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The scene opens just before dawn on Tuesday morning, and Romeo and Juliet appear on the balcony of her room. He must leave the city before daylight, and the two are bidding a lingering farewell to each other. Romeo has heard the song of the lark announcing the coming of dawn, but Juliet, hoping to hold her husband awhile longer, insists that it was the nightingale. Romeo then points to the horizon where streaks of light are seen in the east, but she claims that it is a meteor to light him on his way to Mantua in the darkness. He says that he would prefer to die rather than leave her. At the word death, she yields and bids him to go before he is discovered and can escape. As Romeo prepares to depart, the Nurse announces Lady Capulet's arrival. The two lovers exchange final kisses, and Romeo goes down the ladder. Juliet tells him to write to her every hour, and he promises to do so. They part after a very touching farewell.
When Lady Capulet comes in, she scolds Juliet for weeping too long over Tybalt's
death. She then announces that she has good news to cheer Juliet. Her father
has fixed her marriage to Paris for Thursday morning at Saint Peter's Church.
Juliet, shocked by this complication, tells her mother that she refuses to marry
a man who has not even wooed her. When Lady Capulet tells her husband about
Juliet's decision, Capulet cannot believe his ears and confronts his daughter.
He orders her to be ready to go to church on Thursday . When Lady Capulet and
Juliet plead with him, he refuses to listen. He threatens to disinherit her
if she refuses to marry Paris.
This scene, known as the Second Balcony Scene, is of dramatic importance and contains various moods, ranging from the lyric rapture of the lovers to the senile fury of old Capulet. The lovers are together at the window of Juliet's room. It is time for Romeo to depart from his wife and from Verona, for it is nearly dawn on Tuesday morning. In their love and sorrow, they speak in beautiful lyric poetry. It is not easy for them to say good-bye, for they do not know when they will see one another again. The tragedy is that they will never again see each other alive.
Juliet exhibits exquisite tension as she realizes that Romeo must leave her, but begs him to stay. It is appropriate that the time is dawn, which divides the day and the night. The tension is further reflected in the light and dark images that color their speeches. Romeo knows he must immediately depart for "Night's candles are burnt out," and he sees light in the east. Juliet tries to explain it away as a meteor in the darkness. As Romeo finally goes down the ladder, Juliet, with dramatic irony, asks a poignant question: "O think'st thou we shall meet again"? Romeo bravely tries to comfort her. Looking down upon him from her balcony, Juliet utters a totally prophetic line: "O God! I have an ill-divining soul/Methinks I see thee, now thou art below/As one dead in the bottom of a tomb." When the lovers meet next, it will be in a tomb, and Romeo will be dead.
The next part of the scene is in sharp contrast to this quiet, anxious farewell between the two lovers. Both Capulets are vehement as they chastise their daughter when she refuses to marry Paris. They are perplexed and furious over her disobedience. Capulet, whose temper has been shown before, explodes into a violent rage and berates his daughter for her ingratitude. He calls her "young baggage" and "a disobedient wretch" and threatens to disinherit her if she does not obey his commands. The irony is that in her own mind she has already been exiled from her family when Romeo left Verona.
Lady Capulet also shows unexpected cruelty. She makes no attempt to sympathize with her daughter or to understand her feelings. Her wicked nature is seen in her plan to poison Romeo and in her preference to see "Juliet married to her grave" rather than to endure Juliet's disobedience to herself and her husband.
Juliet's next hope of comfort lies with her Nurse. This cautions counselor also fails to give Juliet the solace she needs. The Nurse's hypocritical and treacherous advice to the young bride is to forget Romeo and marry Paris. Juliet realizes that she can no longer trust the Nurse's advice and that she must think and act on her own. Her love for Romeo has rapidly changed her from childish ways to maturity.
Juliet's last hope for comfort is with Friar Lawrence. She plans to go to him
for confession, absolution, and advice. She declares that if the Friar does
not help her to avoid the marriage to Paris, she will kill herself, a foreshadowing
of what is to soon happen.
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