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“The more we value things, the less we value ourselves” (Bruce Lee). In Act III, Scene III of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Romeo Montague is sentenced to exile from his hometown Verona for the murder of Tybalt, a relative of the Prince of Verona and a member of the Capulet family, which has had a long history of feuds with the Montague family. Romeo has married Juliet, the only daughter of the Capulet family and therefore his enemy, with whom he is deeply infatuated.
Romeo’s sorrowful monologue to his confidante, Friar Lawrence, outlines the extent to which he believes how terrible his punishment of banishment is, and he expresses his extreme unwillingness to be apart from Juliet, along with his passionate love for her.
Romeo greatly exaggerates and overplays the severity of his punishment. For example, when Friar Lawrence tells Romeo that the Prince of Verona has decided on exile as Romeo’s punishment, Romeo is quick to be distressed, imploring the friar to change his words: “Be merciful, say ‘death’; / For exile hath more terror in his look, / Much more than death.
” (3.3.13-15). A death sentence is the worst punishment one can receive, but Romeo exclaims that he would prefer to not live at all than to live outside of Verona. To Romeo, the magnitudes of both punishments are unlike how anyone else would see them; his contrasting view of the two punishments emphasizes the extent to which he detests his exile and would do almost anything in place of it being enforced.
Moreover, Romeo does not pay heed to Friar Lawrence’s words of consolement, explaining to him that “There is no world without Verona walls / But purgatory, torture, hell itself. / Hence banished is banish’d from the world,” (3.3.18-20). Verona is where Romeo has been for all of his life and if he were to be anywhere else, he would have to keep thinking about and missing what he can no longer have in Verona. However, this severe comparison of likening all other places to hell and restriction to Verona as his world is a very harmful mindset, as well as an immense overstatement. This notice of banishment weighs very heavily upon Romeo’s heart, and his nature of mind causes him to take it far too earnestly.
Through the use of wordplay, Romeo shows that love is the reason which has blinded him from being able to think rationally and realistically about his situation. For instance, Romeo laments that carrion flies have more honorable state and courtship than him because they can touch Juliet and be near her while he cannot, and he adds: “This may flies do, when I from this must fly;” (3.3.42). Romeo utilizes the different meanings of the word “fly” to demonstrate that he must “fly” or depart from Verona and away from Juliet; he goes as far as to show envy for the insignificant creatures, essentially wishing that he could be in their place just to circumvent the distance that must be present between him and his wife. By Romeo’s specific use of the word “fly” to refer to his punishment of exile, he lowers his worth to being similar to or even beneath the worth of a fly, putting pride and shame—which are fundamental parts of human nature—second to his feelings and longing to want to be with Juliet. Furthermore, Romeo, in a distraught state, asks Friar Lawrence if he did not have any mixed poison, a sharp-ground knife, or “No sudden mean of death, though ne’er so mean, / But ‘banished’ to kill [him]” (3.3.46-47). The idea of never seeing Juliet again is painful enough for Romeo to kill him slowly, and he believes that the word “banishment” and the outcomes associated with it are more unbearable and torturous than any other “mean” or way of death. Romeo further proves the extent to which banishment hurts him by stressing the word “mean” again when he implies that Friar Lawrence is unkind and vile for delivering such information to Romeo, despite the fact that the friar is someone whom Romeo has always trusted and counted upon. Romeo is a young man who has been deeply struck by love and would be willing to do anything to stay by his wife’s side forever.
Bill Wilson’s words capture the true passion and extensive feelings of love: “To the world, you may be one person, but to one person you are the world.” Juliet is Romeo’s “world” and his everything. Love is one of the most powerful emotions a person can feel, and people would go to the ends of the earth to cherish the invaluable sentiments associated with it—even if they have to prioritize them above all else.
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