7

From William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II:

Romeo But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!

Why does Romeo say that "Juliet is the sun"? Is it because Romeo can feel Juliet on his skin and through into his meat and flesh? Has anyone made this claim, as it makes total sense, both for adolescent pangs of sexuality and the sense that's all that matters.

2

2 Answers 2

16

I think it is helpful to cite a bit more than just those two lines:

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;

(Quoted from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare hosted at MIT.)

First, at this point in the play, it is already dark or getting dark. To Romeo, Juliet's appearance on the balcony is like the sunrise in the morning. The exaggeration in this comparison as an expression of Romeo's infatuation. (Just a minute earlier, Mercutio had shouted, "Romeo! humours! madman! passion! lover!")

In addition to this, Romeo contrast the sun with the moon. The moon is associated with the virgin goddess Diana. When Romeo says, "Be not her maid", he means that he does not want Juliet to remain a virgin. ("vestal", which is mentioned on the next line, refers to priestesses in ancient Rome who remained virgins.)

In summary, Romeo does not only compare Juliet to the sun because of the sun's brightness but also because of the contrast with the moon, which is here associated with virginity.

2
  • i think the visual vs sensual/tactile contrast in our explanations is revealing.
    – user66697
    Commented Jun 19 at 16:52
  • Did Juliet go out onto the balcony (her room's?) to see what the shouting on the street below was about?
    – civitas
    Commented Jun 20 at 2:42
6

This is Literature & multiple "Interpretations" can occur.
Here is mine.

It is Comparison / Imagery / figurative :

When Juliet opens the window , maybe drawing the curtains aside , there is some light visible in the night darkness.
When Romeo sees that light , he wonders "what light" that could be.

Then he realizes that the window is in the East (which William conveniently sets-up & uses) which aligns with Sun rising in the East.
Romeo then puts that together to conclude with the Imagery that Juliet is the Sun , atleast figuratively !

Once that Comparison & Imagery is done , Romeo (& William) take it forward with consistency.

Romeo asks the Sun to arise & kill the Moon (which is a natural occurrence on a daily basis) which is envious of the Sun.

Romeo continues with the imagery , though later that gets extended to the stars & what-not !
Romeo compare the Brightness of her eyes with start & says that the Brightness of her cheeks exceeds the stars.
It might make the Birds sing , thinking it was already Day-time.

[[ Later , Romeo converts the Imagery to Bright Angel & Winged Messenger !! There is no limit !! ]]

Summary :

Why does Romeo say that "Juliet is the sun" ? Because

  • the window was in the East
  • the light through the window was like the Eastern Sun-rise
  • Juliet was appearing like the Sun-rise in the night darkness
  • the Brightness of her eyes & her cheeks added to the effect
  • Her Brightness might make it look like Day-time

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.