Free Study Guide: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare - Free BookNotes|
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ROMEO AND JULIET: ONLINE STUDY GUIDE
Juliet’s pleading with her mother to put off the marriage even for a
week is to no avail. Juliet then seeks the Nurse’s advice, but she has
no wisdom for the young bride. Instead, the Nurse tells her that since
Romeo is banished and will not dare to return, it would be better for
Juliet to marry the handsome Paris and forget Romeo, a suggestion that
is horrifying to Juliet. In a soliloquy, she describes the Nurse as the
personification of evil and a wicked friend. She also asks herself which
is the greater sin: to lie (as she has just done to her mother) or to
speak ill of her husband. With determination and maturity, Juliet vows
that she will never trust the Nurse’s advice again and that in future
she will follow her own will. She then decides to go to Friar Lawrence
to confess, receive absolution, and seek his advice, just like her husband
sought refuge in the Friar’s cell after the murder of Tybalt. Since the
young lovers cannot be honest with their own fathers, they always turn
to their father confessor.
This scene, known as the Second Balcony Scene, is of dramatic importance and contains various moods, ranging from the lyric rapture of the lovers to the senile fury of old Capulet. The lovers are together at the window of Juliet’s room. It is time for Romeo to depart from his wife and from Verona, for it is nearly dawn on Tuesday morning. In their love and sorrow, they speak in beautiful lyric poetry. It is not easy for them to say good-bye, for they do not know when they will see one another again. The tragedy is that they will never again see each other alive.
Juliet exhibits exquisite tension as she realizes that Romeo must leave her, but begs him to stay. It is appropriate that the time is dawn, which divides the day and the night. The tension is further reflected in the light and dark images that color their speeches. Romeo knows he must immediately depart for “Night’s candles are burnt out,” and he sees light in the east. Juliet tries to explain it away as a meteor in the darkness. As Romeo finally goes down the ladder, Juliet, with dramatic irony, asks a poignant question: “O think’st thou we shall meet again”? Romeo bravely tries to comfort her. Looking down upon him from her balcony, Juliet utters a totally prophetic line: “O God! I have an ill-divining soul/Methinks I see thee, now thou art below/As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.” When the lovers meet next, it will be in a tomb, and Romeo will be dead.
The next part of the scene is in sharp contrast to this quiet, anxious farewell between the two lovers. Both Capulets are vehement as they chastise their daughter when she refuses to marry Paris. They are perplexed and furious over her disobedience. Capulet, whose temper has been shown before, explodes into a violent rage and berates his daughter for her ingratitude. He calls her “young baggage” and “a disobedient wretch” and threatens to disinherit her if she does not obey his commands. The irony is that in her own mind she has already been exiled from her family when Romeo left Verona.
Lady Capulet also shows unexpected cruelty. She makes no attempt to sympathize with her daughter or to understand her feelings. Her wicked nature is seen in her plan to poison Romeo and in her preference to see “Juliet married to her grave” rather than to endure Juliet’s disobedience to herself and her husband.
Juliet’s next hope of comfort lies with her Nurse. This cautions counselor also fails to give Juliet the solace she needs. The Nurse’s hypocritical and treacherous advice to the young bride is to forget Romeo and marry Paris. Juliet realizes that she can no longer trust the Nurse’s advice and that she must think and act on her own. Her love for Romeo has rapidly changed her from childish ways to maturity.
Juliet’s last hope for comfort is with Friar Lawrence. She plans to go to him for confession, absolution, and advice. She declares that if the Friar does not help her to avoid the marriage to Paris, she will kill herself, a foreshadowing of what is to soon happen.
The entire scene is filled with dramatic irony. Dawn, in bringing a new day,
usually ushers in brightness and hope. Such is not the case for Romeo
and Juliet. For them, the dawn ushers in darkness and despair, for it
brings their separation. Lady Capulet believes that Juliet is in her room,
grieving over the death of her cousin Tybalt. (In truth, Juliet is grieving,
but it is over her separation from Romeo.) Lady Capulet says that she
will avenge Tybalt’s death by sending a servant to Mantua to poison Romeo,
an ironic foreshadowing of Romeo’s poisoning at his own hands. Juliet
pretends to enter into her mother’s plan, and answers her with a wonderful
play on words: “Indeed I shall never be satisfied / with Romeo, till I
behold him - dead - is my poor heart.” Indeed, Juliet does long to see
Romeo, “to behold him”. In her maturity and devotion to her husband, she
is prepared to deceive her parents for the sake of her love.
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. 09 May 2017