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What light through yonder window breaks

“What light through yonder window breaks” is part of one of the most famous soliloquies in all of William Shakespeare’s plays. The line is spoken by Romeo in Act II, Scene 2.

The quote is the second line of this act and is commonly utilized today. So much so it has become a cliché, often overdramatized and used sarcastically. But, in the context of Shakespeare’s work, it is quite impactful as it helps convey Romeo’s passion for Juliet and his obsession with everything she does. 

What light through yonder window breaks meaning


“What light through yonder window breaks” Meaning

The quote begins a soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It is used to describe a light coming on in a window of Juliet’s house.

Romeo is standing beneath her balcony, contemplating their relationship and its troubles. He hopes as the lines progress that it is Juliet’s light that has come on above him. As she reveals herself, he commences a series of comparisons describing her as brighter than the sun or moon.

Where Does Shakespeare Use “What light through yonder window breaks?”

This quote appears in Act II, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The line is spoken by Romeo and can be found in line two of this particular scene. The only other person who is present when Romeo is speaking is his love, Juliet. Here is the quote in context: 

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.

The quote is part of the famous “balcony” scene. Juliet is standing on the balcony, unbeknownst to Romeo, and listening to him speak about their love. It is only partway through his twenty-six-line soliloquy that he realizes that Juliet is present.

The first part of the speech describes Romeo’s hope that the light upstairs at Juliet’s house belongs to her. It lights the world up like the morning sun, leading him to describe Juliet as more beautiful than a goddess of either night or day. He suggests that the moon itself is jealous of Juliet’s beauty. Romeo expresses pleasure when he sees Juliet appear upstairs. Her eyes are saying something, and he says that he will answer them. The soliloquy continues with these lines: 

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 eye 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.

Oh, that I were a glove upon that hand

That I might touch that cheek!

Romeo uses incredibly lyrical language as he describes her eyes and their impact on him. The “brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,” he adds. This is another example of his belief in her beauty. There’s nothing in nature, it seems, that is more beautiful than she is. She would light the world so much so that “birds would sing and think it were not night.” He concludes his soliloquy by expressing his desire to touch her cheek or get closer to her than he is now. He desires intimacy but in the most chaste way. 

Why Does Shakespeare Use “What light through yonder window breaks?” 

Shakespeare uses this quote to demonstrate Romeo’s passion and burgeoning obsession with Juliet. As he stands beneath her balcony, he sees the light come on and commences an extended metaphor comparing Juliet to the sun and the moon. He suggests immediately that she is brighter than either and that the moon is itself jealous of the light she gives off. This is not the only time that Romeo uses light to describe his Juliet. 

FAQs 

“What light through yonder window breaks” uses what literary device?

This line is an example of imagery. It is also the beginning of a metaphor that Romeo uses to describe the effect that Juliet has on him. He compares her to the sun and moon in the next line.

Who said, “but, soft! What light through yonder window breaks, It is the east and Juliet is the sun” in Romeo and Juliet?

This famous quote is spoken by the young Romeo and William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. It is part of the commonly quoted balcony scene in which Romeo and Juliet speak while the latter is standing on the balcony of her home. 

Why does Romeo say, “But, soft!” In Romeo and Juliet

Romeo uses this opener for his soliloquy as a way of stopping everything else one might be paying attention to and drawing the audience’s attention (and his own) to the light above. It can be read as, “But, wait!” 


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