In Act II, Scene II of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is hiding in the Capulet orchard when he sees Juliet, with whom he is hopelessly in love, appear in a window. The sight of her inspires the famous words of what is referred to as the Balcony Scene. It is filled with wonderful comparative descriptions of Juliet’s beauty and provides insight into Romeo’s feelings for her. For me, three lines of the scene are particularly meaningful.
“See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!
These words illustrate the genius of Shakespeare. Romeo might have said that he would like to place his hand on Juliet’s cheek. Instead, he wishes he were a glove upon Juliet’s hand when she touches her cheek. Romeo has such love and high esteem for Juliet that he feels his uncovered hand too profane to touch such a lovely cheek. Only Juliet’s hand is worthy of the deed so Romeo aspires to be a glove upon that hand.
In the tender softness of the image of a glove touching a cheek, Shakespeare is able to convey a greater depth of Romeo’s love for Juliet than would have been the case if Romeo had simply wanted to place his bare hand upon her cheek.