentic way. Enjoy! For more female Shakespeare monologues.