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Detailed Summary of Act 2, Scene 6

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Enter Friar Laurence and Romeo:
Friar Laurence and Romeo are waiting for Juliet, so that the wedding can be performed. Friar Laurence, thinking ahead, says "So smile the heavens upon this holy act, / That after hours with sorrow chide us not!" (2.6.1-2). Earlier, when Romeo asked the Friar to marry himself and Juliet, the Friar agreed because of what might happen in what he now calls the "after hours." He is hoping that the marriage of Romeo and Juliet will put an end to feud between the houses of Montague and Capulet, but things could go wrong and if they do, the sorrows of those "after hours" will chide them for what they are about to do. Or at least that's what the Friar thinks. Romeo, on the other hand, lives only in the present, and says so: "Amen, amen! but come what sorrow can, / It cannot countervail [equal] the exchange of joy / That one short minute gives me in her sight" (2.6.3-5). In his view, the joy of a minute with Juliet will be greater than all the possible sorrow of any later hours. Romeo adds that he is ready to face the greatest sorrow of all: "Do thou but close our hands with holy words, / Then love-devouring death do what he dare; / It is enough I may but call her mine" (2.6.6-8). These exulting words foreshadow what actually happens; "love-devouring death" makes its first appearance shortly after the wedding.

The Friar understands that Romeo thinks love will make him bullet-proof, and tries to talk some sense into him: "These violent delights have violent ends / And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, / Which as they kiss consume" (2.6.9-11). The "powder" of the Friar's simile is gunpowder; the "triumph" of fire and gunpowder is the brilliant show of fireworks that results when the two touch; "consume" means "consume each other." After the fireworks, there's nothing left. Not only that, says the Friar, but there's a good reason that the ectasies of love can't last forever. This is his metaphor: "The sweetest honey / Is loathsome in his own deliciousness / And in the taste confounds the appetite" (2.6.11-13). In other words, we don't eat honey right out of the pot, and saying "eye wub u" over and over gets real old real quick. The Friar concludes his little talk by advising Romeo to "love moderately; long love doth so; / Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow" (2.6.14-15).

Enter Juliet:
Just as the Friar is advising Romeo to not be "too swift," Juliet appears, running as swiftly as she can to her love. She is running so lightly that her feet hardly touch ground, and the Friar comments, "A lover may bestride [walk upon] the gossamer [floating strands of spider web] / That idles in the wanton summer air, / And yet not fall; so light is vanity" (2.6.18-20). By "vanity" the Friar means earthly joy, which--because it is earthly, not heavenly--is "vain" in the sense it must pass away.

It seems that the appearance of Juliet has put the Friar into a wry mood. He's just been telling Romeo to love moderately, and here comes Juliet, running eagerly to Romeo. It's obvious that the Friar's words are falling on deaf ears. The Friar's wry mood continues as Juliet greets him, then leaps into Romeo's arms. The Friar says, "Romeo shall thank thee, daughter, for us both" (2.6.22). This is a small joke; the Friar means that the kiss which Romeo is now giving Juliet can be considered as the Friar's "thank you" for Juliet's greeting. Juliet replies, "As much to him, else is his thanks too much" (2.6.23). She means that she has to give Romeo as much thanks as Romeo gave her, to even things out. So she kisses him back. (Shakespeare wrote no stage directions about this kissing, but the kisses make sense of the words.)

After kissing, Romeo and Juliet both express the idea that words can't express how much they love one another. Romeo says that Juliet should sing out their love. He asks her to "sweeten with thy breath / This neighbour air, and let rich music's tongue / Unfold the imagined happiness that both / Receive in either by this dear encounter" (2.6.26-29). The happiness is "imagined" not because it is unreal, but because it is felt much more than it can be shown. Juliet replies, "Conceit, more rich in matter than in words, / Brags of his substance, not of ornament" (2.6.30-31). In this context "conceit" means "true understanding," as opposed to the imagination. Juliet is politely declining to sing. At the same time she is saying she shares the "imagined happiness" that Romeo spoke of, but she understands that the true value of that happiness is in its reality, not in how it is decorated with songs or whatever. She goes on to say that if you can count how rich you are, you're not really rich, but her love is so great that she can't count even half of its richness.

Romeo and Juliet could probably spend much more time kissing and trying to find words for their love which is beyond words, but the Friar Laurence leads them off, saying, "Come, come with me, and we will make short work; / For, by your leaves, you shall not stay alone / Till holy church incorporate two in one" (2.6.35-37). Friar Laurence is probably not trying to be funny, but we may chuckle at his underlying thought that it's not safe to leave them alone together before they're married. So off they go to be married.







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