Right after Romeo and Juliet first kiss (in Act 1, Scene 5 of the Shakespeare play that bears their name), Juliet tells Romeo “You kiss by the book” (line 114). Is this supposed to be a compliment? Because it doesn’t sound like much of a compliment to say that someone’s kissing style is “by the book.”
Is it possible that she’s referring to “Roman de la Rose”?
Or the Kama Sutra…hubba-hubba!
Short answer: I’ve no idea.
I thought the book was meant to be the Bible. Like his kisses were holy.
I figured that it meant that he hasn’t had much experience with the real thing, that he’d kissed in the way the books said you should kiss, since he didn’t know any better. But that would be odd, if so: Juliet’s the one without any experience, while Romeo’s had at least one other girlfriend before.
It’s an insult. Their kiss doesn’t reflect what they really feel for one another, and Juliet says so.
My take on that line is that Juliet is telling Romeo to basically lighten up. To stop trying to impress her and to just kiss like he really means what he says. A function over form if you will.
That’s the way I’ve always thought of it. It’s just another example of Shakespeare showing that their relationship was pure. Pay careful attention and you’ll see examples like this all over the place.
I always thought it was a compliment, in that it was done exactly as it should have been - by the book.
Now is one of those times I wish my copy of “Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare” hadn’t been lost in a fire. That’s just the sort of thing he would have gone into.
The note in my Riverside Shakespeare for “You kiss by th’ book” says, “methodically.” Now, is it a compliment to kiss methodically? I am hard pressed to say, and imagine it’s the director’s choice how he wants that line to play. There’s really no context to go on, since after that line is said, Juliet is called away by the Nurse. However, it is fairly clear that she liked his kissing, or the play would have ended after Act I. If it were up to me, I’d say she’s complimenting him, but I could see either interpretation, and that’s what’s great about Shakespeare.
Perhaps Shakespeare is subtly reminding the viewer that Romeo is, in fact, kissing “by the book” - i. e., the script of “Romeo and Juliet.” One of those ;)-type lines.
The footnote in my Norton Shakespeare (oh, how I love this edition) says: “According to the rules, implies ‘proficiently,’ politely,’ or ‘with poetic flatteries.’”
I’m going to say a mixed compliment, that he kisses correctly but not passionately. He is, after all, pretty young, and I don’t recall that the play gives us any reason to think he got even as far as first base with Rosaline.
I’ve always liked reading R&J not as a play about transcendant, pure, and unsullied love but rather about two impetuous, hormonal (hormone-cross’d?) teenagers who think the world revolves around them. Like most of us were as teenagers, I think.
That being said, I’m in the “Romeo, lighten up!” crowd, but if I were the director I’d have her being pretty flirtatious here.
I agree with Treviathan that the play is not about a pure love sullied by unfortunate political differences but rather about a whole bunch of people who fly off the handle and act before thinking, kids and parents included. Remember that as the play begins, Romeo is moping around because he’s head over heels with Rosaline who barely knows he exists, apparently. See also the (to me hilarious) scene when Juliet’s parents find her “dead” and basically compete to see who can have the most melodramatic freakout.
And I hear the “by the book” line as being coy, that Juliet has just had her socks rocked but doesn’t want to give too much away too quickly. The modern equivalent would be a kiss, after which the guy says, “Did you like that?” and the woman smiles a bit, shrugs her shoulders, and murmurs “eh” in a tongue-in-cheek teasing sort of tone.
That’s just the way I hear it, though. The actors are free to make other choices depending on how the play is conceived.
Sorry, Asimov has no comment on the line.
Yeah. I disagree with the rest of your post, actually, but I think you nailed this part of it.