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SCENE SUMMARY AND NOTES
Act IV, Scene 4
It is three o’clock on Wednesday morning. The Capulet family is busy with preparations for the wedding. Capulet rushes in and orders every one to hurry up. Soon the music announcing the arrival of Paris is heard. Capulet goes out to receive him, instructing Nurse to awaken Juliet.
This scene is a short interlude between two serious events; Juliet’s drinking the potion and her supposed death. It gives relief by its hustle, bustle, and hasty preparation for the marriage. This Scene is also full of dramatic irony because the audience knows that Juliet is lying apparently dead, while the family members are engaged in the preparation for her marriage. As Juliet’s body grows cold, life in the Capulet household quickens with servants running all about. The scene ends with Capulet calling, “Make haste, make haste.”
In a typical fashion, Capulet interferes in everything and orders everyone to work faster. The Nurse calls him a meddler and orders him to bed lest he be ill for the wedding. He tells her that he has spent many a night without sleeping. The music announcing the arrival of Paris is heard, and Capulet goes out to receive him.
Once again, the sense of time is very important in this scene. The hurried pace of the marriage preparation for Paris and Juliet parallels the hurried pace of Romeo and Juliet’s meeting and marriage.
Act IV, Scene 5
The nurse enters Juliet’s room to wake her up. She finds her unresponsive and her body cold and stiff. She shouts for Lady Capulet, who quickly arrives with her husband. Juliet’s ‘death’ has left her father incapable of tears. When Friar Lawrence and Paris enter with the musicians, they are told what has happened. Paris joins the others in their mourning. The Friar takes on his role as spiritual guide and bids the family to dry their tears and prepare for the funeral rites.
The scene opens with the Nurse being her common self. Having called Juliet and not receiving a response, she teases Juliet that she will soon be spending lots of time in bed with Paris, but now she needs to arise and make preparations for the wedding. The Nurse then discovers Juliet’s cold body and shrieks with lamentations. Capulet enters with his wife and is perturbed that the Nurse is delaying progress. When he is informed that Juliet is dead, his grief knows no bounds. Usually quick to speak, Lord Capulet can only say, “Death lies on her like untimely frost/upon the sweetest flower.” Friar Lawrence and Paris enter and ask if the bride is ready for the ceremony. Capulet informs Paris that his bride is dead and that now death is his son-in-law. All of them are in tears, cursing the day and accusing death of cheating them.
The Friar, knowing the truth of Juliet’s death, rises to the occasion and takes up his duty as a consoler and spiritual guide. Because the audience also has knowledge of Juliet’s “death,” everything that Friar Lawrence says has a double meaning. He reminds them that what they want for Juliet is eternal happiness, and because of her death she has found it. He advises them to give her a fitting burial. Thus, the marriage preparations ironically become the preparations for a funeral. The Friar who has come to wed Juliet remains to bury her. Only the Friar and the audience know the truth of the situation, and it is important to remember that the Friar’s intentions have all been good; he wants to unite the two families and end the age-old conflict between them.
The Nurse bids the musicians to put their instruments away. Their indifference to the tragedy that has just occurred and the humor of the servant Peter serves to relieve some of the tension that has built in the play.