Palms in Shakespeare / by Stephanie Beattie

Thanks Charles!

Romeo and Juliet, Act I Scene 5

So when Romeo meets Juliet, it escalates from touching palms to kissing. There is a pun on the word "palmer", which means a pilgrim (also, Juliet's reference to kissing "by the book" is a double meaning - "The Book" often means The Bible.)

The first fourteen lines of the dialogue takes on the same rhyme scheme as a sonnet (ABAB CBCB DEDE FF), and similar to a sonnet, the theme is love/seduction, and it takes a number of poetic/argumentative terms.

I found a clip online that is pretty faithful to the text. Also note that the courtly Renaissance dance that they're doing in this scene has a lot of palm-touching.



If I profane with my unworthiest hand

This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand

To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.



Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,

Which mannerly devotion shows in this;

For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,

And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.



Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?



Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.



O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;

They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.



Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.



Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.

Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.



Then have my lips the sin that they have took.



Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!

Give me my sin again.



You kiss by the book.