An aside is a short speech, passage or phrase uttered by a particular character in a drama or play. The dialogue or phrase spoken by the character is meant to be heard by the audience but not by the other characters on the stage. In Shakespearean tragedies, in particular, asides are spoken in an undertone to give a glimpse into the character’s thoughts and intentions to bridge the gap between the audience and the character delivering the aside. In “Romeo and Juliet”, asides are delivered by a variety of characters. Some of these insightful and enjoyable asides are discussed below:
Aside in “Romeo and Juliet”
“Is the law on our side if I say “Ay”?
(I. i. 48-50)
The remark above is made by Sampson, a servant of the Capulet house. After expressing his hatred for the Montague clan, Sampson bites his thumb at the Montagues’ servants to provoke them. The Montagues’ servants are offended by this gesture and ask Sampson if he is biting his thumb at them. Since Sampson does not want to break the law by initiating a street brawl, he asks his fellow servant, Gregory, if he will be penalized by the law by admitting the truth to their question. It is noteworthy that Sampson’s question reflects his wit. Moreover, the question is posed in a hushed tone, so that only Gregory and the audience could hear him.
The above dialogue is spoken by Romeo when he first catches a glimpse of Juliet at the Capulet ball. Although Romeo makes the above startling revelation to himself in a barely audible tone, the audience also serves as a witness to this aside that expresses Romeo’s first declaration of love. Awestruck by Juliet’s beauty, Romeo asserts that he has never experienced authentic love, nor witnessed true beauty until he has first set his eyes on Juliet.
“What, dares the slave
Come hither covered with an antic face
To fleer and scorn at our solemnity?
Now, by the stock and honor of my kin,
To strike him dead I hold it not a sin.”
The above aside is delivered by Tybalt when he first witnesses Romeo’s presence at the Capulet ball. In a state of extreme rage, Tybalt refers to Romeo Montague as a slave and pledges to himself that if he were to strike Romeo dead, it would not be construed as a sin. Although Tybalt is surrounded by other characters in this scene, he remarks the above exclusively to himself. The members of the audience are the only ones who hear about Tybalt’s strong disapproval of Romeo.
“Is she a Capulet?
O dear account! My life is my foe’s debt.”
After discovering that Juliet is the daughter of his family’s sworn enemies, the Capulets, Romeo expresses these words above to himself. Stated in an anxious undertone, the audience is the only one who becomes aware of Romeo’s worry pertaining to the newfound discovery. This aside reveals Romeo’s strong love for Juliet and makes the audience realize that since Juliet is the center of Romeo’s universe, he has essentially handed over his life to his enemy’s daughter.
O, speak again, bright angel, for thou art
As glorious to this night, being o’er my head,
As is a wingèd messenger of heaven.”
The dialogues mentioned above is an aside delivered by Romeo during the balcony scene. After gazing at Juliet and listening to her speak, Romeo is consumed by an overwhelming feeling of love for Juliet and exclaims that Juliet is as bright, beautiful and untainted as an angel. Hence, this aside gives the audience a glimpse into Romeo’s passionate love for Juliet.
“Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?”
The above quote is spoken by Romeo after Juliet reveals her intense love for Romeo during the balcony scene. Immensely moved by Juliet’s repeated affirmations of love, Romeo asks himself if he should quietly listen to Juliet’s passionate love confessions, or respond to her overwhelming admission of selfless love. The audience is the only one to witness this conflicting aside made by Romeo.
“Villain and he be many miles asunder.—
God pardon him. I do with all my heart,
And yet no man like he doth grieve my heart.”
This passionate aside remark is made by Juliet after she is informed of Tybalt’s brutal murder by Romeo. To conceal her true feelings for Romeo, Juliet has to pretend that she will never forgive Romeo for this horrific act in her family’s presence. However, unable to conceal her love for Romeo from herself, Juliet asks God to forgive Romeo in the above dialogue. She further states that she has already forgiven her soul mate. The above aside, therefore, highlights Juliet’s firm desire to stay steadfast in her commitment to Romeo.
“I would I knew not why it should be slowed. —
Look, sir, here comes the lady toward my cell.”
The above aside is expressed by Friar Lawrence to himself after Paris asks the Friar if he knows the reason why Lord Capulet wants to hasten Juliet’s marriage. The reality is that Friar Lawrence has already served as a witness at Juliet’s wedding but has not disclosed this fact to anyone. He, therefore, says to himself in a hushed voice that he wishes he was not aware of the reason why Juliet’s marriage to Paris must be slowed down, i.e., the fact that Juliet is already married to Romeo.
(V. iii. 9-10)
This particular aside is delivered by Paris’ page as they approach Juliet’s tomb to pay their respects and scatter flowers on her tombstone out of reverence. The above aside is a candid admission of the page highlighting the fear people usually experience while visiting graveyards and tombs. In this particular instance, the page’s aside, and his fear incites a certain element of fear in the audience as well.
“For all this same, I’ll hide me hereabout.
His looks I fear, and his intents I doubt.”
This remark is made by Balthasar, Romeo’s servant after Romeo asks him to leave him alone while the two are standing outside the tomb. Although Balthasar follows Romeo’s advice and leaves, he experiences a certain degree of uneasiness because of the passionate despair and conviction evident from Romeo’s face. Hence, mistrusting Romeo’s intentions, Balthasar decides to hide near the tomb to watch over Romeo. The above aside makes the audience aware of Balthasar’s caring nature.