“Gallop apace”

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Waiting. Wishing. Wanting. Willing.

Shakespeare packs so much into Juliet’s 30 line speech as she looks forward to spending her first night together with Romeo.

Her thoughts race like her passions, and her speech aches with impatience.  She yearns for ‘love-performing night’ to come, and luckily for us this brief interlude before darkness falls is filled with some of the play’s most beautiful poetry. Juliet waxes lyrical about Romeo’s imminent arrival, and pictures the moment when her lover, who is newly-made her husband, will ‘Leap to these arms untalked of and unseen’. Juliet wishes for darkness to fall upon Verona, and sadly, without her knowing, the light has already disappeared from Romeo’s world.  Having killed Tybalt, in revenge for Mercutio’s death, Romeo now finds himself a murderer.  The lovers will indeed get to spend the night together, but Juliet’s romantic imaginings will have blackened by morning.

Juliet’s speech, printed in full below, can have a wistful musicality when spoken aloud.  Recently I was enchanted to hear this speech performed in a Maltese translation, and I’m pleased to be able to share it with you here.  Simone Spiteri (www.dutheatre.com) gives a delightful reading of the speech below. My thanks to Simone for going to the trouble of having this translation emailed to her during her stay in Stratford, and for her willingness to record it for our enjoyment.

Gallop apace you fiery-footed steeds

Towards Phoebus’ lodging. Such a waggoner

As Phaëton would whip you to the west

And bring in cloudy night immediately.

Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,

That runaways’ eyes may wink, and Romeo

Leap to these arms untalked of and unseen.

Lovers can see to do their amorous rites

By their own beauties; or, if love be blind,

It best agrees with night. Come, civil night,

Thou sober-suited matron all in black,

And learn me how to lose a winning match

Played for a pair of stainless maidenhoods.

Hood my unmanned blood, bating in my cheeks,

With thy black mantle till strange love grown bold

Think true love acted simple modesty.

Come night, come Romeo; come, thou day in night,

For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night

Whiter than new snow on a raven’s back.

Come, gentle night; come, loving, black-browed night,

Give me my Romeo, and when I shall die

Take him and cut him out in little stars,

And he will make the face of heaven so fine

That all the world will be in love with night

And pay no worship to the garish sun.

O, I have bought the mansion of a love

But not possessed it, and though I am sold,

Not yet enjoyed. So tedious is this day

As is the night before some festival

To an impatient child that hath new robes

And may not wear them.


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Author:Nick Walton

Nick Walton is a Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
  • http://twitter.com/ASC_Cass Cass Morris

    I love this speech — it's so sexual, but it's also so pure. It isn't tawdry or bawdy sexuality; it's full instead of so much genuine yearning.

  • Nick Walton

    Thanks for your response Cass – it is indeed a super speech – and a real test for an actress in performance.

  • Nick Walton

    Thanks for your response Cass – it is indeed a super speech – and a real test for an actress in performance.

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