romeo and juliet

Title: romeo and juliet
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WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES There have always been lovers, and we've always loved hearing stories about them. Although it's about 400 years old, Romeo and Juliet is one of the most popular stories ever told. It's got all the right ingredients: teenagers sharing forbidden love, their witty friends and troublesome parents, fights, parties, murders, and nights of love. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet tells us a lot about human nature. It also tells us about the society and times in which it was written; and about the passionate, spirited, witty young man who wrote it. The story was popular in England before Shakespeare made it into a play in 1596. The central problem in Romeo and Juliet is a deadly feud between two powerful families. The English had been involved in a deadly feud for years. This one wasn't between powerful families, but within England's royal family. Elizabeth I was Queen when Shakespeare wrote this play. Her father, Henry VIII, had left the Roman Catholic Church to found the Church of England, usually considered to be a Protestant denomination. When he died, his oldest daughter Mary, who was a Catholic, eventually became Queen. She persecuted and killed members of the Church of England with the same zeal that Henry had used against Catholics. When Mary died, her Protestant sister Elizabeth became Queen. This violent tug of war left its mark on the country. The English had seen how feuding in one family had divided a country and caused thousands of deaths. Even though Elizabeth tried to be nonviolent and tolerant of Catholics, her Catholic cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, tried to start a civil war and take the throne. Elizabeth had Mary beheaded only nine years before Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet. Even today in Ireland, Juliet and Romeo could be Catholic and Protestant rather than Capulet and Montague. For the English of Shakespeare's day, the play was that immediate. Both the Protestants and Catholics of that time had a very strong feeling that God ordered the universe in a specific way. When something evil, like the feud among the Capulets and Montagues, broke the laws of this order, that evil had to be checked. In Romeo and Juliet, two innocent lives must be sacrificed to restore order. London, like Verona in the story, was a thriving, busy city. Because it was crowded and walled in, violence could spread quickly. Public fights were considered a serious offense. Londoners would have judged the Capulets' and Montagues' street fights very harshly. Politics aside, London was a good place to live in the 1590s. Europe was in the middle of the Renaissance, which refers to the "rebirth" of learning. Some of this exciting spirit had reached London, England's capital and cultural center. Here, Elizabeth had her royal court; here, musicians, actors, poets, and painters came to learn and work. Many young artists left their small towns for the cultural Mecca of London, and William Shakespeare was one of them. Who was this country boy who turned the moral fable of Romeo and Juliet into a hot-blooded story of passion, love, hate, comedy, revenge, and murder? No biographies of Shakespeare were written during his lifetime. But what we can't learn about him from public records in his hometown of Stratford-on-Avon, we can fill in by reading his plays and poems. There are many reasons the story of Romeo and Juliet could have appealed to the 32-year-old Shakespeare. He was apparently familiar with feelings of passion and forbidden love. When he was only 19, he quickly married Anne Hathaway, who was three months pregnant. Anne was eight years older than he, uneducated, and the daughter of a poor farmer who lived outside Stratford. She was probably not the match that John Shakespeare would have chosen for William, who was his oldest son. In Romeo and Juliet, Lord Capulet is quite a social climber, and so was Shakespeare's father. John Shakespeare was born to a family of tenant farmers, but he wanted to be rich. He married the daughter of his family's wealthy landlord, and moved into the small city of Stratford to start a business. In the play, Lord Capulet is determined that Juliet will marry Paris, a wealthy young man from a higher social class. William went to school in Stratford, where he studied literature and learned Latin. But he probably learned how to speak like someone from the upper class from his mother, Mary. The main characters in Romeo and Juliet (and many of his other plays) have the proper speech of the gentry. Mary Shakespeare came from a Catholic family of landowners. Although it was illegal to be Catholic, it seems she taught William to respect her religion. Shakespeare was the only playwright of his day to treat Catholic characters, like Friar Lawrence, with respect. After William and Anne's marriage, the young couple probably moved in with his parents and five younger brothers and sisters. Their daughter Susanna was born six months later, and two years later they had twins named Hamnet and Judith. Soon after this, William left Stratford under mysterious circumstances. There is a legend that he was forced to flee Stratford (much as Romeo fled Verona) because he was caught poaching on a private estate. Whatever the case, he left his family and went to live in London. He became a well-known actor and playwright. By the time he wrote Romeo and Juliet, he had already written six very successful plays--and he was only at the beginning of his career! In those days, poets were more respected than playwrights, and so Shakespeare decided to take time out and make a name for himself as a poet. He was a success. His two long Romantic poems, The Rape of Lucrece and Venus and Adonis, became bestsellers. He then experimented with other popular poetic forms, such as sonnets. Soon after this, he wrote Romeo and Juliet. The storyline is similar to the stories of the Romantic poems he had just written. And he wrote sonnets and other kinds of poems right into the dialogue of the play! We don't know if William and Anne had a happy marriage, but we do know that Shakespeare loved his children. It's interesting to note that he made Juliet 13 years old--the same age at the time as his daughter Susanna. Shakespeare could also understand the Capulets' and Montagues' grief over their childrens' deaths. Shakespeare's only son, Hamnet, died the year he wrote the play. Romeo and Juliet was a hit from the beginning. That very year, Shakespeare was rich enough to buy his money-conscious father a family coat of arms. His father, who once thought William was a rebellious young man, now called him "the best of the family." Legend has it that he told his customers that William got from him the earthy humor that he put into Mercutio and the Nurse. Wherever Shakespeare's talent came from, it makes Romeo and Juliet moving and unforgettable. ROMEO AND JULIET: THE PLOT It's a hot July Sunday in Verona, and we find the servants of the Capulets out looking for trouble. What better way to start something, they figure, than to insult the servants of their masters' old enemies the Montagues? The plan works, and before long servants, friends, relatives--and, finally, Lord Capulet and Lord Montague themselves--are at each other's throats. Verona's Prince Escalus has to personally break up the fight, and he isn't happy about it. He heavily fines both families and warns them that if they fight in the streets again, they'll face the death penalty. Lord and Lady Montague are glad their son Romeo wasn't involved in the brawl, but they're worried about him anyway. They ask Benvolio, Romeo's cousin and best friend, why Romeo has been off by himself so much lately, and Benvolio soon finds out: Romeo is in love. But the object of Romeo's affections, a gorgeous girl named Rosaline, couldn't care less, and Romeo is nursing his grief. To cheer him up, Benvolio suggests that they disguise themselves and secretly attend the Capulets' ball that night. Rosaline will be there, and Benvolio promises to find Romeo a girl who will make Rosaline seem like a crow in comparison. Romeo has a sudden, mysterious feeling of danger, but agrees to go along with Benvolio and their witty friend Mercutio. Meanwhile, excitement is high at the Capulets' house. Not only are they preparing for a big party, but Count Paris--a relative to the Prince, and Verona's most eligible bachelor--has come to ask Lord Capulet if he can marry his only daughter, Juliet. Capulet claims that Juliet is too young to be married yet, but he's obviously thrilled. Thirteen-year-old Juliet is beautiful and full of life. She's never been in love, and she promises to do her best to like Paris when she meets him at the dance. But that night, Juliet meets Romeo, and suddenly Paris and Rosaline are forgotten. The two see each other across the room, meet, and by the time they kiss, they are madly in love. But all is not well. Tybalt, Juliet's quick-tempered cousin, recognizes Romeo. Tybalt thinks this Montague's gatecrashing is a terrible insult, and he vows revenge. Only after the evening is over do Romeo and Juliet separately discover the identity of their new loves. After the party, Romeo hides from his noisy friends and unexpectedly finds himself in an orchard beneath Juliet's window. In the romantic and sexy balcony scene, Romeo and Juliet joyfully swear their love for each other, and decide to marry in secret. Friar Lawrence, a Franciscan monk and father figure to Romeo, is very worried about the suddenness of their passion. He finally agrees to marry them, hoping that their wedding will eventually end the bloody fighting between their families. The couples' secret world of love is soon shattered. Fresh from the wedding, Romeo finds Mercutio and Benvolio with Tybalt, who has come looking for revenge. Tybalt calls Romeo a villain and dares him to fight, but Romeo refuses. He calls Tybalt "cousin" and swears he loves the name Capulet as much as his own. Everyone is amazed at Romeo's refusal, and the hot-blooded Mercutio takes Tybalt's challenge instead. When Romeo rushes between them to stop the fight, Tybalt kills Mercutio. Romeo is filled with guilt and outrage at his friend's death, and he runs, furious, to catch Tybalt. It's a battle of life and death, and Romeo wins. But as soon as Tybalt is dead, Romeo realizes the rashness of his act. "I am fortune's fool!" he cries as his friends hurry him off the streets into hiding. Juliet is excitedly getting ready for her wedding night when her nurse brings her the bad news: her cousin Tybalt is dead, and Prince Escalus has banished Romeo from Verona. The girl is overcome by grief--for Tybalt, but mostly for her new husband. The Nurse finally tells her that Romeo is hiding in the Friar's cell. Some of Juliet's joy returns as they arrange for one stolen night of love before Romeo has to flee Verona. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse. Lord Capulet feels terrible about his family's grief over Tybalt--and Juliet seems to be more upset than anyone else. He quickly arranges something he thinks will make everyone feel better--Juliet's marriage, that very week, to Paris. Even as Lady Capulet comes to bring that news to Juliet on Tuesday morning, Juliet and Romeo are saying their heartbroken farewells. What can Juliet do? Her desperate refusals to marry Paris infuriate her parents. Her father threatens to disown her if she doesn't obey. Even her nurse, who knows the situation, suggests it might be best to marry the Count. With nowhere else to turn, Juliet runs to Friar Lawrence. Their only hope is a risky plan. The friar gives Juliet a drug that will stop her breath and make her seem dead for 42 hours. During this time he will send for Romeo in Mantua, and Romeo and the Friar will be in the tomb when she wakes up. Romeo will take her away with him, and the friar will try to calm everyone down, and announce their marriage so they can come back to live in Verona. Juliet eagerly takes the drink. The next morning, when the Nurse comes to prepare Juliet for her wedding, she finds the seemingly lifeless girl. The Capulets' day of joy turns to sorrow, as their only daughter's wedding turns into her funeral instead. Friar Lawrence has sent a message to Romeo, but unfortunately, the message-bearer is quarantined by the plague. Romeo's servant, Balthasar, is the first to reach Romeo, and he tells him the sad news that Juliet is dead. Romeo, beside himself with grief, buys poison and rides full-speed toward the Capulets' tomb. He arrives to find Paris mourning for Juliet, and when Paris refuses to let Romeo pass, the two men fight, and Romeo kills Paris. The Count's last request is to be buried with Juliet, and Romeo grants his wish. Inside the tomb, Romeo begs forgiveness of the newly dead Tybalt, but his attention is at once arrested by Juliet. He can't believe how beautiful she still is, and he vows to stay with his new bride eternally. He swallows the poison, and quickly dies. Friar Lawrence hurries to the tomb to be there when Juliet wakes up. When he arrives, he finds Paris and Romeo dead. Juliet awakens just as Paris' servant is bringing the watchmen. She sees her dead lover, and refuses to leave the tomb, although Friar Lawrence panics and runs away. Juliet hears people coming, so she acts quickly: she grabs Romeo's dagger and stabs herself. The tragic deaths of their two children unite the Capulets and Montagues in grief. The prince admonishes that "heaven finds means to kill your joys with love." In death, rather than in life, the two lovers have brought peace to their families. Romeo and Juliet is more than a story about love and tragic fate; it's a story about people. Shakespeare's characters are like all of us: they have strengths and weaknesses, a temper and a sense of humor. The plot doesn't just happen to them, it happens because of them. How each character thinks, and how he or she chooses to act determines what happens. In Romeo and Juliet, there are two kinds of characters, maturing characters and static characters. These characters cause events to happen because they grow and change through the course of the play. Instead of being set in their ways, they think things through and react differently to different situations. Characters in this category understand the seriousness of Romeo and Juliet's situation, and are affected by it. They don't change. These people force the play to end the way it does, simply by being themselves and acting the way we expect them to act. ROMEO AND JULIET: JULIET In Juliet, we watch something fascinating: a girl blossoming into a woman in the space of five days. Before we watch this progression, let's look at some aspects of Juliet's character that stay the same. 1. SHE IS YOUNG In the Italian version of this story, Juliet was 18; in Brooke's poem (the first English version) she was 16. Why does Shakespeare make her so young--"not yet fourteen"? In Shakespeare's day, it was legal for girls to marry at 12, but such early marriages were very rare. Two possible reasons are: Shakespeare's daughter Susanna was about 13 when he wrote the play; and the English thought that Italian girls matured early. It is also possible that Shakespeare simply changed her age for dramatic reasons. In any case, Juliet's age is a key to her character. She's innocent and full of hope. (This is not to say that she is naive. She couldn't live around her nurse without understanding sex, or live with her parents without seeing some of the realities and problems of marriage.) Because she's so young, we feel intense sympathy for her. 2. SHE IS BEAUTIFUL Both Romeo and Paris fall in love with Juliet on sight alone. Before they're even introduced, Paris asks to marry her, and Romeo is "bewitched by the charm of looks." Her beauty inspires some of Romeo's most famous poetry: O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear! (I, v, 46-49) Even in the tomb, he is amazed that "Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath / Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty." (V, iii, 92-95) 3. SHE IS PRACTICAL In this couple, Romeo is the romantic one, and Juliet is the practical one. We can see this contrast in the balcony scene. Romeo is content to speak poetic words of love, while Juliet sets up the marriage and the time and means of communication. She prefers short statements to flowery promises, and her practical nature leads her to worry about the suddenness of their passion: Although I joy in thee, I have no joy in this contract tonight. It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden. (II, ii, 116-18) ROMEO AND JULIET: JULIET'S GROWTH We first see Juliet like a child, surrounded by her nurse and her mother. She doesn't say much, and obediently, she says she'll try to like the man her parents wish her to marry. She hasn't seriously thought about her life as an adult: she says marriage is "an honor I dream not of." But that night, she meets Romeo and falls in love, and everything changes. She begins to think and act for herself. By the end of the evening, she has taken her future into her own hands, and has become engaged. We see at this point that she is practical but idealistic. She knows there are problems in the world, but she is confident that love can overcome them. For Juliet, marriage and sexual awakening are the bridge between childhood and adulthood. Before her wedding night she sees herself standing between the experienced matron (married woman) she is to become and the impatient child she still feels like. Juliet takes her adult role as a wife seriously. Even though she's still living at home, she gives her loyalty to Romeo over her family, even after he's killed her cousin. At the beginning of the play, Juliet still minds her nurse, but by the end of the play she's outgrown her. Her nurse can't understand the seriousness of Juliet's predicament, and the young woman must make adult decisions by herself. The best mark of Juliet's maturity is that she's strong enough to be true to herself and to Romeo, even though everyone is against it, and the cost is very high. She is no longer an obedient little girl, but a young woman who has taken charge of her own life. She feels she even holds the final card: "if all else fail, myself have power to die." (III, v, 343-45) By the end of the play, she has come full circle from innocence to experience. Before she drinks the friar's potion, we see she understands that the evil in the world can hurt her. She realizes that the friar could have given her poison so that no one will find out he's married them; she realizes she could wake up in the tomb and suffocate, or she could go crazy. Still, she chooses to have faith. She believes that the friar means her no harm, and she ultimately believes that her love for Romeo is strong enough to withstand death. ROMEO AND JULIET: ROMEO The same way that Juliet grows up, Romeo finds himself. Before we look at how he changes, let's look at the parts of his personality that remain constant. 1. HE IS LIKABLE Everyone likes Romeo. Mercutio and Benvolio both want his attention, the Nurse thinks he's honest, courteous, kind, and handsome. His mother loves him so much that she dies of grief when he's banished; and even Lord Capulet calls him "a virtuous and well-governed youth" and refuses to let Tybalt bother him. Friar Lawrence loves Romeo so much that he'll do almost anything to secure his happiness. (The obvious exception to Romeo's admirers is Tybalt, and Romeo himself tells Tybalt, "Villain I am none... see thou knowest me not." [III, i, 65-66]) 2. HE IS PASSIONATE Romeo has the blessing and the curse of feeling things deeply. At the beginning of the play, he is despairing over his unrequited love for Rosaline. He is able to give himself completely to his love for Juliet, and his only trouble comes when he gives in to "fire-eyed fury" after Mercutio is killed. 3. HE IS A GENTLEMAN He's virtuous, honest, charming, and well-mannered. He charms Juliet by reverently kissing her hand and calling her a saint; his manners win over the Nurse when she's upset by Mercutio. He is a gentleman to the end; he grants his rival's request to be buried with Juliet. ROMEO AND JULIET: ROMEO'S GROWTH Language is very important to Romeo. He talks while he thinks, verbally exploring the world. Because of this, we can use Romeo's growing skill with words to chart his progress throughout the play. When we first see Romeo, he's in love with love. He has chosen a girl who'll never return his affection, and he spends more time groaning about how depressed he is than he does praising Rosaline. When he talks, he uses lots of cliches, and repeats himself. Of Rosaline, he says, "She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair / To merit bliss by making me despair." His mooning leaves him unable to act. Instead, he spends time wandering through trees or locked up in his room. This isn't like him, and his family is worried. He even says, rather proudly, Tut! I have lost myself, I am not here; This is not Romeo, he's some other where. (I, i, 200-1) Then he meets Juliet and discovers his true self. Their love is so right that Romeo's speech is transformed to poetry. The first time they talk together, their conversation effortlessly forms a sonnet. This new love makes him sure of himself straight through his wedding, and makes him strong enough to fight with Tybalt. Was it mature and honorable for him to avenge Tybalt's death, or was it rash and foolish? It can be argued both ways, and you'll need to look at the evidence to see which view you agree with. In either case, by the time Romeo gets to Friar Lawrence's cell, he has lost himself, his maturity, and his ability to act. He thinks he has also lost Juliet by killing her cousin. Again, his speech becomes repetitive. He's beyond comfort. This is much the way he was at the beginning of the play. But when he hears that Juliet still loves him and wants him to come to her that night, he springs back to action. After his wedding night, he is more mature and more himself than before. We see that he's accepted his banishment and is willing to act on it; his words of love to Juliet as he leaves are breathtakingly beautiful. He's become a man of action, and he doesn't hesitate to act for the rest of the play. It's a sad irony that Romeo is most himself in the tomb. At the time of his death, his words and his actions fit together perfectly. He tells us what has brought him to this point; he tells us what he's going to do and why his love for Juliet has transformed him from a boy who talks in cliches, to a man with a powerful command of speech. It's tragic that when his love is deepest, there will be no earthly use for it; when his speech is most mature, he will soon be silenced. He has found himself, only to kill himself. In his death, we watch the world lose a noble man. ROMEO AND JULIET: FRIAR LAWRENCE (LAURENCE) Some readers would call Friar Lawrence a maturing character, others would not. There are several ways to look at Friar Lawrence, some more flattering than others. We'll look at three of these, but first let's look at the basic facts about him. 1. HE IS CATHOLIC Remember that when Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, England was a Protestant country. Many other writers of the time made fun of Catholics in their plays, but Friar Lawrence is treated respectfully, and has virtues and faults like everyone else. He's a member of the Franciscan order, which was started by St. Francis of Assisi. 2. HE MEANS WELL Throughout the play, many people come to him for advice, and he does his best to help them. He often reminds Romeo of the Church's teachings, and he tries to use his position to end the feud. 3. HE IS AN OUTDOORSMAN St. Francis loved nature, and so does Friar Lawrence. He gives an eloquent description of the dawn, and he knows the plants and flowers well enough to make medicines. Now let's look at three different views of Friar Lawrence's actions in the play. One view holds that he is a foolish old man who sends the lovers to their deaths. Some readers feel that he lives shut away in an abbey and doesn't understand other people's passions. Romeo accuses him of this in Act III: "Thou canst not speak of what thou dost not feel!" (III, iii, 64) Since he can't understand their passions, the best he can do is offer shallow words and philosophy instead of wisdom. Some feel his words of caution before Romeo and Juliet's wedding are empty, as is his comfort to Romeo after Tybalt's death. He isn't wise, but bumbling, and his allowing the marriage, and giving Juliet the risky potion are partly what kills the lovers. Worse, he's a coward. If he hadn't been afraid to tell someone (like the Prince) about the marriage, the story could have ended differently. And if he hadn't panicked and run away from the tomb, he could have saved Juliet's life. A second view holds that he is a good and wise man who is foiled by fate. The Friar's first speech about the paradoxes of life seems to prove that he has a deep understanding of life. He gives Romeo wise counsel every step of the way; he tells him to take the relationship slowly and to try to moderate his passion. As long as Romeo has Friar Lawrence to guide him, he can overcome any circumstances; it's only when Romeo has no one to quiet his passions that he kills himself. A third view holds that he is a good man, but has failings. Some readers feel that he really tries to do his best, and most of the time it works. He tries to settle the feud, to keep Romeo and Juliet living holy lives, and to solve the difficult problems that come up. His love for Romeo can be seen as a strength or as a fault. You can interpret his actions as trying to keep Romeo happy: he marries him to Juliet, he hides him (illegally) in his cell, he puts his career on the line to try and have the marriage recognized; he gives Juliet a risky drug in the hope that he can get her back to Romeo. In this case, it's no wonder the Friar panics at the tomb: very few of us could think straight if we'd just found the body of the person we loved most. Although the Friar marries Romeo, he advises him to be careful; although he uses empty philosophy to comfort him, he's able to form a plan to rouse Romeo to action. He only gives Juliet the potion because she's desperate and threatens suicide; and although he flees from the tomb, he's willing to tell the whole story, even if it condemns him. In the second and third views, Friar Lawrence understands the lovers' problems and it changes him through the course of the play. If you agree with either of these views, you can call Friar Lawrence a "maturing character." As you read the play, see what evidence you can find for each of these views. ROMEO AND JULIET: PRINCE ESCALUS Some readers call Prince Escalus a maturing character because he understands the seriousness of the feud and tries to do something about it. Prince Escalus, the ruler of Verona, represents law and order. We see him three times during the play: at the opening, when the fight breaks out; in the middle, after Tybalt and Mercutio are killed; and at the end, after Romeo, Juliet, and Paris are dead. By entering after each climax, he helps define the structure of the play. All through the play, he talks like a prince. He gives orders and expects them to be obeyed. In his first speech, he shows anger at the senseless fighting that has been threatening Verona's peace. It's happened three times lately. Besides fining both families, he lays down a strict new law: anyone caught fighting in Verona's streets will face death. The second time he comes in is after Mercutio, one of his relatives, has been killed. This causes the Prince to view the feud in a personal way: "I have an interest in your hate's proceedings My blood for your rude brawls doth lie a-bleeding." (III, i, 190-91) Again he fines the families and banishes Romeo from Verona. While he is wise and understands the seriousness of the feud, unfortunately, he doesn't know the details of Romeo and Juliet's plight. By his last entrance, the Capulets, the Montagues, and he have each suffered another death in the family. He contains his grief and unearths the story; he takes his share of the blame for not having been more strict. He acknowledges that his is not the final authority, that heaven has had the final judgment in this case. ROMEO AND JULIET: JULIET'S NURSE Who can help laughing at Juliet's Nurse? She says outrageous things, repeats herself constantly, and she loves a dirty joke. When she tries to act high-class and use big words, she winds up using the wrong word. There's no other character like her: the minute she opens her mouth, we know who's talking. She serves several important functions in the play: she is Juliet's confidant, she is a message-carrier for the lovers; and her earthiness is a contrast to Juliet's idealism. The Nurse is a comic character who becomes tragic because she isn't able to grow. Let's look at her comic characteristics, and how they become tragic. 1. She understands things in physical terms. To her, love means sex. For example, when Lady Capulet tells Juliet that she'll be "no less" if she marries Paris, the Nurse cries that she'll be more: men make women pregnant. Because she sees things in physical terms, she can't understand the depth of the lovers' emotional and spiritual bond. One partner is as good as another to her: what does it matter if Juliet has Romeo or Paris? 2. She says exactly what she thinks, whether or not it's appropriate. When Romeo, then a stranger, asks her who Juliet is, she tells him, "I tell you, he that can lay hold of her / shall have the chinks (money)." (I, v, 118-19) Saying what she means without thinking hurts Juliet very much. The last thing she needs to hear at the end of Act IV is that the Nurse thinks Romeo is a "dishcloth." 3. She garbles messages. This is funny when we know the message, and it's good news. The garbled message about the wedding is funny; the garbled message about who's dead is tragically painful to Juliet. 4. She loves to plot. This is endearing because she goes out of her way to help the lovers meet and get rope ladders. She enjoyed plotting Juliet's marriage, but she doesn't take responsibility for her actions. If that plot doesn't work out, she thinks, start over and try another one. But actions have consequences, and Juliet is abandoned by her Nurse when she needs her most. ROMEO AND JULIET: MERCUTIO Almost all of us know someone like Mercutio: witty, sarcastic, always the center of attention at parties, always ready with a put-down or a racy joke. In some ways, he's like Juliet's Nurse: he also sees love as primarily sexual. He's Romeo's friend and confidant, as the Nurse is Juliet's; he, too, underestimates the depth of Romeo's love and passion. In other ways, he's the opposite of the Nurse. He's upper-class, and a relative of the Prince. He's also very intelligent When he meets the Nurse and they match wits, Mercutio makes her look like a fool. He is clever, intelligent, and well-educated. He is a master of words; he can make a pun or weave a spell with ease. He has an infectious wit. He has an enormous amount of energy, and can make everyone laugh, including Romeo. He is fiery and excitable. He whips himself into a frenzy with the Queen Mab speech, and he's already worked himself into a fighting mood by the time he meets up with Tybalt in Act III. He's also quick to condemn others for faults he shares. He gives his Queen Mab speech to Romeo to chide him for being "beside himself," and he is beside himself by the end of the speech. He accuses Benvolio of being hot-tempered; and finally curses the Montagues and Capulets for a fight he brought on himself. On the one hand, he's a loyal friend to Romeo. Even when he thinks Romeo is acting crazy, he's always trying to find him and "cure" him. It's interesting to watch how much cynical Mercutio is attracted by idealistic Romeo. On the other hand, he doesn't understand Romeo's feelings, and he doesn't try to. He is taunting and sarcastic to Romeo, to the Nurse, and finally to Tybalt. Still, for all his faults, we can't help liking him as much as Romeo does. We, too, feel a sense of outrage when he's killed and understand why Romeo avenges his death. Mercutio is one of Shakespeare's most talked-about characters. Some readers feel that Mercutio is the most interesting character in the play, and that Shakespeare had to kill him off so that he wouldn't eclipse Romeo. Others point out that Mercutio acts as a satellite to Romeo. He's never on stage unless he's with Romeo, or trying to find him. Also, some readers feel that Mercutio's sense of honor forces him to fight Tybalt in Romeo's place; others feel that his own temper and hot-headedness do him in. Readers have disagreed over how much he understands about life. Some argue that his Queen Mab speech shows that he's thought a lot and understands other's feelings; others feel that he isn't capable of understanding Romeo's feelings at all. ROMEO AND JULIET: LORD AND LADY MONTAGUE (ROMEO'S PARENTS) Romeo and Juliet come from very different families. The Montagues are close-knit and loving. Romeo's parents, Lord and Lady Montague, care a lot about Romeo, and do everything they can to find out what's bothering him. Romeo's parents know Romeo's friends. At the beginning of the play, they ask Benvolio to find out why Romeo's depressed; and in Act II, Scene iv, Mercutio and Benvolio are going to have supper at the Montague's house, and they hope Romeo will come along. Lady Montague's only fault is her obsessive love of Romeo. She dies of grief when he's banished, before news comes that he's dead. Lord Montague's only fault is his willingness to fight in the feud. The only time that he isn't reasonable and loving is in the first scene when he charges onto the stage, calling, "Thou Villain Capulet!" Unfortunately, this fault is ultimately responsible for his son's death. ROMEO AND JULIET: LORD AND LADY CAPULET (JULIET'S PARENTS) Lord Capulet enjoys playing the role of the gracious patriarch. He's wealthy and he likes to be well thought of. He's on his best behavior in front of company; he jokes with Paris and calls him "son." At the Capulets' feast he flirts and jokes, and goes so far as to protect Romeo from Tybalt. But like a spoiled child, he wants everything to go his way, and he's furious when someone doesn't obey him. When Tybalt argues with him, he calls him a "saucy boy" and a "princox." When Juliet refuses to marry Paris, he has a tantrum and threatens to throw her out on the street to starve. He has a strained relationship with his wife. He doesn't say much to her, except to order her around; she responds by making bitter remarks about him. Lady Capulet is a bitter, guarded woman. She was married early, and the match was obviously arranged. Her husband seems to be much older than she is, and she uses this to make life difficult for him. The first time we see her, her husband is calling for a sword to join a fight, and she follows behind, answering, "A crutch, a crutch! Why call you for a sword?" Because she's an unhappy woman who guards her feelings, she doesn't know how to relate to Juliet, who has been raised by her Nurse. We can see why she'd think Paris a good match for Juliet. He's not only wealthy, but young and attractive: everything in a husband she might have wished for herself but doesn't have. Through the play we see her become increasingly sympathetic to Juliet. Could it be that she remembers her own tears before her wedding? She begs her husband not to move the wedding closer, and she protects Juliet from Lord Capulet's fury. Still, when Juliet needs her most, she chooses to withdraw from the situation, telling Juliet, "Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee." (III, v, 205) Still, both Capulets are genuinely grieved when they believe that Juliet is dead. Lady Capulet cries that Juliet was the only thing she had to love; and Lord Capulet now has no heir, nothing in which to hope. ROMEO AND JULIET: TYBALT Tybalt, a Capulet, is trouble from the beginning. He's so hot-tempered and full of hate that even his family thinks he's a "saucy boy." He can be seen as the embodiment of the feud. During the play, he fights Benvolio, Lord Capulet, Mercutio, and Romeo. In temperament, he is a contrast to Benvolio. In the first scene, when Benvolio talks of peace, Tybalt leaps in with "I hate the word as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee." In nature and personality, he is contrasted to Mercutio. Mercutio is witty, cultured, and educated, and he isn't about to take an insult from someone like Tybalt, whose only means of expression is a sword. Mercutio's extreme dislike of Tybalt is another reason he must take up Tybalt's challenge of Romeo. ROMEO AND JULIET: BENVOLIO Benvolio, a Montague, is the kind of person we'd all like to have for a friend. When Romeo wants to be left alone, he leaves him alone; when he wants to talk, Benvolio is there to listen with a sympathetic ear. And when Romeo is in trouble for killing Tybalt, it's Benvolio who gets him off the street and into hiding. Benvolio is known as a clear-thinking, reliable, and peace-loving young man. He tries to stop fighting whenever it starts; and he's called on twice to explain what's happened. When Romeo's parents want to find out what's bothering their son, they ask Benvolio to find out, and he does. Still, he's more than a one-dimensional character. At the beginning of the play, he, like Romeo, has "a troubled mind," that leads him to take a walk before sunrise. He, too, teases the Nurse; and he stretches the truth a little when he tells the Prince that Tybalt started the fight, implying that he killed Mercutio without provocation. These faults make us like him even more. ROMEO AND JULIET: PARIS Count Paris is the terzo incomodo, the unwelcome third party in the love triangle with Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare makes sure that he compares favorably with Romeo. He is young, handsome, wealthy, and, socially, his family is a step above Romeo's--Paris is related to Prince Escalus. Paris, too, is tired of the feud and sincerely in love with Juliet. He never tries to steal Juliet from Romeo; he proposes before Juliet meets Romeo, and he dies without knowing he has a rival. Unlike Romeo, he goes through the proper channels to get Juliet to marry him. He formally asks Juliet's father for her hand, and he approves. In contrast, Romeo's love for Juliet is forbidden, and he's secretive about his plans. Paris' language, wooden and straight-laced, is also in contrast to Romeo's. Paris becomes a threat to the lovers only because he doesn't know about their relationship. As an honorable young man, he would never have gone after Juliet if he'd known she were married. If he'd known about the marriage, he never would have challenged Romeo at the Capulets' tomb. Paris, like Romeo and Juliet, is a victim of "sour misfortune." He, too, is given a place of respect and importance in the tomb with Romeo and Juliet. ROMEO AND JULIET: SETTING Romeo and Juliet takes place in Verona, Italy, in the 1500s. Although the setting was already named in other Romeo and Juliet stories, Shakespeare draws lots of parallels between Verona and the London of his time. Both cities were walled, which made them seem hot and crowded during the summer months. Violence could spread quickly in this atmosphere, and so civil disturbances were treated harshly. Elizabethan Londoners would have thought that the Prince was too merciful to the brawlers. In cities like London and Verona, the plague spread quickly, so quarantines were commonplace. Also, in Shakespeare's London, Queen Elizabeth's word was law; Londoners would expect no less of Prince Escalus. ROMEO AND JULIET: THEMES There are many themes in Romeo and Juliet; we'll look at the major ones here. You'll notice that some themes contradict each other--it's up to you to decide which ones are true, and to find evidence to support your position. 1. LOVE Love is explored in different ways in the play. Here are some of them: Love vs. Hate The play contrasts Romeo and Juliet's love against their families' hate as illustrated by the feud. In the Prologue, we're told that their love is stronger than the hatred of the feud, but it's a bitter struggle. Hatred is strong enough to separate the lovers, kill Mercutio, Tybalt, and Paris, banish Romeo, and finally force Romeo and Juliet to commit suicide. But love is even stronger: nothing can kill the love between Romeo and Juliet, and this finally triumphs. False Love vs. True Love At the beginning of the play, Romeo's lost in a false love for Rosaline. He doesn't know her or have any relationship with her, so he's created artificial feelings about her. The Nurse and Mercutio also have false or incomplete ideas about true love. They both link it exclusively to sex. Romeo and Juliet's love is a pure, true love. They love each other emotionally, spiritually, and sexually. They are committed to each other in marriage, and are willing to die rather than be unfaithful to one another. Romantic Love This play is a wonderful example of Courtly Love or Romantic Love. Until the end of the 14th century, the idea of marrying for love was almost unheard of. Marriages were arranged for social, economic, and political reasons. Romantic Love came into being in the French courts, and it had very strict rules: the woman with whom the man chose to be in love had to be unobtainable (if she was married to someone else, that was good: if she died, that was even better), and both of the romantic lovers must be chaste. The whole idea was to be pure and pine away for someone. This is exactly what Romeo is doing for Rosaline at the beginning of the story. Even though Romeo and Juliet share their love and they sleep together once, there are Romantic obstacles in their way. They are from enemy families; Juliet will be forced to marry someone else. Finally, each of them dies pining for a love that is absolutely unobtainable because his or her partner is dead. Could Romeo and Juliet have become a happy, middle-aged married couple? Nobody in Shakespeare's audience would have wondered. The whole point is that their love is Romantic, and therefore cannot be fulfilled. 2. WHAT CAUSES THE LOVERS TO DIE? The deaths of Romeo and Juliet can be explained in several ways. Fate In the Prologue, we're told that the lovers are "star-crossed," which implies that fate has it in for them. The number of fateful coincidences and accidents in the play are too numerous to miss: Romeo finds out about the Capulets' party from an illiterate servant; he winds up in the Capulets' orchard; Mercutio is killed under his arm--the list goes on and on. Every plan that the lovers make is thwarted. They're destined to die, and nothing can stop it. Providence Some readers feel that there's a power beyond fate that has a role in the outcome of the story. Since the play takes place in a Christian context, this power can be thought of as God, or Providence. Romeo, Juliet, and Friar Lawrence all call on this higher power to help them; Friar Lawrence calls the deaths "a work of heaven." We can believe that some benevolent power is working to change the Montagues' and Capulets' hatred to love--and it succeeds. Passion The Catholic church (and to some extent, the Protestant) in Shakespeare's day believed that love of God was pure, selfless, and good. Love that gratified selfish desires was bad. Over and over, Friar Lawrence warns that "these violent delights have violent ends," and he's proven correct. Character Some readers feel that Romeo's impetuousness (to passionately love Juliet, and recklessly kill Tybalt, Paris and himself), Tybalt's hate, Capulet's blindness, and Juliet's dishonesty work together to bring the lovers' downfall. 3. A SENSE OF ORDER VS. CIVIL DISTURBANCES The feuding and public fighting in Verona's streets is such a serious offense that Romeo and Juliet's lives must be sacrificed to restore order and pay for this injustice. 4. ISOLATION In comedy, characters tend to form bonds; in tragedy, they become isolated. The most obvious example in this play is Juliet: she is abandoned by her parents, her Nurse, the Friar, and finally by Romeo. 5. INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE This theme is followed in two ways: we see the impetuous actions of the innocent lovers contrasted to the helpless wisdom of their parents and advisors; and we see Romeo and Juliet grow from innocence to experience. 6. LANGUAGE Most of us talk similarly and use the same vocabulary most of the time. But in Romeo and Juliet, each character's language tells us what social class they're in, whom they're talking to, what mood they're in, and if their feelings are genuine. As a character matures, his or her words are more expressive, better chosen. ROMEO AND JULIET: STYLE Romeo and Juliet is unique because it merges three distinct styles. The first two acts are comedy: characters meet, fall in love, have funny friends and bawdy servants. These acts follow an Italian style called a commedia dell'arte, which usually had two virtuous lovers, old fathers who kept them apart, and servants who made racy comments about sex. But the Prologue sets up a tragedy, and the last three acts bring it about. Suddenly, a feud that seemed silly is deadly, and Mercutio and Tybalt are killed. The lovers become isolated, and come to understand the cruelty of the world and how it preys on them. Human failure and tragic accidents work against them, and they must die. Romeo and Juliet is also Romantic. Not only does it deal with Romantic Love, as mentioned above under Themes, but it includes many different types of Romantic poetry. Just before he wrote this play, Shakespeare had written two long narrative Romantic poems, as well as some Romantic sonnets, and these poetic styles turn up over and over again in the play. ROMEO AND JULIET: SOURCE The legend of Romeo and Juliet had been popular for more than 100 years by the time Shakespeare wrote his play. The seed for the story had appeared as far back as 1476 in the Italian book, Il Novellino, by Masuccio Salernitano. This told of secret lovers, a killing, banishment, a helpful friar, and a marriage rival. In 1530, Luigi da Porta retold the story. He named Verona as the setting, and gave the characters Italian names. Da Porta also added the lovers' suicide. Other versions appeared in France and Italy, but an important step was taken in 1562 when Arthur Brooke (or Broke) made it into a long narrative poem, in English, called The Tragicall History of Romeus and Juliet. This is the poem from which Shakespeare worked. Compared to Shakespeare's play, Brooke's language was monotonous and dry. He includes a Preface that tells the "pious reader" to note what comes of unholy passion and secret love, of disobeying the law and parents' advice. Although the Preface is stern, Brooke takes a sympathetic view of the lovers. In his poem, they are older, less innocent, more willful and glad to disobey their parents. Here are descriptions of Romeo and Juliet from Brooke's poem. ROMEO One Romeus, who was of race a Montague, Upon whose tender chin, as yet, no manlike beard there grew, Whose beauty and whose shape so far the rest did stain, That from the chief of Veron youth he greatest fame did gain At length he saw a maid, right fair of shape Which Theseus or Paris would have chosen to their rape, Whom erst he never saw, of all she pleas'd him most. Within himself he said to her, 'Thou justly mayst thee boast Of perfect shape's renown and Beauty's sounding praise, Whose like nor hath, nor shall be seen, nor liveth in our days.' And whilst he fix'd on her his partial pierced eye His former love, for which of late he was ready to die, Is now as quite forgot, as it had never been. JULIET Whilst Juliet (for so this gentle damsel hight) From side to side on everyone did cast about her sight At last her floating eyes were anchored fast on him, Who for her sake did banish health and freedom from each limb. He in her sight did seem to pass the rest as far As Phoebus' shining beams do pass the brightness of a star. ROMEO AND JULIET: OVERALL STRUCTURE Romeo and Juliet has five acts. As we have seen before, the first two acts follow the rules of a comedy, and the last two follow the conventions of tragedy. Besides this, shape is given to the play by the Prologue and the three appearances of the Prince. The Prologue, which reminds us somewhat of ancient tragedies, tells us the sorry fate of the characters we're about to meet. The Prince appears at the beginning of the play when the feud is introduced. He's angry at the disturbance and the threat of violence, but nothing deadly has happened yet. The Prince appears at the next climax, after the deaths that change the course of the play. He adds to the climactic events by banishing Romeo. The third time he appears is at the end. Prince Escalus sums up the Prologue, says that everyone is punished, and that there's never been a sadder story. ROMEO AND JULIET: SCENES Shakespeare is a master storyteller. Scenes happen very quickly in this play, alternating from tragic to comic, hurried to lazy, scenes between the lovers to scenes about those who unwittingly cause their downfall. Shakespeare also compares characters by having them appear in scenes soon after each other. Often scenes with the Nurse follow scenes with Mercutio; scenes with Paris are frequently next to scenes with Romeo. ROMEO AND JULIET: PUBLIC PEOPLE AND PRIVATE PEOPLE Another way Shakespeare makes the play interesting is to show us how characters act in public and then how they act in private. For example, in the first scene, we see the Montagues when they come to fight the Capulets; then we see them talking in private after everyone else has left. The funniest example of this is in Act I, Scene v, when Lord Capulet goes from his public image to his private temper in the same speech. This makes us ready for Act III, when the public feud crashes in on the private lives of Romeo and Juliet. ROMEO AND JULIET: CONDENSED TIME Shakespeare's biggest change was to shrink the timeframe from months to a period of five days. He emphasizes this by showing us all five dawns: On Sunday morning, Romeo walks in a grove of trees at dawn and later meets Benvolio; Monday's dawn finds him reluctantly leaving Juliet in the orchard. The next morning, he leaves his new wife to flee to Mantua; Wednesday morning, Juliet is discovered dead. The play ends on Thursday morning, when the Prince and the families find the dead bodies in the tomb. This condensed time makes the play highly dramatic. Events are very rushed. Things happen so fast that characters must make snap decisions. There is no time for explanations, and there are no second chances. ROMEO AND JULIET: ELIZABETHAN ENGLISH All languages change. Differences in pronunciation and word choice are apparent even between parents and children. If language differences can appear in one generation, it is only to be expected that the English used by Shakespeare four hundred years ago will diverge markedly from the English that is used today. The following information on Shakespeare's language will help a modern reader to a fuller understanding of Romeo and Juliet. ROMEO AND JULIET: MOBILITY OF WORD CLASSES Adjectives, nouns, and verbs were less rigidly confined to particular classes in Shakespeare's day. Adjectives were often used as nouns. In the Prologue to Act II, the chorus uses 'sweet' as a noun: Tempering extremities with extreme sweet. And verbs could be used as nouns as when 'jaunce', which meant 'trudge along', was used to mean 'a long hard walk': Fie, how my bones ache. What a jaunce have I! (II, v, 26) Adjectives could also be used as adverbs. 'Scant' is used for 'scantly' in: And she shall scant show well that now seems best (I, ii, 101) and 'merry' is used for 'merrily' in: Rest you merry (I, ii, 83) and occasionally as verbs as in: Ah, poor my lord, what tongue shall smooth thy name (III, ii, 98) where 'smooth' means 'speak well of'. ROMEO AND JULIET: CHANGES IN WORD MEANING The meanings of words undergo changes, a process that can be illustrated by the fact that 'chip' extended its meaning from a small piece of wood to a small piece of silicon. Many of the words in Shakespeare still exist today but their meanings have changed. The change may be small, as with 'gossip' which meant 'good-natured, convivial woman': Speak to my gossip Venus one fair word (II, i, 11) or more fundamental, so that 'hoodwinked' meant 'blindfolded' (I, iv, 4), 'crowkeeper' meant 'scarecrow' (I, iv, 6), 'film' meant 'gossamer' (I, iv, 66), 'breaches' meant 'defensive walls' (I, iv, 84), and 'owes' meant owns: So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called Retain that dear perfection which he owes (II, ii, 45-46) ROMEO AND JULIET: VOCABULARY LOSS Words not only change their meanings, but are frequently discarded from the language. In the past, 'leman' meant 'sweetheart' and 'sooth' meant 'truth'. The following words used in Romeo and Juliet are no longer current in English but their meanings can usually be gauged from the context in which they occur. BILLS (I, i, 70): weapons PROOF (I, i, 208): strong armor UNATTAINTED (I, ii, 87): not affected TEEN (I, iii, 13): sorrow ATOMI (I, iv, 57): small creatures TRENCHER (I, v, 2): large plate NYAS (II, ii, 167): young hawk GYVES (II, ii, 179): fetters, chains MICKLE (II, iii, 11): great DISTEMPERATURE (II, iii, 36): mental disturbance HIDINGS (II, iv, 43): prostitutes CHEVERIL (II, iv, 83): soft leather ELL (II, iv, 84): 3 feet 9 inches (45 inches) COIL (II, v, 66): fuss, bother PILCHER (III, i, 79): leather garment AMERCE (III, i, 192): penalize SEELING (III, ii, 46): blinding LATED (III, iii, 6): belated TRENCHED (III, iv, 26): cut FLAWS (III, iv, 62): sudden gusts OWE (III, iv, 112): own BARK (III, v, 131): small boat MAMMET (III, v, 184): puppet CHAPLESS (IV, i, 83): without the lower jaw ORISONS (IV, iii, 3): prayers LOGGERHEAD (IV, iv, 20): fool, blockhead WEEDS (V, i, 39): clothes CAITIFF (V, i, 52): miserable, wretched ROMEO AND JULIET: VERBS Shakespearean verb forms differ from modern usage in three main ways: 1. Questions and negatives could be formed without using 'do/did' as when Mercutio asks: Came he not home tonight? (II, iv, 1) where today we would say: 'Did he not come home tonight?' or where Benvolio tells Romeo: Stand not amazed... (III, i, 136) where modern usage demands: 'Don't stand there looking surprised.' Shakespeare had the option of using forms a. and b. whereas contemporary usage permits only the a. forms: a. b. Is Romeo coming? Comes Romeo? Did Romeo come? Came Romeo? You do not look well You look not well You did not look well You looked not well 2. A number of past participles and past tense forms are used that would be ungrammatical today. Among these are: 'drive' for 'drove': A troubled mind drive me to walk abroad (I, i, 118) 'create' for 'created': O anything of nothing first create! (I, i, 175) 'took' for 'taken': Very well took i' faith (II, iv, 124) 'forbid' for 'forbidden': The Prince expressly hath Forbid this bandying... (III, i, 87-88) 'becomed' for 'becoming': And gave him what becomed love I might (IV, ii, 26) and 'writ' for 'wrote': Meantime I writ to Romeo (V, iii, 245) 3. Archaic verb forms sometimes occur with 'thou' and with 'he/she/it': ...thou wilt quarrel with a man that hath a hair more... (III, i, 17) I see thou knowest me not (III, i, 64) Come, he hath hid himself among these trees (II, i, 30) ROMEO AND JULIET: PRONOUNS Shakespeare and his contemporaries had one extra pronoun "thou" which could be used in addressing a person who was one's equal or social inferior. 'You' was obligatory if more than one person was addressed: What ho! You men, you beasts! That quench the fire of your pernicious rage With purple fountains issuing from your veins... (I, i, 81ff) But it could also be used to indicate respect as when Juliet speaks to her mother: Madam, I am here, what is your will? (I, iii, 6) Frequently, a person in power used 'thou' to a child or a subordinate but was addressed 'you' in return, as when Lady Capulet and the Nurse speak: Lady Capulet. Thou knowest my daughter's of a pretty age. (I, iii, 10) Nurse. My lord and you were then at Mantua. (I, iii, 28) but if 'thou' was used inappropriately it could cause grave offense. Tybalt uses this form to provoke Romeo: Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford No better term than this: thou art a villain (III, i, 59-60) and later, when Romeo wishes to avenge Mercutio's death, he too uses 'thou' to Tybalt: Now, Tybalt, take the 'villain' back again That late thou gav'st me. (III, i, 127-28) ROMEO AND JULIET: PREPOSITIONS Prepositions were less standardized in Elizabethan English than they are today and so we find several uses in Romeo and Juliet that would have to be modified in contemporary speech. Among these are: 'of' for 'in' in: Fantasy Which is as thin of substance as the air (I, iv, 99) 'in' for 'into' in: ...if you should lead her in a fool's paradise (II, iv, 163) 'by' for 'because of': So the remembrance of my former love Is by a newer object quite forgotten (II, iv, 194) and 'against' for 'for' in: Prepare her, wife, against this wedding day. (III, iv, 32) ROMEO AND JULIET: MULTIPLE NEGATION Contemporary English requires only one negative per statement and regards such utterances as: "I haven't none" as nonstandard. Shakespeare often used two or more negatives for emphasis, as when Mercutio describes his wound: No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door, but 'tis enough... (III, i, 97) and when Romeo tries to convince Juliet that it is still early: Nor that is not the lark whose notes do beat (III, v, 21) ROMEO AND JULIET: PROLOGUE The Prologue is in the form of a sonnet, a type of poem that was popular in Elizabethan times. A sonnet has very strict rules: it must have 14 lines, have five accented syllables and five unaccented ones per line, and a consistent pattern of rhyming. NOTE: Throughout the play, we will see that Shakespeare uses different types of poetry to make special moments stand out. The Prologue does three important things: 1) it tells us what events will happen in the play; 2) it makes us curious about why and how these events will happen; and 3) it introduces us to themes that will become important. 1. THE EVENTS Two dignified families have been quarreling for a long time. From these families come two children who are destined to become lovers and to kill themselves. This is the only way the quarrel can end, we're told, and this is the story we're about to see. It seems odd, doesn't it, that Shakespeare gives away the ending to the story before he even starts telling it! But in Shakespeare's time-much like today--the story of Romeo and Juliet was already famous. People might not have been able to tell you the whole story, but they could probably have said: "Romeo and Juliet? It's a story about two kids who kill themselves." Also, fate plays a big part in the lovers' doom. It was normal in a tragic story to tell the fate of the hero at the beginning, and then tell the story of how this comes about. NOTE: In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare uses the fact that we know the plot to make us his fellow conspirators. He makes the story revolve around characters who do what they think is best, unaware of their tragic fate. They don't know the real circumstances--only we do. This sets up comedy: for example, Romeo thinks that his crush on Rosaline is the end of the world. This seems funny to us, because we know his crush isn't important--the story isn't about Romeo and Rosaline, it's about Romeo and Juliet. It also sets up tragedy: for example, it's great news to Lord Capulet that Juliet and Paris will be married. But it's terrible news to us, because we know that she's already married to Romeo. Over and over throughout the play we think, "if only they knew!" 2. THE PROLOGUE MAKES US CURIOUS The Prologue leaves out more information than it gives us. Who are these lovers? What makes them "star-crossed"? Why do they kill themselves? Why is this the only way to end the feud? These questions make us want to read on! 3. THEMES Romeo and Juliet is a play about paradoxes. In other words, we find out that things seeming to be opposites are actually linked to each other. In the Prologue, Shakespeare talks about "fatal loins." We are conceived and born in the loins; "fatal" is something that kills you. How can the same thing cause your life and your death? The play resolves this paradox. Besides life and death, the Prologue tells us that the play is about youth and age, love and hate, fighting and peace. And since Shakespeare mentions these paradoxes so early, we will be wise to watch for other paradoxes that will be used as themes. NOTE: Notice how the lovers are called "star-crossed." Astrology was a popular science then, and some people believed that your fate was revealed by the positions of stars and planets. Star-crossed could simply mean that the stars will make Romeo and Juliet's paths cross and their lives intertwine. Or it can mean that the stars have it in for them; they're doomed from the start. One theme is the exploration of this very question: what makes the play end the way it does? Do the lovers die because they're star-crossed by Fate and cursed by bad luck? Or is there a power above Fate (usually called Providence) that is making this all work for the good--to end the feud? Or are the lovers free to act for themselves, to decide to take their own lives? We'll see that there is evidence to support each possible answer--it is up to you to choose the answer you think is best at the end of the play. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 1-65 The Prologue has warned us about the terrible, senseless feud between the Montagues and the Capulets and that it will cause the death of innocent lovers. The play opens in a public place in Verona where a fight is about to break out. We're ready to see evil, bloodthirsty men, but we're in for a surprise. Instead of seeing Lord Montague or Lord Capulet, we see their hired servants, who aren't even part of the family. And instead of acting like evil men, they act like clowns! The first people on stage are the Capulets' servants, Sampson and Gregory. They're out on this lazy Sunday morning, acting a lot like bored kids. They talk big about what they'll do to the Montagues, make racy comments, use awful puns, and insult each other as often as they insult the Montagues. They're in a good mood and we can't help but laugh at how truly terrible their jokes are. NOTE: We're caught off guard. We're expecting a tragedy, and instead we've got comedy. Could this be another paradox? Could Shakespeare be saying that the silly, harmless events in the first two acts can actually cause the serious, deadly outcome of the final three? Can't all of us think of a time that we've done something we never meant to do, and all we could say was, "I was only kidding!"? Soon servants of the Montagues join the Capulets', and the scene gets funnier. In a way, they're like two street gangs. But in this scene, they aren't angry or vicious, they just want some action. The two sides are glad to see each other, because they're all in the mood for something to happen. There doesn't seem to be any ill will between them; in fact, their only argument is over who's going to start the fight. Like children, they want to fight, but they don't want to get in trouble for having started it. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 66-106 Imagine that the streets are suddenly full of people shouting and swords clashing. Once the fight has started, we begin to meet some of the important characters. They come on one or two at a time, and we can tell something about their personalities right away by how they react to the feud. BENVOLIO A young cousin of the Montagues, Benvolio is a man of peace. He is the first one to find the servants brawling, and he seems to be able to read our thoughts. Look what he says: Part, fools! Put up your swords. You know not what you do. (I, i, 66) He sees them as fools, like we do; and he also sees that the fighting is more than harmless fun. From the very beginning, Benvolio tries to keep the peace, and from the very beginning he fails. His is the voice of reason, and he doesn't stand a chance against Tybalt, the next person who arrives. TYBALT Tybalt is the opposite of Benvolio in more ways than one. He's a cousin of the Capulets and a troublemaker: quick-tempered, violent, and irrational. He says it himself in his second speech to Benvolio: What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the word As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee. (I, i, 72-73) LORD AND LADY CAPULET The Capulets seem to have as much trouble getting along with each other as they have getting along with the Montagues. We first see Lord Capulet running in to join the fight, calling for a sword. His wife is right behind him, telling him in public that a crutch would be more appropriate. We can't help but wonder how their antagonistic relationship affects their daughter. LORD AND LADY MONTAGUE The Montagues enter just after the Capulets. Lady Montague urges her husband not to join the fighting, but her anger is directed at the feud rather than at her husband. We'll learn more about them shortly. PRINCE ESCALUS Prince Escalus also sees the feud as a serious threat, and he's angry about it. But he acts rationally. He states the charges: the Montagues and Capulets have broken the law by fighting three times in the recent past. He publicly announces that in the future anyone who fights will face the death penalty. Clearly, this is a man who wants to end the deadly fight. But will he act strongly enough, and soon enough? From an action-packed scene full of people, we go to one family's private conversation. Everyone leaves except Lord and Lady Montague and their nephew Benvolio. Benvolio is asked how the fight started; this is not the only time he'll have to report on the trouble Tybalt causes. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 119-58 Suddenly, Lady Montague says, "O, where is Romeo? Saw you him today?" and the whole tone changes at once. Lord and Lady Montague and Benvolio love Romeo so much that the mention of his name even changes how they talk. Benvolio's terse and repetitive description of the fight becomes poetry. Came more and more and fought on part and part, Till the Prince came, who parted either part. (I, ii, 117-18) becomes Madam, an hour before the worshipped sun Peered forth the golden window of the East, A troubled mind drave me to walk abroad, Where underneath the grove of sycamore... So early walking did I see your son. (I, i, 121-26) Instead of meeting Romeo in the middle of angry words and fighting, we will meet him amidst the poetry of his loving family and friends. We also find out that Romeo's parents are worried about him. He's been spending his nights out walking, and his days locked in his room. His father adds that Romeo "Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out / And makes himself an artificial night." NOTE: This is the first mention of how Romeo is connected to day and night. Soon Juliet and true love will become his daylight and his sun. But Romeo doesn't know true love yet, so he shuts out daylight and creates "artificial night." Be on the lookout for more images of light and dark. Lord Montague has tried everything he can think of to find out what's bothering Romeo, and now he asks for Benvolio's help. Keep his words of concern in mind later, when we see how the Capulets respond to Juliet's problems. Benvolio sees Romeo coming, and asks his aunt and uncle to leave so the two cousins can talk alone. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 162-240 Finally, we see the two best friends alone. Romeo comes to his senses long enough to greet Benvolio and notice that there's been fighting. The feud doesn't interest Romeo, he's got something else on his mind, and Benvolio is determined to find out what it is. What happens next is a situation we can all identify with. One friend has a secret, and the other wants to know what it is. Benvolio gets Romeo to admit that he's in love: the next trick is to find out with whom. But Romeo isn't telling. We can't help but smile at Romeo in this scene. He's in love with love. He's chosen a girl he can never have, and he's having a great time feeling sorry for himself. He calls love a "madness" that has overtaken him and claims "I have lost myself, I am not here / This is not Romeo, he's some other where." (I, i, 200-1) Have you ever felt so overcome with emotion that you weren't acting like your normal self? We'll see this happen to Romeo several times during the play. Also, notice that when he's in this state, Romeo's speech is childish and repetitive: She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair To merit bliss by making me despair. (I, i, 224-25) It's no wonder that Benvolio wants the old Romeo back. Like a true friend, he tries to solve the problem. He promises to find another girl to make Romeo forget his grief. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 1-34 In the last scene, we heard about Romeo before we met him; now we hear about Juliet. Lord Capulet is in a good mood, and we soon find out why: Count Paris, the Prince's relative and Verona's most eligible bachelor, wants to marry Juliet. Paris is an honorable man, and he goes through the accepted procedure for acquiring a wife--he asks her father for her hand in marriage. Here we see Lord Capulet's public personality. He seems like a gracious patriarch and father-figure. He claims Juliet is too young to be married, but encourages Paris to win her heart. He wastes no time in getting the two young people together; he invites Paris to a party so he can start dating Juliet that very night. From this short scene we learn quite a bit about Juliet. At thirteen, she's already very attractive. She's the Capulets' only child; Lord Capulet calls her "the hopeful lady of my earth." Here is another image of light and dark. He describes her and the other young girls who'll be at the party as "stars that make dark heaven light." But we'll have to wait a while longer to meet her. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 35-104 Capulet gives his servant a list of other people to invite to the party. There's only one problem: the servant can't read. He doesn't mention this as Capulet and Paris leave; he's still trying to decipher the list when he runs into Romeo and Benvolio. After joking around (when the servant is called "Clown" we expect no less), Romeo finally reads the guest list to him. The list includes Tybalt, Romeo's friend Mercutio, and the young woman Romeo's in love with: the lovely Rosaline. When Romeo and Benvolio ask where this party will be, the servant replies My master is the great rich Capulet, and if you be not of the house of Montague, I pray you come (I, ii, 81-82) Of course, they are Montagues, but Benvolio decides they should go anyway, as he has a scheme to help Romeo forget Rosaline. But Romeo isn't convinced. He wants to go just to look at Rosaline. NOTE: Romeo's chance meeting with Capulet's illiterate servant and his invitation to the ball is the first fateful accident that guides the action of the play. Be on the lookout for other chance happenings. ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT I, SCENE III Now we go from the men on the street to the women in the Capulets' house. It's almost party time, and Lady Capulet is looking for her daughter. The tension is building. A lot has happened and we haven't even seen Juliet yet. What does she look like? How does she talk? Why does everyone fall in love with her? We finally get to meet Juliet--but not all of our questions are answered. She doesn't say much in this scene. She's an obedient child, literally, "seen but not heard." Later, when she isn't surrounded by grown-ups, we'll really get to know Juliet. The person we do get to know is the Nurse. Lady Capulet has something important to tell Juliet, but it's the Nurse who talks through the entire scene. At the beginning, Lady Capulet asks her where Juliet is, and she replies: Now, by my maidenhead at twelve year old, I bade her come. (I, iii, 2) That's roughly equivalent to "By my virginity when I was twelve, I swear I've called her!" We see right away that the Nurse likes to make funny sexual remarks, but who would say such a thing to the Lady of the house? The Nurse gets away with it, and she's going to get away with a lot more. Lady Capulet wants to talk to Juliet privately, and she sends everyone away. But she soon remembers that the Nurse is Juliet's second mother (she even nursed Juliet when she was a baby) and Lady Capulet calls her back. The Nurse is a funny old woman. She talks incessantly, uses words that she doesn't understand, and repeats herself constantly. But she is devoted to Juliet. When she does finally get a word in, Lady Capulet comes right to the point and asks Juliet, "How stands your dispositions to be married?" Juliet demurely replies, "it is an honor I dream not of," before the Nurse starts talking again. But now Lady Capulet takes over. She has two good reasons that Juliet should consider marriage: she herself was married at Juliet's age, and Paris is a good catch. Lady Capulet reminds Juliet that Paris is young, handsome, well thought of, and rich. The Nurse agrees completely, but her reasons for marriage have to do with sex. She tells Juliet Go, girl, seek happy nights to happy days. (I, iii, 106) NOTE: Imagine how you would feel if you had to marry someone your parents picked for you. For Juliet, however, this was the custom of her times. She wasn't expected to marry for love. ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT I, SCENE IV As soon as the innocent Juliet has promised to try to like Paris, we're back with Romeo. He's on his way to the Capulets' party with his friends, and he and Benvolio are trying to decide if they should give the customary speech that "masked" or uninvited guests usually give. Benvolio says no, that's old-fashioned. He just wants to get in, dance, and leave. Then, just as the Nurse stole the last scene from Juliet, Romeo's friend Mercutio steals this one from Romeo. Mercutio, like Paris, is related to the Prince, and he doesn't have to worry about gate-crashing the Capulets' party because he's been invited. Mercutio is witty and sarcastic, and quickly becomes the center of attention. Unlike Benvolio, he isn't about to put up with Romeo's romantic mooning, and Romeo's lovesickness becomes the butt of most of his jokes. When Romeo is suddenly seized by a feeling of dread, he tries to tell Mercutio, but Mercutio turns it into a joke: Romeo. I dreamt a dream tonight. Mercutio. And so did I. Romeo. Well, what was yours? Mercutio. That dreamers often lie. Romeo. In bed asleep, while they do dream things true. Mercutio. O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you. (I, iv, 49-53) Then Mercutio launches into his witty speech about Queen Mab, the fairies' midwife who "delivers" dreams. This speech is very imaginative. Mercutio goes from one topic to another almost as if he's dreaming. By the middle of the speech, Mercutio is really rolling. He talks about elves and fairies and prayers. But the clever images take on an angry edge, and Mercutio starts to lose control of himself. It's ironic that Romeo, whom Mercutio has accused of being out of his senses, is the one to calm Mercutio down. Meaning to make fun of superstitions and supernatural powers, Mercutio ends up reminding us that there are mysterious forces at work. Benvolio breaks the mood by claiming Mercutio's long-windedness will make them late, but Romeo remains behind because he has a premonition of danger. He says: My mind misgives Some consequence yet hanging in the stars Shall bitterly begin his fearful date With this night's revels and expire the term Of a despised life, closed in my breast, By some vile forfeit of untimely death. But he that hath the steerage of my course, Direct my sail! On, lusty gentlemen! (I, iv, 107-13) NOTE: All of us have had unexplainable feelings of dread or uneasiness about something we're about to do. But Romeo's feeling is very strong, and very specific. He's had a dream that's made him feel that the forces unleashed this night will cause his death. Romeo has several dreams in the play, some proving more accurate than others. But both he and Juliet have reoccurring premonitions--a feeling of knowing what's going to happen--and these are always right. But now, no one else will even listen to Romeo's dream, let alone take it seriously. So he tries to push it aside, and goes on to the party. This speech has been used as evidence for three different explanations of why Romeo and Juliet meet their tragic ends. 1) Romeo says he feels "some consequence yet hanging in the stars"--is fate waiting for him to walk into its trap? 2) Trying to shake off his feelings of doom, he says, "But he that hath the steerage of my course, direct my sail." Some readers feel this is an appeal to Providence--the Protestants in Elizabethan times would assume that God has the steerage of his course. Is Providence really in charge here? Does this tragedy have to happen for the good of the two families? 3) Romeo concludes by saying, "Oh, lusty gentleman!" Whether he meant "lusty" in the sexual sense, or just the robust, passionate sense, Elizabethans could read this as a reason for Romeo's downfall. To them, selfless love, or love of God, was holy, and selfish love, that gratified personal passions, sinful. According to this view, Romeo's already in trouble, for he's nothing if not passionate. His lusty cohorts, likewise, could be in for a bad time. ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT I, SCENE V We go from Romeo and his dark thoughts to a playful group of servants. NOTE: Watch how often this happens during the play; serious scenes follow silly ones, and poetic scenes are followed by quick dialogue. Also, notice how many short scenes have come before the party scene. So many people have been getting ready for it that we're ready for something important to happen--and it does. Now we're back in the Capulets' house, and Lord Capulet is in his element, happily welcoming all his guests. He's thrilled to see the young men in masks--it reminds him of his bachelor days when he did the same thing. Then we have to sit back and imagine what we'd see if we were at the party: a beautiful hall in a wealthy man's house, plenty of food, musicians playing, and lovely women dancing with dashing men. Benvolio joins right in. Rosaline is there somewhere, but Romeo doesn't have time for her: he's already seen Juliet. Juliet must be breathtakingly beautiful: both Paris and Romeo are enchanted by her looks before they even meet her. But something more is going on here: Romeo is so entranced that he's forgotten that he ever had a crush on anyone else. The silly, repetitious praises he made for Rosaline become wonderful, mature poetry as he exclaims about Juliet: O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear! (I, v, 46-50) Romeo is talking to himself as he says this, which was an accepted custom on the Elizabethan stage. But, unexpectedly, someone overhears him; and, unfortunately, that someone is Tybalt. Tybalt is furious. He recognizes Romeo and wants to kill him on the spot, but Lord Capulet stops him. Capulet calls Romeo "a virtuous and well-governed youth" while calling Tybalt "a saucy boy" and "a princox." For the first time we see Capulet unleash his anger on someone who doesn't instantly obey him. In the same speech, he goes back and forth between speaking jovially to his guests and calling Tybalt ugly names. True, Tybalt deserves it; but we'll later see Capulet act the same way towards someone who doesn't. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 95-145 Romeo finally meets Juliet. They're not formally introduced; they don't know each other's names. Romeo reverently calls her "dear saint," and likens her hand to a shrine, and his lips to two pilgrims who've come to the shrine to be forgiven their sins. Who could resist a romantic line like that? Not Juliet. She's instantly smitten with this mysterious young man, but she gives him a run for his money. He asks if saints have lips as well as hands, and she says yes, but lips are used for prayer. When he does finally kiss her lips to absolve his "sin", she asks if her lips now have the sin, and makes him kiss her again to take it back. It's ironic that from the beginning Romeo claims that kissing Juliet pardons his sins, when some feel that their passion is the sin that leads to their downfall. NOTE: Romeo and Juliet fit together so well from the beginning that their gentle battle of wits (interspersed with joyful kisses) forms a sonnet--lines 95 to 108. Shakespeare seems to be telling us that the moment was so beautiful it had to be preserved as a poem. The young lovers are interrupted by the Nurse, who tells Juliet that her mother wishes to see her. Romeo asks the Nurse who Juliet's mother is, and when he finds out, he exclaims: Is she a Capulet? O dear account! My life is my foe's debt! (I, v, 119-20) As the party breaks up, Juliet casually asks the Nurse to identify several young men, including Romeo. When the Nurse goes off to find out who he is, Juliet whispers to herself, "If he is married, my grave is like to be my wedding bed." We know that the opposite of this will be true; it is the first of many ironic foreshadowings. NOTE: This is the first time that marriage is linked to death. Keep an eye out for this idea to reoccur. When Juliet learns his identity, her cry echos Romeo's: My only love, sprung from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, and known too late! (I, v, 140-141) ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT II, PROLOGUE The Chorus (which, in Shakespeare's day, was only one person) appears as in Act I to comment on the action. Again, Shakespeare uses a sonnet. Romeo's love for Rosaline is dead, we're told. He now loves Juliet. Romeo and Juliet don't really know each other yet, but they have both been "bewitched by the charm of looks." At the end of the sonnet, we're told that neither fate, nor Providence, but passion lends the lovers power to meet. How can good come from "sinful" passion? The wise Friar Lawrence will explain this later in the act. ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT II, SCENE I The party's over and Romeo's out on the street. He's dazed after meeting Juliet, and reluctant to go home. When he hears Benvolio and Mercutio coming, he ducks out of sight. Benvolio and Mercutio, still in a party mood, are looking for their friend. Benvolio calls for Romeo by name, but Mercutio is more inventive. He calls, "Romeo! Humors! Madman! Passion! Lover!" and says that if Romeo will only mutter lovers' cliches he'll know it's him. Mercutio assumes that Romeo is still pining away for Rosaline. In fact, Mercutio says the best he can do is to conjure up the ghost of the old Romeo. Benvolio finally decides they should just Go then, for 'tis in vain To seek him here that means not to be found. (II, i, 41-42) ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 1-49 Romeo's hiding in an orchard but he's heard Mercutio's sarcastic remarks. "He jests at scars that never felt a wound!" Romeo complains. But then Romeo realizes where he is, and the whole scene turns around. By coincidence he's in the Capulets' orchard, and Juliet--who's also too excited to sleep--has come to her window. Romeo can't believe his good luck. Still hidden in the orchard, he gazes up at the girl the same way he would gaze at the heavens. He turns his wonder and joy into poetry. Juliet again represents light to him--she is the sun, and her eyes are brighter than two stars. But although his love poetry about Juliet is much more creative and mature than his verses about Rosaline, Romeo still keeps his distance. Instead of speaking to her, he muses, See how she leans her cheek upon her hand! O, that I were a glove upon that hand That I might touch that cheek. (II, ii, 23-25) Then, to Romeo's delight, Juliet begins to speak. This is the second time that someone who's been talking to him or herself has been overheard. And, for the second time, it changes the course of the play. The lovestruck Juliet is talking to herself about Romeo. But instead of comparing him to stars and gods (as Romeo compared her) she gets down to the practical matter of wondering why he has to be a Montague. "Tis but thy name that's my enemy," she says. What do names matter anyway? "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." She ends by proclaiming Romeo, doff thy name; And for that name, which is no part of thee Take all myself. (II, ii, 47-49) ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 49-185 Juliet's offer is too much for Romeo to ignore. He rushes out of hiding, saying: I take thee at thy word! Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized; Henceforth I never will be Romeo. (II, ii, 49-51) Juliet is shocked that there's a man in the orchard--wouldn't you be? She's even more shocked that he's been eavesdropping. She doesn't recognize him until he calls her "dear saint". Their conversation immediately points up the differences in their personalities. Juliet asks short, practical questions, and Romeo gives idealistic, flowery replies. But their temperamental differences are complementary. They are both kind, noble people, and they're madly in love. Juliet is embarrassed that Romeo overheard her frank statement of love. She offers to be shier, more coquettish, if he'd like; but she'd rather not, she loves him too much to play silly games. She asks him if he loves her, and he starts to swear that he does; but she stops him and asks him not to swear. Before Romeo can come up with a good answer to this, Juliet suddenly becomes afraid. Although I joy in thee, I have no joy in this contract tonight. It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden; Too like the lightning, which does cease to be Ere one can say it lightens. (II, ii, 116-20) How can we blame the lovers for the tragedy, when Juliet herself wishes their love were less sudden, more conventional? Every step of the way, we see that Romeo and Juliet try their best to do the right and honorable thing. NOTE: Here our sympathy lies with the lovers as they do their best to fight fate. But at the same time, Juliet's image of lightning is the first of several times that their passion will be described as a blinding light that will die instantly. Juliet tries to say goodnight then, but Romeo asks her to stay. He wants more than the vow of love she spoke to herself; he wants her to tell him that she loves him. True to her word, Juliet isn't shy; she declares her love more passionately than she did before. She tells him, My passion is as boundless as the sea My love as deep; The more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite. (II, ii, 133-35) The Nurse calls to Juliet from inside, and the girl hurries in, promising to return. When she does return, she is again the practical one. She comes straight to the point: if his love is honorable and his purpose marriage, he should send word to her of when and where they'll be married, "and all my fortunes at thy foot I'll lay / and follow thee my lord throughout the earth." But if he doesn't mean well, he should tell her right away and leave her to her grief. Romeo is as eager as she is to be married, and he promises he'll have it arranged by nine o'clock that morning. NOTE: Juliet complains that "Tis twenty year till then." The lovers have entered into their own reality. In truth, time speeds by. All of this has happened in one day, and by the end of the next day, much will have changed. Be sure to watch the difference between actual lengths of time, and how time feels to the lovers. Then, like lovers of any time, they can't stand to say good night. Finally they part, but only to make plans to consummate their love. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 1-32 From the passion of the night, we go to the calm of early morning. As the sun rises, we find Friar Lawrence is in his cell (room) preparing to go out and gather "baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers." He's a man who knows herbs and medicines; by his descriptions of the dawn and the dew, he's a man who loves nature. But his view of it is realistic: he knows that the same flower can be used for medicine or poison. After this scene, it will seem natural that the Friar will try to use his knowledge of medicines and potions to help the lovers. Some readers feel that in this speech, Friar Lawrence states the themes of the play. He is aware of paradoxes: The earth that's nature's mother is her tomb. What is her burying grave, that is her womb (II, iii, 9-10) He also understands that everything--including people--have the potential for good or for evil: For naught so vile that on the earth doth live But to the earth some special good doth give; Nor ought so good but, strained from that fair use, Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse. Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied, And vice sometime by action dignified. (II, iii, 17-22) NOTE: How does this apply to the lovers? Are we to think that love, a virtue, can become a sin? Or passion, a sin, can be used for good? Keep these questions in mind through the next few scenes. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 31-94 Before the friar can leave his cell, Romeo calls a greeting. The friar is delighted to see him. He calls Romeo "young son", and means it in a deeper sense than the usual priest-parishioner relationship. The two are very close. Friar Lawrence knows more about Romeo than do his parents. When Romeo admits that he's been up all night, the friar sighs, "God pardon sin! Wast thou with Rosaline?" But Romeo says he has only good news for the friar. He tells him he's forgotten Rosaline, and has been "feasting with mine enemy." When the friar asks him not to speak in riddles, Romeo comes to the point--he loves Juliet and wants the friar to marry them that very day. The friar's instant reaction is an emphatic no. Holy Saint Francis! What a change is here! Is Rosaline, that thou didst love so dear, So soon forsaken? Young men's love then lies Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes. (II, iii, 65-68) By the end of the scene, Friar Lawrence hasn't yet promised to marry them, but he admits that Romeo and Juliet's love could work to bury their families' hatred. Romeo pleads with him to hurriedly help them make plans but Friar Lawrence answers: Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast. (II, iii, 94) This is another warning we know will go unheeded. ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT II, SCENE IV From the quiet church, we go back to the streets. Mercutio and Benvolio are out again, and still looking for Romeo. Benvolio tells Mercutio two choice bits of information: that Romeo didn't come home at all that night, and that Tybalt has sent Romeo a letter challenging him to a duel. Benvolio says he's sure that Romeo will accept Tybalt's challenge. Mercutio bets he won't--Romeo's as good as dead already, "run through the ear with a love song." Tybalt is an expert swordsman, he adds, and Romeo's in no state to take him on. This is funny to us, because we know that Romeo doesn't care about Rosaline anymore. But we also feel the danger, because we know that Tybalt's threat is nothing to take lightly. NOTE: Have you ever had two good friends who had nothing, besides you, in common? Benvolio and Mercutio are like that. They're an odd couple when Romeo isn't around. Mercutio uses his own witty descriptions of Tybalt to launch into more punning and wordplay. Unlike Romeo, Benvolio is no match for Mercutio's wit; in fact, he doesn't even try to be. Mercutio's in fine form; he makes fun of everything that comes to mind. He's obviously well-educated, and knows French. He uses this to make fun of people who, putting on airs, throw around French phrases. This would be funny to people in Shakespeare's audience, because English people were as likely to show their snobbishness by speaking French as Italian people (like Mercutio) were. Romeo enters in the middle of one of Mercutio's tirades. Pretending not to notice him, Mercutio lists many of history's great lovers, and claims that they all seem like prostitutes next to Rosaline. But Romeo's not only his old self again, he's his new self as well, and more than Mercutio's match at wordgames. Mercutio is so surprised at the change in Romeo, that at one point he cries, "Come between us, good Benvolio, my wits faints!" Again in the middle of a joke comes a grim foreshadowing of what will come. Mercutio is thrilled to have his old friend back. He exclaims Why, is this not better than groaning for love? Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo. (II, iv, 92-94) NOTE: In this scene, we see how much the two friends care about each other. This friendship will be important to the action of the play. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 106-67 The young men soon turn from making fun of each other to making fun of others. Romeo spies an old servant-woman all dressed up and trying to act ladylike. She's wearing a very noticeable hat, too, for as soon as Romeo sees her, he shouts, "A sail! A sail!" He doesn't recognize her as Juliet's nurse, and before he does, Mercutio takes over. The Nurse has some wit and an earthy humor, but she's no match for Mercutio's intelligence. The more she tries to act upper-class the worse it gets. Mercutio pretends to go along with her, then cracks racy jokes at her expense. The final insult is that Peter, the Nurse's servant, thinks it's funny, too. She finally says she's looking for Romeo. Romeo sends Mercutio and Benvolio away, promising to join them for supper. The Nurse is still furious with Mercutio, but Romeo assures her that he's only, "a gentleman, nurse, who loves to hear himself talk." ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 168-222 Romeo finally calms the Nurse, but she remains defensive and protective of Juliet. She warns Romeo that he'd better not lead her into a "fool's paradise." As soon as Romeo begins to speak, the Nurse is won over. Once he tells her the plan, the Nurse is her old self. After a good chat, Romeo and the Nurse go their separate ways. ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT II, SCENE V While the Nurse is meeting with Romeo, Juliet waits at home. She's very impatient--and who wouldn't be? Haven't you had an evening that was so wonderful that the next morning, you wondered if the whole thing was a dream? This is how Juliet feels. She won't know until the Nurse returns if last night was too good to be true--or if this is her wedding day. Finally the Nurse returns. She has the news Juliet's been waiting for, but she isn't telling. Instead, she teases Juliet, acting sad, complaining of her aching bones and shortage of breath. The more Juliet pleads, the more the Nurse teases her. We get the feeling that the Nurse has done this to Juliet before. It might have been a funny game when Juliet was little, but now that she needs important information, the Nurse's prattle seems thoughtless and cruel. NOTE: We begin to notice that the whole play revolves around messages, and that the two lovers depend on the message-bearers. If Juliet has this much trouble with the Nurse this early, can we be sure that later messages will reach their destinations? Yet the Nurse really does care for Juliet. She finally tells her the happy news: Juliet should go to the friar's cell, for "there stays a husband to make you a wife." The Nurse will keep the lovers' secret and get the rope-ladder (which Romeo will climb to Juliet's balcony) so the couple can spend their wedding night together. ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT II, SCENE VI A little while later, Friar Lawrence and Romeo are waiting in the Friar's cell. Romeo says something that sounds odd, coming from a bridegroom: Do thou but close our hands with holy words, Then love-devouring death do what he dare- It is enough I may but call her mine. (II, vi, 6-8) He's still responding, perhaps subconsciously, to his earlier fear that he's about to die. Does he really mean that if they're married, he's won, even over death? If those are his terms for victory, have the lovers "won" at the end of the play? The Friar, doing his religious duty, restates the church's warning about their passion: These violent delights have violent ends And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, Which, as they kiss, consume. (II, vi, 9-11) Again, the lovers' passion is compared to a brilliant light that goes out as soon as it's lit. But when Juliet enters, the Friar can't help but admire her, almost as much as Romeo does. Romeo and Juliet are so thrilled just to be together that getting married almost seems an added attraction. But the Friar nonetheless recognizes the depth of their passion. He decides he'd better get them married before he leaves them alone, so that their physical relationship will be holy. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 1-35 Act III opens with Benvolio and Mercutio out on the street again, but their tone has changed. Benvolio begs Mercutio, "let's retire... For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring." Mercutio blames Benvolio for being hot-headed and looking for a fight. The irony is that everything for which Mercutio blames Benvolio is actually true of Mercutio. Their banter is still funny, but it has dangerous overtones. Mercutio says that if there were two hotheaded people out, soon there would be none, for they'd kill each other. Benvolio says that the life expectancy of someone in Mercutio's fighting mood is an hour and a quarter. As insults between friends, these lines are funny. Unfortunately, they're going to come true. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 36-138 As if on cue, Tybalt enters, looking for Romeo. Mercutio insults him and goads him to fight; the only reason that Tybalt won't fight Mercutio is that he's still obsessed with the "injury" that Romeo's done to his family. Just then, Romeo comes in, fresh from his wedding. Tybalt is thrilled; but try as he might, Tybalt can't get Romeo to fight. Romeo doesn't pay any attention to his insults; instead he calls him "cousin," and says he holds the name Capulet as dear as his own. The feud might have ended right there, and the lovers could have lived happily ever after. But Mercutio is there, and he's appalled at Romeo's actions. He calls "O, calm, dishonorable, vile submission!" and takes up Tybalt's challenge himself. We, like Romeo, want to part the two hot-tempered fighters. But just as Romeo runs between them, Tybalt stabs Mercutio, then runs off. This is the turning point of the play: the comedy has turned irrevocably to tragedy. Mercutio's friends don't realize how badly he's hurt. True to form, Mercutio's making puns. But then he asks Romeo, "Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm." All that Romeo can answer is, "I thought all for the best." Romeo's good intentions aren't enough; Mercutio dies, cursing the Montagues and Capulets. Now Romeo has a reason to fight the Capulets. One of his best friends is dead, and he feels that it's his fault. All of us know, don't we, how bad we feel when we inadvertently hurt one of our best friends. Can you imagine how terrible you'd feel if your best friend accidentally died because of something you'd done? Would the old Romeo have let this happen? Romeo doesn't know; he's overcome with guilt and grief. He wonders if his love for Juliet has made him effeminate, taken away his courage. By the time Tybalt returns, Romeo has forgotten his feelings of love, and has given in to hate. He yells, "fire-eyed fury be my conduct now!" and tells Tybalt that one of them must join Mercutio. It's a fight to the death, but the furious Romeo manages to kill the sword-skilled Tybalt. Benvolio, as always thinking clearly, urges Romeo to flee, as fighting in the streets carries the death penalty. A crowd is forming. Only then, does Romeo realize the consequences of his rash action, crying, "O, I am fortune's fool!" before he's hurried away. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 139-99 The Prince comes to the scene, and so do the Montagues and Capulets. Benvolio stays to give a fair, unbiased account of the fight. Lady Capulet is anguished over Tybalt's death; she claims Benvolio is lying and demands that Romeo be killed. Instead, the Prince banishes Romeo from Verona, "else when he is found, that hour is his last." The Prince is outraged that one of his relatives has been killed in the Capulet-Montague feud. He fines both families heavily. He's let them off too easily in the past, he says, and this fight proves that "Mercy but murders, pardoning those that kill." ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 1-31 Juliet's in the Capulets' orchard. Completely unaware of what's happened, she's busy making plans for her wedding-night. Losing her virginity is a serious thing to Juliet, but she's more than ready to sleep with Romeo. NOTE: Again, we see that Romeo represents light to her. He is her "day in night," and she fantasizes that when he dies, Romeo could be cut up into stars and put in the sky. Then everyone could be in love with night. Here, we get a glimpse of a young girl growing up. She will soon be a matron herself, but as yet, she is "an impatient child that hath new robes / and may not wear them." ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 32-143 The Nurse arrives with news of the fight. As she did earlier that morning, she wrings her hands, and looks sad; again Juliet pleads for the news. This time, the Nurse garbles the message, leading Juliet to believe first that Romeo has been killed, then that Romeo has committed suicide; then that Romeo and Tybalt are both dead, and finally that Romeo has killed Tybalt. Juliet is stunned. She can't believe Tybalt is dead, and she calls Romeo "a damned saint and an honorable villain." But when the Nurse cries, "Shame come to Romeo!" Juliet jumps to his defense. She knew of Tybalt's temper, and says "that villain cousin would have killed my husband." Her loyalty is no longer with her family, but with her husband. She cries that Romeo's banishment is worse than 10,000 slain Tybalts: "Romeo is banished"--to speak that word Is father, mother, Tybalt, Romeo, Juliet, All slain, all dead. (III, ii, 123-24) Juliet then says this means that she is married to the death; we know that this is truer than she realizes. The Nurse finally tells Juliet the news she should have told her at the beginning: Romeo is hiding in Friar Lawrence's cell, and can come to her that night. Juliet gives the Nurse one of her rings to give to Romeo, and sends her off right away. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 1-78 If we were watching a movie, we might see a fade-out on Juliet crying "banished," and a fade-in on Romeo crying the same thing. He's in Friar Lawrence's cell, and the Friar has just told him of the Prince's judgment. The Friar is very relieved that Romeo isn't condemned to death, and he's confident that eventually things will work out. But Romeo can see no future for himself: to be separated from Juliet is unthinkable to him. In another foreshadowing, he asks for poison or a knife with which to kill himself. Friar Lawrence tries to calm Romeo with philosophy and common sense, but Romeo cries, "Hang philosophy!" The Friar accuses Romeo of acting like a madman; Romeo accuses the Friar of not understanding the situation or his feelings. But does that mean he shouldn't take any of Lawrence's advise? By the time there's a knocking at the door, Romeo even refuses to hide. He'd rather be killed. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 79-175 Fortunately, the intruder is Juliet's Nurse. She tells the Friar that Juliet is acting as childishly as Romeo. She orders Romeo to stand up and act like a man, then tells him Juliet's weeping, first calling for Tybalt, then for Romeo. Romeo's filled with guilt, thinking he's responsible for Juliet's suffering. He grabs his dagger to kill himself, but the Nurse pulls it away. This threat finally provokes Friar Lawrence to action. Not only does he love Romeo dearly, but the Church sees suicide as a mortal sin. He commands Romeo to "hold thy desperate hand," and act like a man. "Thy tears are womanish," he accuses, "thy wild acts denote the unreasonable fury of a beast." He tells Romeo to think of others beside himself, and to keep his mood in check. In yet another foreshadowing he asks: Hast thou slain Tybalt? Will thou slay thyself? And slay thy lady that in thy life lives By doing damned hate upon thyself? (III, iii, 116-18) He also warns that Romeo's present mood is likely to cause a catastrophe that can be easily avoided. Knowing what we know, we want to add our support to these warnings. The friar goes a little overboard in saying that "a pack of blessings light upon thy back," but he points out three reasons that Romeo should be grateful: 1) "Juliet is alive;" 2) "Tybalt would kill thee, but thou slewest Tybalt," and 3) "The law, threatened death, becomes thy friend and turns it to exile." Friar Lawrence then lays out the plan of action: Romeo will spend the night with Juliet, sneak out of Verona before dawn and go to Mantua; then Friar Lawrence, after having their marriage recognized, will call him back. The thought of seeing Juliet revives Romeo completely. Friar Lawrence and Romeo say loving goodbyes to one other; unknown to them, it's their final farewell. ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT III, SCENE IV A few hours later, we're back at the Capulets' house, where Lord and Lady Capulet are saying good night to Count Paris. Why are we back with them? What do they have to do with the lovers? Paris has come to see Juliet, but her father explains that she's grief-stricken at Tybalt's death. Because Juliet's mourning, her parents haven't been able to ask her how she feels about Paris. Paris is a thoughtful young man, and he understands completely. He sends his best regards to Juliet and starts to leave. We can't really help but like Paris; he obviously loves Juliet very much. He's a good man, he's just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fate seems to be playing with him as much as it is with Romeo and Juliet. As Paris is leaving, Lord Capulet is suddenly convinced that Juliet will obey his wishes in this matter. To him, Juliet and Paris' eventual marriage is certain, and he calls Paris "son;" He now decides to assuage Juliet's grief by setting their wedding for that very week. It's still Monday (and what a day--it's included marriage, death, and banishment!) so Wednesday is too soon--they'll be married on Thursday. Capulet asks Paris if this is all right--since the family is mourning for Tybalt, it will be a small wedding. (This would be a sacrifice since someone of Paris' stature would expect to have a huge wedding celebration.) Paris loves Juliet so much that he agrees instantly. Suddenly, Paris is a very real threat to the lovers. Juliet's second wedding is only two days away. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 1-64 While Lord Capulet is making arrangements for Juliet's marriage to Paris, Juliet is secretly in her bedroom with Romeo. In contrast to the quick, businesslike scene with Paris, the two lovers revel in each other's presence as if life and time were theirs to command. They speak tenderly to each other, and their language is beautiful and mature. We can see that their love has never been deeper. Romeo says it's near day and he has to leave for Mantua, but Juliet begs him to stay. Overcome with the joy of being with her, Romeo throws caution to the wind. Then Juliet realizes it really is near day, and he really is in danger, and she begs him to go quickly. It seems that even nature is working against them: light and day, which used to be their friend, is now their enemy: Juliet. O, now be gone! More light and light it grows. Romeo. More light and light--more dark and dark our woes. (III, v, 35-36) NOTE: In the prologue to Act II, time was their friend and helped them meet in secret. But now time, too, is keeping them apart. Juliet says I must hear from thee every day in the hour For in a minute there are many days. O, by this count I shall be much in years Ere I again behold my Romeo! (III, v, 44-47) This also contrasts the lovers' sense of how time can stretch and seem longer, to the condensed time that is catching up with them and starting to crush them. The two days they've known each other have seemed long because so much has happened. But from now on, time is going to rush by, pushing them from one tragedy to another. As Romeo finally drops to the ground from Juliet's window, she has a terrible feeling of foreboding: she thinks she sees Romeo, not on the ground, but "as one dead in the bottom of a tomb." Romeo says that his grief makes her look the same way to him. As Romeo leaves, Juliet pleads to Fortune to send him back to her quickly. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 65-126 The Nurse warns Juliet that her mother is coming, and Juliet's startled--it's well before dawn. When Lady Capulet finds Juliet crying, she assumes Juliet's grief is for Tybalt. She tells her daughter that she's carrying it too far; tears can't bring Tybalt back. The real tragedy, she says, is that Tybalt's murderer is still alive. Lady Capulet's dearest wish is to send someone to Mantua to poison Romeo. Through their whole conversation, Juliet talks in double meanings. To her mother it sounds like she mourns for Tybalt and hates Romeo; but we know she means just the opposite. Does her talk, with hidden meaning, show her new maturity and her ability to hide her feelings? Or does she speak childishly and contribute to her own sense of loneliness? In either case, we feel strongly that the lovers are alone against the world. NOTE: Throughout the story, plot turnarounds have happened fairly quickly. Romeo turned quickly from loving Rosaline to loving Juliet; the couple's wedding soon turned into horror at the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt. Now events and turnarounds start happening so fast that characters have to make instant decisions and think on their feet. Lady Capulet says she has happy news for Juliet: she will marry Paris on Thursday. The mother seems genuinely happy for her daughter: Paris is gallant, young and noble--everything her own husband is not. NOTE: Was there ever a time when your parents worked hard on a surprise for you--but it was something you didn't want? Do you remember the anger and hurt on both sides? This is part of what's happening here with the Capulets--but the stakes are very high. Juliet angrily refuses to marry Paris. Why should she marry someone who hasn't even wooed her? She swears by the saints she won't marry anyone, and if she does it will more likely be Romeo, whom her parents hate, than Paris. She ends with an emphatic "These are news indeed!", roughly equivalent to: "So what do you think about that!" Lady Capulet knows better than to get caught between her daughter's temper and her husband's. She tells Juliet, "Here comes your father. Tell him so yourself / and see how he will take it at your hands." ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 127-244 It's obvious that Juliet doesn't want to marry Paris. But, instead of trying to find out why and counsel her, her parents angrily disown her. When her father and her Nurse arrive at her bedroom, her father asks Lady Capulet if she's given Juliet the news. She answers with another bit of foreshadowing: Ay sir; but she will none, she gives you thanks. I would the fool were married to her grave! (III, v, 139-41) Lord Capulet explodes with anger that Juliet should cross him this way. Lady Capulet tries to bring him to his senses, telling him he's acting crazy; but in the end, only the Nurse stands up for Juliet. Still nothing calms her father down. He yells that his whole life has been devoted to finding Juliet a worthy match; and now that he's found the best one possible, she refuses, whining like a fool. He lays down a final ultimatum: if she doesn't marry Paris on Thursday, she can Hang, beg, starve, die in the streets, For, by my soul, I'll ne'er acknowledge thee. (III, v, 194-95) Juliet turns to her mother one last time: "O sweet my mother, cast me not away! Delay this marriage for a month, a week." But it's no use. Her mother says, "Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee." Deserted by her parents, Juliet turns to her faithful Nurse for advice. The Nurse's advice is simple--forget Romeo and marry Paris. Paris is so fine, she says, that Romeo's a dishcloth in comparison. Juliet is shocked. "Speakest thou from your heart?" she asks. Juliet has a serious problem. Legally, morally, and in her heart she is already married. Instead of offering a solution for her problem, the Nurse suggests that she ignore it, pretend it hadn't happened, and start again. This is the worst betrayal of all. Juliet still hides her feelings, and tells the Nurse that she has comforted her "marvellous much." But she cuts the final cord to her childhood. Alone, Juliet says of her Nurse, "Thou and my bosom henceforth shall be twain." The girl has only one hope left--Friar Lawrence. She resolves to go to church to confess displeasing her father. At this point, Juliet has taken responsibility for her own fate. "If all else fail, myself have power to die," she pledges. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 1-43 We find ourselves at Lawrence's cell before Juliet's arrival. Of all people, Paris is with the friar, having come to make plans for his wedding. Friar Lawrence tries to stall him, but we soon realize that he isn't going to disclose the true situation, to Paris, or anyone else. Is this courageous or cowardly? We'll wonder about the friar's courage more in the coming scenes. Juliet comes running in, and both she and Paris are surprised to see each other. It's plain to see that Paris really loves Juliet. He speaks tenderly to her, and is concerned that she's grieving. When he asks hopefully for a sign of love from her, we can't help but feel sorry for him. Juliet again talks in circles giving Paris answers that could mean several things. Although she hides her feelings, her tension shows, She abruptly interrupts her talk with Paris to ask the Friar if he can see her right away, or if she should come back. The Friar sends Paris away so that he might counsel Juliet privately. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 44-126 Once they're alone in the friar's cell, Juliet drops her defenses and cries: O shut the door, and when thou hast done so, Come weep with me--past hope, past care, past help! (IV, i, 44-45) Lawrence tells her he knows of her dilemma, but "It strains me past the compass of my wits." Juliet begs his help. She says God joined her heart to Romeo's, and the Friar joined their hands in marriage. She'd rather kill herself, she declares, than marry someone other than Romeo. The Friar has to think fast, and the plan he comes up with is a desperate one. They have to stop the marriage, and to do so, they must buy time. Juliet is ready to agree to anything: love and desperation have made her strong. The Friar lays out his plan. Juliet should go home, ask forgiveness, and agree to marry Paris. The next night, before her wedding, she should make sure she's alone. Then she should drink a drug the Friar will give her. It will make her seem dead for forty-two hours. She'll be placed in the tomb, and he'll send a letter to Romeo. When she wakes up, Romeo will be there to take her to Mantua, where they can live as husband and wife. The Friar will work to have Romeo pardoned and their marriage recognized. Thankfully, Juliet agrees to the plan. ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT IV, SCENE II Meanwhile, the Capulets are at home making plans for the wedding. Even though Lord Capulet told Paris it would have to be a small affair, he has the servants bustling, and twenty cooks are on the way. When Juliet returns, she falls at her father's feet to beg his forgiveness. Does she play her part well, or does she overact? In either case, her father makes another snap decision. He moves the wedding closer by one day, to the very next morning. NOTE: Time is really becoming an enemy to the lovers. There isn't time now for Romeo to receive the Friar's second message. Surprisingly, Lady Capulet objects to this decision. Her emotional plea makes us wonder if she doesn't remember her own fears and sadness about marriage. Her excuse is if the wedding is moved forward they'll be short of food. But her husband isn't convinced. Lady Capulet and the Nurse go to help Juliet pack and prepare for her wedding. Lord Capulet decides to go and tell Paris himself. Now that Juliet has agreed to the wedding, he says, "My heart is wondrous light." He cares enough about Juliet that her refusal bothered him; but he didn't care enough to listen to her objections and delay--or even alter--his plans. ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT IV, SCENE III The women go to Juliet's bedroom. Juliet sends the Nurse and her mother away so she can pray. Again we feel that Lady Capulet has a genuine empathy for her daughter's feelings. As soon as they've left, Juliet has second thoughts. She wants to be a child again; to call them back to comfort her, but she realizes, "My dismal scene I needs must act alone." This painful part of growing up is something all of us can relate to. She takes out the drug, and by her speech we know how far she is from the innocent young girl she was at the beginning of the play. Then the world was full of hope and promise for her; now she dearly sees the power and threat of evil. She wonders about the consequences of taking the drug: --what if the Friar, not wanting anyone to find out he'd married them, gave her poison? --what if she wakes up in the tomb by herself and suffocates? --what if she wakes up in the tomb, and she's so terrified by the bodies and the spirits that she goes crazy? She might even dash her brains out with some kinsman's bone. Her courage and love prevail, however, and she downs the Friar's drug. ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT IV, SCENE IV It's three o'clock in the morning. While Juliet lies seemingly dead in her room, the rest of the house is busy. Lord Capulet is checking on all of the food preparations. He's having a good time ordering everyone around, but the Nurse orders him to go to bed. She tells him he'll be sick in the morning if he stays up all night. Lord Capulet laughs that he's stayed up for less important things and it's never bothered him. Lady Capulet throws in that they are all aware that he used to be a ladies' man. Capulet starts making jolly puns with the servants, and tells them that Paris is bringing the musicians. As he says that, they hear music outside, and Capulet jumps to life. Paris is coming! He tells the Nurse to run and wake Juliet. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 1-95 The time has come for the bride to prepare for her wedding. The Nurse, excited and talking a mile a minute, hurries to Juliet's bedroom to awaken her. If we didn't know the truth, the Nurse's happiness might be contagious. She hasn't the slightest reservation about preparing Juliet for a bigamous marriage. She calls the girl by many pet names to wake her up. When there's no movement from Juliet, she calls her a "slugabed," but then jokingly says it's a good idea for Juliet to get some sleep now, because Paris surely has other plans for her nights. When there's still no movement, she opens the curtains around the bed, and discovers that Juliet is "dead." Lady Capulet, Lord Capulet, Count Paris and Friar Lawrence rush to Juliet's room, and each mourns her in his or her own way. Lady Capulet shows how much Juliet really meant to her: O me, o me, my child and only life! Revive, look up, or I will die with thee! (IV, v, 19-20) Lord Capulet mourns for himself as well as his Juliet: Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir; My daughter he hath wedded. I will die And leave him all. Life, living, all is Death's. (IV, v, 38-40) Paris feels a terrible sense of loss: Beguiled, divorced, wronged, spited, slain! Most detestable Death, by thee beguiled, By cruel, cruel thee quite overthrown. (IV, v, 55-57) Friar Lawrence is in a difficult position. He knows she isn't dead, and that she will hopefully be returned to them. Since he can't comfort them with this, he comforts them with their religious beliefs. They should be happy for her: For 'twas your heaven she should be advanced; And weep ye now, seeing she is advanced Above the clouds, as high as heaven itself? (IV, v, 73-75) He shows some anger at Juliet's parents who have partly caused this trouble. The Capulets' day of joy becomes a day of mourning. Everything they had prepared for the wedding will be used instead for the funeral. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 96-147 Following Juliet's tragic "death," we have a comparatively light passage. Peter, the Nurse's servant, finds the musicians who had come to play for the wedding. He asks them to play a song called "Heart's Ease" to comfort him because his heart is full of grief. To cheer himself up, he teases the musicians with bad puns, and they answer with silly jokes. The scene is comic, but the underlying tone is tragic. ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT V, SCENE I Romeo's in Mantua, and in a good mood. Throughout the play, he's had foreboding dreams that have come true. But finally, he's had a happy one, and he's sure that good news is on the way. This dream is sadly ironic to us: I dreamt my lady came and found me dead . . . And breathed such life with kisses in my lips That I revived and was an emperor. (V, i, 6, 8-9) His servant Balthasar enters, having ridden at full speed from Verona. He tells Romeo that Juliet is dead. He saw her buried in Capulet's tomb and came right away to tell his master. Romeo immediately cries, "Then I defy you, stars!" and leaps into action. Sadly, by defying the stars, he is still fortune's fool. If he had waited a day, an hour, even a few more minutes to go to Capulet's tomb, he would have found his Juliet alive. Balthasar puts our thoughts into words and begs Romeo to have patience. He's very worried--Romeo's "looks are wild and pale and do import some misadventure." But Romeo doesn't pay any attention. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 35-86 Romeo sends Balthasar to get fresh horses for both of them. Alone, he states his purpose: "Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight." This connects the ideas of death, sex, and marriage. Romeo has decided to kill himself, but how? Selling poison is against the law, and punishable by death. But Romeo remembers a very poor apothecary (druggist) who looks desperate enough to secretly sell him some. He goes to find the man at once. He asks for a poison that will kill him, "as violently as hasty powder fired / doth hurry from the cannon's fatal womb." The image of gunpowder has been linked to the lovers' passion up until now. By using it to refer to death, Romeo links the lovers' passion to their death. We see that this once hopeful young man has become tired of the world. He gives the apothecary the money, saying: There is thy gold, worse poison to men's souls, Doing more murders in this loathsome world Than these poor compounds that thou mayest not sell. (V, i, 80-82) ROMEO AND JULIET: ACT V, SCENE II From Mantua, we return to Friar Lawrence's cell, where his fellow monk, Friar John, has hurried in to see him. This scene has three purposes: 1. To tell us why Romeo didn't get the letter. Lawrence had given the letter about Juliet's pretended death to Friar John, who was going to Mantua. John had gone to find another monk to travel with him, but the other monk had been working with plague victims and the authorities quarantined both of them. This explanation might seem unlikely to us, but in Shakespeare's day, the plague was an ever-present threat and quarantines weren't unusual. 2. To give us the feeling that fate (or Providence) was working against the lovers. Look at the string of coincidences. The letter would have arrived safely: if Friar Lawrence had asked someone else to deliver it; if John hadn't decided to ask his friend to travel with him; if his friend hadn't been tending the sick; if the authorities hadn't arrived just as the monks were leaving; if the marriage hadn't been moved ahead by a day. 3. To show us that time is closing in. There are only three hours left until Juliet will awake. NOTE: Some readers find some internal inconsistencies in this play. For example, earlier, Juliet tells the Nurse she's praised Romeo thousands of times, when she's only known him a day. Here, the Friar worries that Juliet will be angry with him because Romeo doesn't know yet of their plans. Even if the letter had gotten through, they say, the marriage had originally been planned for a later day, and Romeo wouldn't have known to come yet. Other readers assume that Friar Lawrence simply means that Juliet will be upset that Romeo hasn't heard about anything that's happened. He runs to be there when she wakes up, so he can hide her in his cell until Romeo comes. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 1-73 Finally it's night, and we find ourselves in the graveyard by Capulet's tomb. Someone comes, but again we're caught off guard: we expect Romeo, but it's Paris. This is final proof that Paris really did love Juliet. He's brought flowers and perfumed water to sprinkle on her body; he vows to come secretly every night to mourn for her. No sooner has he vowed this then he hears a signal from his servant that someone's coming. Paris hides, and Romeo enters the cemetery with Balthasar. Romeo is very upset, but has the presence to ask Balthasar three things: 1) to give him the crowbar they've brought; 2) to give his father, Lord Montague, a letter; and 3) not to disturb him when he enters the tomb. As rationally as possible, Romeo is putting his affairs in order. But he warns Balthasar: But if thou, jealous, does return to pry In what I farther shall intend to do, By heaven, I will tear thee joint by joint, And strew this hungry churchyard with thy limbs. (V, iii, 33-36) Balthasar is shocked and worried to hear Romeo talk like this, and he promises he won't disturb him. Once he's satisfied that no one will bother him, Romeo takes time to be kind and considerate to Balthasar. He tells him to "live, and be prosperous," gives him money, and calls him "friend" instead of "servant." Balthasar sees that Romeo is still desperate. He decides to stay and hide in the churchyard. Romeo takes the crowbar and goes to force open the door to the Capulets' tomb. By this time, Paris has recognized him. This is Romeo, he thinks, who killed Tybalt, and it was grief for Tybalt that killed Juliet. Paris is furious: he assumes that the criminal who caused Juliet's death has returned to defile the Capulets' tomb. Boldly, Paris rushes out of hiding to arrest Romeo for returning to Verona. Paris is determined that Romeo won't enter the tomb; Romeo is more determined that he will. But he doesn't want to hurt Paris, and he begs him to leave. But these two "gentle youths" have been forced into a position where they are mortal enemies. Paris is so enraged that he demands a fight; Romeo is so determined to carry out his plan that he lets nothing stand in his way. They draw swords, and Romeo kills Paris. Paris' last words are simple and moving: O, I am slain! If thou be merciful Open the tomb, lay me with Juliet. (V, iii, 72-73) NOTE: Again we feel time closing in: as soon as the fight started, Paris' servant ran off to call the watchmen. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 75-120 It's so dark that Romeo didn't know who he was fighting. Now, by torchlight, he sees that it was Paris--Mercutio's relative. Romeo thinks he remembers Balthasar telling him that Paris was supposed to marry Juliet, but he's so overwrought he's no longer sure. Even now, Romeo isn't selfish. He gives his rival due honor: he buries Paris near Juliet, and curses Fate that frowned on Paris as well as on the lovers. He calls Paris, "one writ with me in sour misfortune's book," and promises, "I'll bury thee in a triumphant grave." Then Romeo sees Juliet, and forgets everything else. As he looks at her he speaks the final irony: O, my love, my wife! Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath, Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty. Thou art not conquered. (V, iii, 92-94) You're right! we want to tell him, Death hasn't conquered her! Another sad thing about these tender words is that they're so beautiful. Romeo is inspired in Juliet's presence, but he's about to remove himself from her forever. Before he starts his final farewell, he sees Tybalt, also buried in the family vault. A gentleman until the end, Romeo begs forgiveness of Tybalt, and promises that he'll kill himself to avenge Tybalt's death. But Romeo can't keep his eyes off Juliet. Other characters in the play have treated Death like a real person, and suddenly Romeo wonders if Death is in love with Juliet, and keeping her beautiful for himself. He makes his final farewell--a last look, a last hug, a last kiss. He raises the poison and cries, "Here's to my love!" This echoes Juliet when she drank the Friar's potion. Neither is able to do it for him or herself, but they have courage to do it for the other. The poison is strong, and he dies instantly. Time has finally closed in on them. If he had waited only a few minutes, they could have lived. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 121-70 Too late, Friar Lawrence hurries to the tomb so he'll be there when Juliet wakes up. He's afraid that something's wrong: someone else is in the graveyard and there's a torch in Capulet's tomb. The person he runs into is Balthasar. He tells the Friar that Romeo, "one that you love," is in the tomb, and has been for half an hour. Balthasar remembers Romeo's threats and refuses to go to the tomb with Lawrence. He adds, "I dreamt my master and another fought / And that my master slew him." Even though the Friar is afraid, he runs to the tomb. There, he finds bloody swords, and the dead bodies of Romeo and Paris. Before he has time to gather his wits, Juliet wakes up and starts asking for Romeo. Friar Lawrence hears someone coming, and is overcome by guilt and fear. He feels he has to get out of there--after all, there are two dead bodies, and he's partly responsible. He tries to get Juliet to flee with him: he tells her that "a greater power than we can contradict / hath thwarted our intents." (What power does he mean? Would a priest say that the "higher power" was God? Or fate?) When that doesn't work, he tells her that Romeo and Paris are dead, but he'll see to it that she is put in a nunnery. When Juliet says she won't come with him, he feels forced to flee by himself. Juliet is thinking clearly. She tells the friar to go, then she goes to Romeo. She sees that he's died of poison, and she kisses his lips, hoping that there will be enough poison there to kill her. She discovers that his lips are still warm--she missed him by minutes. The watchman is coming, so she acts fast: she grabs Romeo's dagger, and stabs herself through the heart. NOTE: Here we see Juliet left absolutely alone. She is abandoned by Friar Lawrence, her only friend; and, unwittingly, by Romeo. Through the scene, she talks to Romeo as if he were still present, and kills herself as if it's the only way to join him again. ROMEO AND JULIET: LINES 171-310 Paris' page arrives with the guards, and the Chief Watchman begins the investigation. After finding Paris and Romeo dead and Juliet "bleeding, warm, and newly dead," he sends guards to arrest anyone in the cemetery. He sends others to get the Prince, the Montagues, and the Capulets. Meanwhile, the cemetery guards return with Balthasar and Friar Lawrence. Prince Escalus is the first to arrive, and he takes over the investigation. The Capulets arrive next, and are shocked to see Juliet newly dead. Lord Montague comes in, already mourning: his wife has died of grief over Romeo's banishment. Now he has the added anguish of his son's death. The Prince seals the tomb until he can find out what's happened. Three people come forward to piece together the story: Friar Lawrence has the courage to tell all, even if the truth condemns him. He tells of the secret marriage, Juliet's potion, and the letter of Romeo that went astray. He says he found Juliet in the tomb and told her to bear this "work of heaven" with patience, but then he panicked and fled. The Friar throws himself on the mercy of the law, and the Prince pardons him. Balthasar says that he told Romeo of Juliet's "death", and gives Lord Montague Romeo's letter. This confirms what Lawrence and Balthasar have said. The letter also explains how Romeo bought poison and came to the vault to die with Juliet. Paris' Page adds that his master had come to mourn for Juliet. He saw Romeo come, and Paris draw his sword. So the whole story is made public. Prince Escalus pronounces that heaven has already sentenced these enemies: "See what a scourge is laid upon your hate / That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love." The Capulets have lost Juliet and Tybalt; the Montagues, Romeo and Lady Montague. The Prince has also lost two relatives: Mercutio (a good friend of the Montagues) and Paris (who would have married into the Capulets). In the midst of their grief, the two families are reunited. Lord Capulet takes Lord Montague's hand. He says this friendship is Juliet's marriage dowry. Lord Montague says he'll build a gold statue of Juliet, and Lord Capulet offers to build one of Romeo next to it. The Prince adds, "A glooming peace this morning with it brings / The sun for sorrow will not show his head." Peace has come out of desperate night, but it's not a joyous peace that brings light. Finally, through love, there is an end to the feud, and order is restored. Although some must be punished, some will be pardoned. There will finally be mercy again in Verona. ROMEO AND JULIET: THE PLAY AS COMEDY AND TRAGEDY Romeo and Juliet is in essence a comedy that turns out tragically. That is, it begins with the materials for a comedy--the stupid parental generation, the instant attraction of the young lovers, the quick surface life of street fights, masked balls and comic servants. But this material is blighted. Its gaiety and good fortune are drained away by the fact that the lovers are "star-crossed"... Romeo and Juliet are all ardour and constancy, their families are all hatred and pride; no one's motives are mixed, there are no question marks. After the tragedy the survivors are shocked into dropping their vendetta, and Montague and Capulet are united in grief. Once again, there are no question marks. Nothing made them enemies except the clash of their own wills, and nothing is needed to make them brothers except a change of heart. John Wain, The Living World of Shakespeare, 1964 ROMEO AND JULIET: ON JULIET: The character is indeed one of perfect truth and sweetness. It has nothing forward, nothing coy, nothing affected or coquettish about it; it is a pure effusion of nature. It is as frank as it is modest, for it has no thought that it wishes to conceal. It reposes in conscious innocence on the strength of its affections. Its delicacy does not consist in coldness and reserve, but in combining warmth of imagination and tenderness of heart with the most voluptuous sensibility. Love is a gentle flame that rarefies and expands her whole being. William Hazlitt, Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, 1817 ROMEO AND JULIET: ON ROMEO: Romeo is Hamlet in love. There is the same rich exuberance of passion and sentiment in the one that there is of thought and sentiment in the other. Both are absent and self-involved, both live out of themselves in a world of imagination. Hamlet is abstracted from everything Romeo is abstracted from everything but his love, and lost in it. William Hazlitt, Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, 1817 ROMEO AND JULIET: THE LOVERS' PRIVATE WORLD In their first kiss Romeo and Juliet withdraw into a private world of intimacy, suspending the world's ordinary time and replacing it with the rival time of the imagination. Yet no sooner do they draw apart than they find themselves bound to take heed of the alien public world and its imperatives, of time calculated in days and hours, of love reduced to appetite, happiness to jesting and farce, vitality to violence. Brian Gibbons, Introduction to Romeo and Juliet, 1980 ROMEO AND JULIET: LIGHT AND DARK The dominating image is light, every form and manifestation of it; the sun, moon, stars, fire, lightning, the flash of gunpowder, and the reflected light of beauty and love; while by contrast we have night, darkness, clouds, rain, mist, and smoke. Caroline F. E. Spurgeon, Shakespeare's Imagery and What It Tells Us, 1935 ROMEO AND JULIET: UNAWARENESS More than any other of Shakespeare's plays,--Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy of unawareness. Fate, or Heaven, as the Prince calls it, or the "greater power" as the Friar calls it, working out its purpose without the use of either a human villain or a supernatural agent sent to intervene in mortal affairs, operates through the common human condition of not knowing. Participants in the action, some of them in parts that are minor and seem insignificant, contribute one by one the indispensable stitches which make the pattern, and contribute them not knowing: that is to say, they act when they do not know the truth of the situation in which they act, this truth being known, however, to us who are spectators. Bertrand Evans, "The Brevity of Friar Laurence," 1950 ROMEO AND JULIET: CHARACTER AS FATE It is, of course, in the end a tragedy of mischance. Shakespeare was bound by his story, was doubtless content to be; and how make it otherwise? Nevertheless, we discern his deeper dramatic sense, which was to shape the maturer tragedies, already in revolt. Accidents make good incidents, but tragedy determined by them has no significance. So he sets out, we see, in the shaping of his character to give all likelihood to the outcome. It is by pure ill-luck that Friar John's speed to Mantua is stayed while Balthasar reaches Romeo with the news of Juliet's death; but it is Romeo's headlong recklessness that leaves Friar Laurence no time to retrieve the mistake... character is also fate; it is, at any rate, the more dramatic part of it, and the life of Shakespeare's art is to lie in the manifesting of this. Harley Granville-Barker, Prefaces to Shakespeare, 1947. ROMEO AND JULIET: BALANCE OF GOOD AND EVIL But if we see the ending as purposeful, and as an evocation of the paradoxical good that can spring from a lamented destruction, the simple view of Fate will not satisfy. Nor can we ignore what Shakespeare characteristically stresses in all his tragic drama: the connection between the character of men and the disaster that may befall them... The personification of a hostile Fate or Fortune was a fashionable convention... however, Shakespeare was moving in another direction. His developing vision of a tragic universe was not to be defined by hostile fatality, but by a paradoxical and all too precarious balance of good and evil. Douglas Cole, Modern Criticisms of Romeo and Juliet, 1970 The point of the play--the wonder of the story--is not how such a love can arise out of hatred and then triumph over it in death, but that it does. Elmer Edgar Stoll, Shakespeare's Young Lovers, 1937 THE END