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ROMEO AND JULIET: LITERARY CRITICISM / NOTES
With sudden revulsion, Juliet loses self-control and denounces Romeo
as an evil spirit in the form of an angel. The Nurse responds that there
is no trust, no faith, and no honesty in man. Juliet, however, cannot
tolerate any criticism of Romeo. The Nurse asks her how she could praise
the man who has killed her cousin. Juliet replies that she will never
speak ill of her husband. When Juliet thinks of his banishment from Verona
and her, she breaks into tears. The Nurse instructs Juliet to go to her
room. She herself will go to Friar Lawrence’s cell and bring Romeo, who
is hiding there. Juliet gives the Nurse her ring to give to her husband
as a token of her love for Romeo.
This scene is a flashback to Scene 5 of Act II, when Juliet is in the garden impatiently awaiting the arrival of the Nurse with news from Romeo. In this scene, she is once again in the garden, unaware of the incidents that have occurred in the street. She is lost in a passionate soliloquy as she waits for night and the coming or Romeo. It is obvious that she is deeply in love with her handsome husband. Ironically, she says of him that when Romeo dies, his body should be cut up into little stars, for he would make the face of heaven so fine that everyone would be in love with night and pay no more attention to the sun. It is also ironic that she begs for darkness to come quickly, for the news that the Nurse is about to bring is definitely dark.
When the Nurse arrives on the scene wringing her hands, Juliet immediately knows that something has gone wrong on this joyful day of her marriage. The Nurse, who is usually able to talk freely, has difficulty explaining the events to Juliet. As a result, she mistakenly believes her husband is dead. When she finally learns the truth about Tybalt’s death at the hands of Romeo, she criticizes her husband in harsh words. She quickly realizes that if Romeo had not slain Tybalt, the latter would have killed her husband. Love gains mastery over hatred, and she heaves a sign of relief that her husband is alive. She is shocked to hear of the banishment of Romeo, and in her digestion of this news she refuses to go to the family to sympathize with them in their grief over Tybalt’s death. She dismisses all thoughts of her parents from her mind and thinks only of Romeo. Exile will separate them for a long time, but Juliet is determined to have one night of bliss. She leaves instructions with the Nurse for her husband to come to her room that night. Juliet also gives the Nurse her ring to deliver to Romeo as a token of her unchanged love. The Nurse sets off on her arduous task.
It is important to not how Romeo and Juliet both show maturity in this scene. They have both grown considerably from the time they were first seen on stage. Romeo, in a mature manner, refuses to be drawn into a fight with Tybalt when he is called a villain. Instead, he replies to his tempter that he loves all the Capulets. When Tybalt kills his good friend Mercutio, Romeo again acts maturely. He is honor bound to avenge his friend, even if it causes his wife to grieve. Romeo is able to put duty above passion. In a similar manner, Juliet reveals that she has also matured. At first, she is enraged that her husband has killed her cousin Tybalt. Then mature reason takes over. She realizes that if Romeo had not killed Tybalt, he would have been killed himself. As a result she dutifully defends his actions to the Nurse, makes plans for Romeo to visit her and consummate the marriage, and sends the Nurse off with a message and a token of her life for Romeo. Both of the lovers definitely display a new maturity and sense of duty, brought on as a result of their deeply felt love for one another.
It is also important to notice the suspense that fills the scene. The Nurse’s
confusion and distraught behavior leads Juliet to incorrectly assume that
her husband is dead. When she learns he has killed Tybalt, she denounces
Romeo, which adds further suspense. The more human and mature side of
Juliet’s character is then displayed as she sides with her husband. She
vehemently supports him against the Nurse’s criticism, sends the Nurse
to summon Romeo to her room, sends her ring as a token of her love, and
refuses to go to the family and console them over Tybalt’s death. Suspense
is also added by the repetition of the word “banishment”. The horror of
Romeo’s punishment is that it will be a “living death” for the lovers.
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