Romeo & Juliet

‘I haven’t seen that before!’

‘I don’t think I’ve seen it either. Amazing, isn’t it?’

That’s how we talk. It would sound very strange if we didn’t contract or abbreviate these words – I have not seen, do not think, or literally is not it. It would sound most odd.

But leaving a word out can give a whole different meaning to a sentence. Take for instance The Bard’s masterpiece Romeo and Juliet.

Picture the scene; Juliet standing on her balcony, wearing a diaphanous white gown and gazing wistfully out over the moonlit garden.

‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?’ She sadly sighs.

What she’s really saying is: Why did I have to fall for someone from the wrong side of the tracks? We feel the pain of her hopelessly doomed love and reach for the hankie box. We know the ending.

Rewind and take out the word ‘fore.’ Now we have Juliet, balcony, diaphanous white gown, moonlit garden.

‘Romeo, Romeo, where art thou?’

Tetchily she continues ‘Romeo!’

What she’s really saying is: I’ve been standing here on this draughty balcony in my nightie for ages and it’s freezing. Why are you always late?

At that moment Romeo appears, begins to clamber up the Virginia creeper to the balcony. He loses his grip and falls off, landing heavily in the rose bed.


He picks himself up, brushes off as much earth as he can, removes a few thorns and starts again. Just as he reaches the balustrade of the balcony Juliet grumbles ‘I’ve been here for hours, and I’m freezing. I said six and it’s half past now. Why are you always late?’

He puts one leg over the balustrade. ‘The shop didn’t have any Milk Tray, so I got you Black Magic instead.’ He reaches into his tunic and brings out a box of chocolates. ‘I’m afraid they got a bit squashed when I fell off.’

He holds out the box.

‘I said Milk Tray! Don’t you think you can fob me off with Black Magic! You Montagues! Can’t get anything right, can you?’ She pushes him off the balcony.


He picks himself up again. ‘Does that mean that tonight……? And what about the wedding tomorrow?’

But Juliet has already gone inside to put on a woolly jumper.

Romeo shrugs his shoulders and goes home. He eats the chocolates on the way, even the squashed ones.

Not quite the same, is it? And all for the lack of a well place ‘fore.’

Here’s an exercise that will keep you out of mischief for a while: Write a straightforward sentence like, for instance, ‘The cat sat on the mat.’

Now add descriptive words to expand the sentence; the ‘ginger’ cat, and so forth. You will end up with all sorts of cats getting up to all sorts of things, the common factor is the cat, the mat and the act of sitting. Twist it round right and you can even get the mat sitting on the cat!

If I can’t sleep I play ‘The parson’s cat’ in my mind. For this you take as the beginning of the sentence ‘The parson’s cat’ and follow it with alliterative descriptions and actions all the way through the alphabet.

Example: The parson’s cat was an artful cat who always ate artichokes.

No, it doesn’t have to make sense, and yes, x is possible!

Picture source: Wikimeda Commons/John Massey Wright (Watercolor of Act II Scene ii of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, c 1800), with addition!


  1. Jos Biggs

    Thank you Gail, I’m glad.
    I try to gladden everybody’s day with my posts on Facebook on Sundays.

  2. The tricolor cat twisted and turned on the tidy mat scratching her tricolor back.

    Oh yes, good fun, Josh. Thanks!

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