Romeo And Juliet Essay, Research Paper
The First Kiss and First Sin of Romeo and Juliet:
Defying the Patriarchal and Religious Institutions
In looking at marriages from a sixteenth-century point of view, one would observe, as discussed in class, that personal choice and romantic love were missing factors in the act of deciding on a spouse. Instead marriages were familial decisions made for the purposes of advancing the family through a system of inheritance and economics, and sometimes sought to ensure peace between two powerful families. Shakespeare allows the audience to predict Romeo and Juliet’s defiance of this patriarchal ideology throughout lines 93-109, as the two lovers wittingly compare their mutual appeal to “a sin.” In this passage, although the lovers do not yet recognize that they are destined to be enemies, Shakespeare prepares the audience for Romeo and Juliet’s ultimate “sin”—dishonoring their parents.
In the passage, Romeo and Juliet speak to one another for the first time. Romeo, who suggests that the “rough touch” of his hand be “smoothed with a tender kiss,” (I.v.96 ff) compares his lips to “two blushing pilgrims,” (I.v.95 ff) perhaps on their journey to a saintly Promised Land, Juliet’s own lips. But Juliet, coy at first, replies that “saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch/ And palm to palm is holy palmer’s kiss,” (I.v.99 ff) meaning that no kiss is necessary and that saints’ lips are moved only for praying. When Romeo replies that he “shall take his prayer’s effect,” (I.v.106 ff) the audience is left captivated by the first kiss of Romeo and Juliet.
Perhaps Romeo speaks the most breathtaking line in the passage when he implores, “O trespass sweetly urg’d! Give me my sin again,” (I.v.107 ff). It is at his moment that the modern audience begins to recognize the formidable task that awaits Romeo and Juliet—defeating the institutions of both the patriarchy and the Church on account of an emotional bond that the audience values as romantic love.
This outright rebellion of Romeo and Juliet against their parents and the Church may suggest that the two lovers caused their own death by actively deciding to “sin” against the patriarchy. However, the patriarchy is the institution that ultimately suffers the punishment of losing their children. They are forced to accept that they are responsible for the death of Romeo and Juliet, while the two lovers reside peacefully together for eternity. Shakespeare, in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet intends for the audience to understand that sin does not parallel romantic love, but instead sin is associated with unfairly standing in love’s way.