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I came across a question in Romeo and Juliet:

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun! Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief.

I could analyze it as: What light (through yonder window) breaks? However, I still couldn’t comprehend the meaning.

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    What light breaks through that window? What light suddenly appears through that window? Feb 24, 2018 at 14:34
  • For the postponed verb/adverbial phrase before-the-verb, compare: Something wicked this way comes
    – TimR
    Feb 24, 2018 at 14:44
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo does it mean come this way?
    – user67265
    Feb 24, 2018 at 14:48
  • Yes, the phrase adds information about the direction of the action "comes". Something wicked is coming towards us/me.
    – TimR
    Feb 24, 2018 at 14:49
  • Shakespeare is comparing Juliet to the sunrise, a thing of great beauty and wonder.
    – Joe Dark
    Apr 21, 2022 at 16:30

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What light through yonder window breaks?

Translation: what light shines in or comes in through that window?

However, the Bard has chosen to say breaks as in: the sun breaks through clouds, where the window would then be like a cloud, and thus obscures, like a cloud, what lies beyond it, that is, the blue sky. Or expressed more clearly: a window is like a cloud. A cloud hides they sky and a window can hide a view unless you are right next to it looking out.

A common image in English is: The sun broke through the clouds after the rain.

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  • So the prepositional phrase “through yonder window” should follow “breaks”, right?
    – user67265
    Feb 24, 2018 at 14:42
  • Not exactly......There is post-positioning of the phrase from what is usual: the light breaks through yonder window. It is a poetic ordering of the prepositional phrase (before the verb), and very common in poetry (still) and Shakespeare .
    – Lambie
    Feb 24, 2018 at 15:00
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An important context for

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

is that Romeo is below outside, looking up to Juliet's window, whereas usually sunlight would enter a window, Romeo is saying the (sun)light is exiting the window.

He is comparing her appearance to the rising sun: Day Break, Break of Dawn

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