Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene is arguably the most famous scene in the history of theater. Sadly, most people don’t know what the hell the two characters are talking about. I mean, “Fain would I dwell on form, fain, fain deny / What I have spoke: but farewell compliment!” — excuse me, what-now?
So here we have it: The entire Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene in modern English, an updated version that’s quite possibly better than Shakespeare’s original text. To the left you’ll find Shakespeare’s original — and largely incomprehensible — version, with the modern version of the Balcony Scene to the right.
The Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene, Modern English Version
ACT II: SCENE 2. Capulet’s orchard.
JULIET appears above at a window
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!
O, speak again, bright angel! for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o’er my head
As is a winged messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturned wondering eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy-pacing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.
[Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?
‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.
What man art thou that thus bescreen’d in night
So stumblest on my counsel?
By a name
I know not how to tell thee who I am:
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,
Because it is an enemy to thee;
Had I it written, I would tear the word.
My ears have not yet drunk a hundred words
Of that tongue’s utterance, yet I know the sound:
Art thou not Romeo and a Montague?
Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike.
How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?
The orchard walls are high and hard to climb,
And the place death, considering who thou art,
If any of my kinsmen find thee here.
With love’s light wings did I o’er-perch these walls;
For stony limits cannot hold love out,
And what love can do that dares love attempt;
Therefore thy kinsmen are no let to me.
If they do see thee, they will murder thee.
Alack, there lies more peril in thine eye
Than twenty of their swords: look thou but sweet,
And I am proof against their enmity.
I would not for the world they saw thee here.
I have night’s cloak to hide me from their sight;
And but thou love me, let them find me here:
My life were better ended by their hate,
Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love.
By whose direction found’st thou out this place?
By love, who first did prompt me to inquire;
He lent me counsel and I lent him eyes.
I am no pilot; yet, wert thou as far
As that vast shore wash’d with the farthest sea,
I would adventure for such merchandise.
Thou know’st the mask of night is on my face,
Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek
For that which thou hast heard me speak to-night
Fain would I dwell on form, fain, fain deny
What I have spoke: but farewell compliment!
Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say ‘Ay,’
And I will take thy word: yet if thou swear’st,
Thou mayst prove false; at lovers’ perjuries
Then say, Jove laughs. O gentle Romeo,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully:
Or if thou think’st I am too quickly won,
I’ll frown and be perverse an say thee nay,
So thou wilt woo; but else, not for the world.
In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond,
And therefore thou mayst think my ‘havior light:
But trust me, gentleman, I’ll prove more true
Than those that have more cunning to be strange.
I should have been more strange, I must confess,
But that thou overheard’st, ere I was ware,
My true love’s passion: therefore pardon me,
And not impute this yielding to light love,
Which the dark night hath so discovered.
Lady, by yonder blessed moon I swear
That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops–
O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.
What shall I swear by?
Do not swear at all;
Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,
Which is the god of my idolatry,
And I’ll believe thee.
If my heart’s dear love–
Well, do not swear: although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract to-night:
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say ‘It lightens.’ Sweet, good night!
This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.
Good night, good night! as sweet repose and rest
Come to thy heart as that within my breast!
O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?
What satisfaction canst thou have to-night?
The exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine.
I gave thee mine before thou didst request it:
And yet I would it were to give again.
Wouldst thou withdraw it? for what purpose, love?
But to be frank, and give it thee again.
And yet I wish but for the thing I have:
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
Nurse calls from within
I hear some noise within; dear love, adieu!
Anon, good nurse! Sweet Montague, be true.
Stay but a little, I will come again.
O blessed, blessed night! I am afeard.
Being in night, all this is but a dream,
Too flattering-sweet to be substantial.
Re-enter JULIET, above
Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed.
If that thy bent of love be honourable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow,
By one that I’ll procure to come to thee,
Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite;
And all my fortunes at thy foot I’ll lay
And follow thee my lord throughout the world.
I come, anon.–But if thou mean’st not well,
I do beseech thee–
By and by, I come:–
To cease thy suit, and leave me to my grief:
To-morrow will I send.
So thrive my soul–
A thousand times good night!
A thousand times the worse, to want thy light.
Love goes toward love, as schoolboys from
But love from love, toward school with heavy looks.
Re-enter JULIET, above
Hist! Romeo, hist! O, for a falconer’s voice,
To lure this tassel-gentle back again!
Bondage is hoarse, and may not speak aloud;
Else would I tear the cave where Echo lies,
And make her airy tongue more hoarse than mine,
With repetition of my Romeo’s name.
It is my soul that calls upon my name:
How silver-sweet sound lovers’ tongues by night,
Like softest music to attending ears!
At what o’clock to-morrow
Shall I send to thee?
At the hour of nine.
I will not fail: ’tis twenty years till then.
I have forgot why I did call thee back.
Let me stand here till thou remember it.
I shall forget, to have thee still stand there,
Remembering how I love thy company.
And I’ll still stay, to have thee still forget,
Forgetting any other home but this.
‘Tis almost morning; I would have thee gone:
And yet no further than a wanton’s bird;
Who lets it hop a little from her hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silk thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty.
I would I were thy bird.
Sweet, so would I:
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! parting is such
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.
Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy breast!
Would I were sleep and peace, so sweet to rest!
Hence will I to my ghostly father’s cell,
His help to crave, and my dear hap to tell.
JULIET appears above at a window
Damn, looks like someone just turned a light on.
It’s Juliet! About time…
She’s so hot.
I feel kind of bad
Because she’s only thirteen,
But I’m a horny Italian kid
So people will probably understand.
Anyway, the actual age difference is minimal.
What a lady, damn, she’s smokingly hot!
And she doesn’t even know it! Awesome.
She’s moving her lips but saying nothing: that’s odd.
I should say something,
But I’d probably scare the shit out of her.
I’m also talking to myself out loud,
Which is a really bad idea considering
That I’m hiding in someone’s garden
Spying on a thirteen-year-old girl.
Who cares: her cheeks are so shiny,
Like the glow from my cell phone,
I wish all the world was so bright
And full of singing birds and stuff.
Ah, that’s cute; she’s resting her cheek on her hand!
I’d love to be that glove
So I could rub those cheeks. ..
Oh, what a shitty day!
Say something else, hot stuff! you are
A piece of ass, no doubt.
A sexy, slightly vacant gaze,
And seriously awesome bosoms for your age.
O Romeo, Romeo! where the hell are you Romeo?
Tell your father to bugger off and forget your name.
Alternatively, let’s go public on Facebook
And I’ll tell my family to get lost.
[Aside] I feel like a dirty voyeur, should I say something?
It’s just your name that’s the problem.
You’re the same as me, but I’m not a Montague.
What’s a Montague anyway? It’s not a hand or a foot
Or an arm or anything like that, it wouldn’t matter
If you lost it. I wish you had a different name!
What’s in a name? Roses would still smell nice
Even if they were called something different.
So would Romeo, even if he changed his name,
He’d still be hot.
Romeo, lose the name and let’s get serious,
This is just stupid.
Tell me about it.
From now on, I’ll be called something else.
I won’t be Romeo anymore. I’ll call myself MC Love.
Who the fuck is hiding down there?
Are you spying on me? I’ll call the police!
I can’t tell you what my name is
Because I hate it.
You hate it too, actually.
But I’m thinking of calling myself MC Love.
What d’you think?
I haven’t heard you talk much before,
But I’d know that voice anywhere!
That’s you isn’t it, Romeo Montague?
Um, no, not if you don’t like the name.
How did you get here — and what are you doing?
The orchard walls are hard to climb,
And my family will beat the shit out of you
If they find you here.
I do all kinds of stupid things
When I’m drunk and horny.
And you make me horny baby
So I don’t care about your family.
Seriously, they’ll chop your balls of if they see you.
Hell, I’m more scared of looking in your eyes
Than a good beat down or a drive-by shooting.
I’ll be OK. I hope…
Still, I’d rather they didn’t see you.
It’s the middle of the night, they won’t see me.
Screw ‘em anyway, let them find me.
I’d rather die by their hate
Than hang around like a tit waiting for your love.
How did you find my house, anyway? Are you stalking me?
Well, I am a bit obsessed with you.
I’ve been walking around all day looking for this place.
Your house isn’t on Google Maps, I checked,
But I’d still walk for miles and miles
To find a piece of merchandise such as yourself.
Oh, stop it!
You’re making me blush!
I can’t believe you heard everything I said tonight!
It’s kind of creepy,
But I’ll forgive you.
Do you really love me? You’ll obviously say “yes,”
And I’ll believe you. But you might be lying.
You are a man, after all.
O gentle Romeo,
If you love me, just tell me straight up.
On the other hand, if you think I’m being too easy,
I’ll frown a little and tell you to get lost
Just to make you try a little harder.
To be honest, I do like you.
But I don’t want to be too, you know, slutty.
I’m not like that, honest,
I’m not like my friends.
If you hadn’t been hiding below my damned balcony
Like a total perv,
I probably wouldn’t have told you all this.
It’s not as if it will get us killed or anything.
Baby, I swear by that fat old moon up there
That makes the fruit trees glow —
Don’t swear by the moon,
It’s always changing.
And don’t call me “baby.”
Oh, okay. What shall I swear by?
Don’t swear at all;
Or, if you really want to, swear by yourself.
I’m an obsessive teenager,
So I’ll believe you.
But, but, if, um…
Listen, you don’t need to swear: you’re cool,
But this is all a bit over the top.
I mean, you’re moving a bit quickly,
Like a damned lightning bolt.
I’m going to bed. Good night!
It’s been a long day and I have school tomorrow.
Let’s see what happens next time we meet.
Good night, good night!
Is that it? That’s so unsatisfying.
Well what the hell do you want to do tonight?
Let’s tell each other that we love each other.
Christ, we’ve been doing that all night.
I’d tell you again if I could.
What, so now you don’t love me? I’m confused.
To be honest, I’m confusing myself.
I want you to love me and you do love me.
And I’ve got a lot of love to give,
Like boundless, infinite love.
So yeah, I do love you. I guess.
Nurse calls from within the expensive mansion
Shit, someone’s coming! Make a run for it!
I’m coming nurse! Don’t cheat on me Montague.
Hang on a sec, I’ll come back in a bit.
Juliet exits, leaving Romeo hanging around like a tool
Damn, I’m kind of scared about all this
And totally confused.
Getting stoned earlier was a bad idea.
Juliet comes back to the balcony
I’m back again, then I’ll definitely be leaving.
Listen, if you are serious about this
And want to get married, text me tomorrow.
We’ll go get married somewhere,
Just tell me where and when;
I’ll give you everything
And follow you wherever you want to go.
[Calling from within] Madam! Get your ass out here!
I’m coming, calm the hell down! — But if you’re messing with me, I’ll seriously —
[From within] Madam!
I’m coming already —
God, she’s annoying
Listen, I’ll text you tomorrow.
Awesome. Did you say marriage earlier?
Damn, I really don’t want to go.
And I have to go to school tomorrow.
And I’m getting married? How did that happen?
He starts to leave
Juliet comes back out to the balcony yet again
Psst! Romeo, psst!
Come back here!
Don’t make me repeat myself.
I hate repeating myself!
Come back would you
Damn she’s got a sexy little voice.
A bit insistent though.
At about what time
Shall I text you tomorrow?
About 9 o’clock would work for me.
Cool. I’ll look forward to it.
Why did I call you back?
I’ve no idea. But you sounded quite desperate.
Maybe I just wanted you to keep standing there.
I like you hanging around below by balcony.
It’s nice down here.
There’s lots of fruit to eat.
It’s almost morning, you’d better go.
Go on; hop off like a little bird.
Hop, hop, hop.
My little prisoner!
We’re getting married!
Um, OK, I’ll be your little bird.
Sweet, me too!
I’ll probably squash you dead with too many hugs!
Good night, good night! parting is such
but I’ll say good night until tomorrow.
Juliet finally exits — for good this time
Have a good sleep, rest your pert little breasts!
Christ I’m tired.
She’s hot, but she’s a bit weird.
Now how the fuck do I get back home?
The Balcony Scene Modern Version
So there you have it: a modern version of the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene in understandable English. I doubt if anyone will ever improve on this modern interpretation, which took me hours to write. If you have any questions about the balcony scene, such as “What was Romeo wearing?” (see image below), feel free to ask in the comments section below.
For now: “Thanks, sir; all the rest is mute.”
“Um, Romeo, are you not wearing any pants?” For Romeo’s sake, I hope that’s not poison ivy…