Friar Laurence tells Romeo that the Prince has sentenced him to banishment rather than death. Romeo is distraught because he regards banishment as a form of living death when he cannot be with Juliet. The Friar tries to reason with Romeo, but young Romeo is inconsolable — "with his own tears made drunk." The Nurse arrives and tells Romeo of Juliet's grief. Hearing this, Romeo tries to take his own life, but is prevented by the Nurse. The Friar advises Romeo to go to Juliet that night as he had planned, and then before daybreak, flee to Mantua. The Friar promises to find a way to announce Romeo and Juliet's marriage publicly and thereby gain a pardon for Romeo to return safely.
This scene parallels the previous scene where Juliet reacted to the news of Romeo's banishment with forceful emotion, yet controlled expressions of grief. In contrast, Romeo responds to his banishment with wailing hysteria and a failed suicide attempt. Their reactions show the clear differences between Romeo and Juliet's respective emotional maturity levels. Whereas grief-stricken Juliet lamented her fate, her marriage, and her life, Romeo falls to the floor grappling for a dagger with which to end his suffering. As when he attacked and killed Tybalt, he has little concern for the effect his actions will have on Juliet.
Romeo again rages against the tyranny his name has inflicted on his life. He angrily blames his name for the interfering with his romance with Juliet and wishes to cut from his body that part that houses his name. He distinguishes himself from his identity as a Montague by saying that it was "that name's cursed hand / Murdered her kinsman." The audience, however, readily observes that the effects of fate are amplified by Romeo's own impulsive behavior.
The Friar instantly links Romeo and Juliet's marriage with death when he says that Romeo is "wedded to calamity." The Friar's words echo Juliet's thoughts at the end of the previous scene when she says that Romeo's banishment will be a form of living death. Likewise, Romeo declares "Then banishéd' / Is death, misterm'd." Indeed, throughout the play, Romeo and Juliet are described as being wedded to death — these descriptions not only foreshadow the play's conclusion but also underscore fate as an omnipotent, controlling power that draws the characters inextricably toward their doom.
This scene is also driven by the conflict between the older and younger generations. The Friar chastises Romeo and reminds him of his good fortune that the Prince has commuted his sentence from death to a "gentler judgement" of exile. Although Romeo heretofore sought the wise counsel of Friar Laurence, a holy man of spiritual learning, now that Romeo's situation has grown critical, the Friar's advice is not as well received. The Friar's contemplative work is far removed from the blind passion and emotional torment that Romeo is experiencing. Romeo, in his agitated state, is unable to accept the calm, philosophical reasoning the Friar offers.
As in previous and subsequent scenes, the older generation's failure to comprehend the depth of Romeo and Juliet's passion isolates the lovers from sources of wisdom that might otherwise prevent their tragic fates.
parts attractive qualities.
world's exile Romeo feels exiled from the world.
validity value or worth.
Displant a town transplant a town; that is, do the near-impossible.
Taking the measure of an unmade grave Romeo is lying on the ground in despair.
conceal'd lady Juliet, Romeo's secret wife.
cancell'd love Romeo thinks that his killing Tybalt will render his marriage to Juliet null and void.
sack to plunder or loot.
usurer . . . usest . . . use indeed alliterative puns on "usury" and "use": Romeo is not putting his talents to their proper use.
form of wax not a real man, no more durable than a wax figure.
pouts upon treats with contempt.
blaze proclaim in public.
sojourn to live somewhere temporarily.