Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art my balcony?

As a professed Bardinator, I must admit my dismay upon learning some shocking information concerning Shakespeare’s most famous scene from Romeo and Juliet–perchance there was no actual balcony in the balcony scene. I will give you a moment to recover. Basically, this:


image: education portal presents the traditional view


is what we have grown accustomed to over our years of study and admiration of this endearing romantic tale of woe, that of Juliet and her Romeo. However, according to The Atlantic, this is more in align to actuality:

image: presents as Shakespeare liked it

that Juliet, like most Italian girls of her time period, lived protected behind the walls of her father’s villa. Traipsing about on balconies wouldn’t have happened. For one thing, Shakespeare didn’t know what a balcony happened to be, because no balconies existed in England when he wrote R&J.  From the article:

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest known use in English of the word “balcone” (as it was then spelled) didn’t occur until 1618, two years after Shakespeare died. Even the concept of a balcony was (literally) foreign to Shakespeare’s British contemporaries.

Why then, do we associate a balcony with our two tragic lovers? Blame it on Thomas Otway, who heavily borrowed  from Shakespeare’s play for his own 1679 play, The History and Fall of Caius Marius. Otway places his lovers on a balcony, a known bit or architecture adornment by then, and somehow over the years when Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet returned to public favor–yes *gasp* it wasn’t always popular, the audience simply filled in the gap and placed Juliet on her own balcony.

You don’t believe me? Here, check out why Sparknotes did with the scene. They have  perpetuated the mistaken notation of balcony traipsing versus window leaning. As for me, I go with the balcony. Window leaning just doesn’t cut it for romance. What do you think?


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14 thoughts on “Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art my balcony?

  1. Pish tosh. Next you’re probably going to tell me that Romeo didn’t throw rocks until yon window broke.

  2. Shattered. I am shattered. You’re the one throwing the stones—er, bathwater on all our Shakespearian dogma. And you know that dogs (and rodents) hate baths.

  3. Here’s what I want to know, why are so many of Shakespeare’s plays set in Italy? It was common for people to travel there during his time and one would assume he made it there at some point, but it is just another example of how little we know of Will.

    • One reason is because Italy had a cultural history unlike England’s which gave old Wills more liberty in his content and theme. Much more passion in the warmth of the Medeterrian than the foggy cold of Britain.

  4. And of course the other thing that not many people realise from that scene is that “Wherefore art my Romeo” doesn’t mean “where is my Romeo” because wherefore doesn’t mean where, it means why. She is questioning why he has to be who he is, i.e. why must he be a Montague because his name results in their love being forbidden.

  5. Life will never be the same again, I cannot believe that this balcony lie has been used to subvert the masses for years. Dan Brown all is forgiven, at least we know where we stand with him!

  6. No, no, no! How can it be? I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear this. I’m sticking with the balcony. 🙂

  7. The Bardinator, love that! You should have your own catch phrase.

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