Arguably Juliet’s most famous monologue from Romeo And Juliet, this short excerpt is a classic audition piece for actors everywhere! Juliet implores the gods and nature itself to bring in nightfall so that she might see her beloved Romeo … and consummate their marriage. The speech almost reads like an incantation—a spell cast to end the day as quickly as possible so that she might see her new husband!
Finding Juliet’s desire and frustration is key to playing this monologue; in the larger context of the piece, it also shines in contrast to the tragedy surrounding it: death and misfortune is already besieging the star cross’d lovers’ happiness and future.
After two acts of exposition and romance, Act 3 of Romeo and Juliet is where things truly escalate in terms of plot and tragedy. At the top of Scene 1, the Montagues and Capulets clash once more. This time, however, Romeo refuses to fight: after his secret marriage to Juliet, he now regards once-rival Tybalt to be his kinsman, and does not wish to cause further tension between the houses.
Knowing that Romeo will not engage with Tybalt, his best friend Mercutio steps in to defend his honour. A fight breaks out and, despite Romeo’s best efforts to keep the peace, Mercutio is slain. He curses the families’ feuding with his dying breath “A plague o’ both your houses!” Romeo, enraged, murders Tybalt in revenge.
Romeo flees, knowing the weight of his actions, crying “O, I am fortune’s fool.” The scene ends with the Prince declaring Romeo banished from Verona. If he is discovered in the city from the following day, he shall be put to death.
All of this, of course, is unbeknownst to Juliet, who waits for her husband with youthful impatience. The text of this speech captures her excitement about the night ahead of them.
Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Toward Phoebus’ lodging. Such a wagoner
As Phaeton would whip you to the west
And bring in cloudy night immediately.
Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
That runaways’ eyes may wink, and Romeo
Leap to these arms, untalked of and unseen.
Lovers can see to do their amorous rites
By their own beauties, or, if love be blind,
It best agrees with night. Come, civil night,
Thou sober-suited matron, all in black,
And learn me how to lose a winning match
Played for a pair of stainless maidenhoods.
Hood my unmanned blood bating in my cheeks,
With thy black mantle, till strange love, grow bold,
Think true love acted simple modesty.
Come, night. Come, Romeo. Come, thou day in night,
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow upon a raven’s back.
Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-browed night,
Give me my Romeo. And when I shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
Oh, I have bought the mansion of a love,
But not possessed it, and though I am sold,
Not yet enjoyed. So tedious is this day
As is the night before some festival
To an impatient child that hath new robes
And may not wear them.
There are a few unfamiliar words in this speech; as always, spend plenty of time researching any word you do not know. This is especially true of a piece for a drama school audition, as any hesitancy on a word’s meaning can cost you a call-back!
Apace: Quickly, swiftly.
Phoebus: Greco/Roman deity, a poetic term for the sun.
Phaeton: The son of Sun God Phoebus who, in a creation myth popularised by Roman poet Ovid (a favourite of Shakespeare’s), rode his father’s chariot quickly—before crashing it into the earth and burning everyone and everything to a crisp.
Amorous: loving, concerning love or romance.
Sober-suited: Referring to the all-black dress of a person in mourning.
Garish: Bright, unsightly, over-the-top.
Come on, sun! I wish you’d set right now, so that night would be here.
In cover of darkness, where acts of love can be performed,
My Romeo can leap into my arms and nobody will be the wiser.
Beauty helps lovers see how to make love in the darkness.
And if love truly is blind, then what better conditions for matters of love?
Come on, night! I wish you’d arrive, all in black like a woman in mourning,
So that I might give up my virginity. Cover my blushing cheeks,
So that I might learn the strange act of sex
Until I seem confident, and it seems simple and true.
Come, on Romeo! Come on, nightfall!
Give me my Romeo, and when I die, turn him into constellations in the sky:
Because he shall make the heavens look so beautiful,
That the whole world might fall in love with him as I have.
I have bought a mansion of love, but I’m yet to move in.
And while I am promised and sold to Romeo, he is yet to take me as his and enjoy me!
This day drags on, and makes me feel like I am a child the night before a festival.
I have beautiful new clothes, and yet cannot wear them.
Notes On Performance
There are few monologues in Shakespeare that feel quite so human as this offering from Juliet. Her musings on topics such as love and sex sound like the thoughts of any curious, love-struck adolescent. What makes it such a stunning piece of writing, however, is the way it uses subtext and imagery to hint at further tragedies in the play. And while these may or may not play into your performance of the monologue, it is certainly worth knowing to deepen your understanding of the piece.
As we touched upon in the Unfamiliar Language section above, Phaeton is an odd choice for one that would bring about nightfall. Yes, he might get the job done quickly. But he also destroyed the world in the process. Phaeton is not just a symbol of the sun, or of nightfall, but of youthful recklessness. His destructive actions can be likened to that of Romeo’s in the previous scene—his impulsive slaying of Tybalt. Of course, this point is lost on Juliet. She is far too caught up thinking about what happens when night arrives. From hereon in, the scene becomes a battle between her excitement and her nerves as she ponders the mysteries of the act of sex.
Note yet another reference to death and destruction with “thou sober-suited matron, all in black”. This line foreshadows her own mourning for Tybalt, as well as perhaps that of her own death at the play’s conclusion. Shakespeare inextricably links Juliet’s thoughts on her union to Romeo with death in this monologue; whether or not Juliet has any awareness of these images is up to the individual performer.
Juliet’s anxiety around sex and virginity reaches a peak in the passage beginning with “Hood my unmanned blood bating in my cheeks”. In this line, she asks night to shroud her blushing nervousness “with thy black mantle”. However, this feeling is ultimately vanquished as she asks for this concealment only until: “strange love, grow bold, think true love acted simple modesty”. Juliet wishes for these mysteries to become second nature to her, to know and accept them and even enjoy them.
Next, this strange passage about Juliet’s death—wishing Romeo to become a constellation in the night sky the whole world could fall in love with. Again, it’s an oddly sombre image in an otherwise joyous speech. Shakespeare connects this image to our understanding as the audience that Romeo and Juliet’s love is ultimately doomed (remember, this is the very first thing we are told when the play begins). Again, how much of this actually rattles Juliet is up to the performer. It could be a simple ‘fangirl’ moment; it could be this character exhibiting a surprisingly profound level of understanding about love and life. Love may be eternal … but Juliet is certainly not.
With the final section, “Oh, I have bought the mansion of a love,” Juliet returns to her initial thoughts of longing and frustration. One can even interpret this “Oh” as Juliet’s attempt to banish sombre thoughts from her mind. Despite whatever dark or insecure feelings she might harbour, she is still carried by the immediate excitement of her union with Romeo, as well as her desire for night to fall. This is perhaps why Shakespeare returns to more child-like imagery with the ‘night before a festival’ metaphor at the piece’s end.
“Gallop apace” is a deceptively simple monologue. It can be performed with a sense of youthful naiveté, or speak to darker thoughts and worries that fester away in Juliet’s mind. Either way, it is a piece that allows you to bring a level of humanity and complexity to a character so often regarded as nothing more than ‘young and in love’. Whatever your interpretation is, make sure you understand the language, metaphors and images that Shakespeare employs. This is especially true in the context of an audition, as directors love nothing more than to ask your opinion as to a line or image in the hope of making you squirm! Take time with this speech, give it some serious consideration. You are bound to find out some fascinating new truths about your understanding of one of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters. Enjoy!