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Act IV, SCENE 3

Summary

On Tuesday night, Juliet dismisses the Nurse, pretending she wants to pray. She also refuses Lady Capulet's help. Juliet, now alone for the night, is filled with misgivings. She picks up the vial containing the drink and worries about the possibility of its failing. Then, she takes up the dagger and puts it down. She thinks over all the possibilities connected with the use of the potion. For a moment, she doubts the integrity of the Friar, but then sets those thoughts aside. Next, she wonders about other horrible possibilities, like her being smothered, or being terrified by darkness, or being surrounded by dead ancestors. She imagines Tybalt's ghost crying for revenge on Romeo. This brings her back to reality. Addressing Romeo, she tells him that she is coming to his rescue. Then, she drinks the potion and falls on her bed without changing her dress.



Notes


It is bedtime on Tuesday night. Juliet dismisses the Nurse from her chamber with the pretext that she wants to be alone to pray. Ironically, she does not pray in this scene, in spite of the task at hand. She is resolved to take the vial of potion, but doubts and fears assail her mind. Suppose the potion does not act and she is forced to be married to Paris the next day. What if the Friar has really given her poison in order to escape from the possibility of marrying her twice. Next, the horrors of the tomb terrify her. She is afraid that the darkness of the vault, the sight of dead bodies, and the horrible smell of the corpses will all drive her mad and make her dash out her brains with the bone of some ancestor. Finally, she imagines that she may encounter Tybalt's ghost crying for revenge on Romeo. At the end of the scene, Juliet tells Romeo that she is coming to his rescue, drinks the potion, and falls down on her bed.

This scene foreshadows the actual experiences of the tomb. Juliet's state of anxiety allows her imagination to run wild, and her language matches her images with verbal excess. It is only her concern for Romeo and their being together that forces her to take the potion.

It is important to note Juliet's continued maturity in this scene. For the first time in the play, she does not take the Nurse into her confidence. She is now brave enough to act totally alone and out of love for Romeo when she drinks the potion.

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Act IV, SCENE 4

Summary

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.

Notes

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.

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Act IV, SCENE 5

Summary

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.

Notes

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.

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