Romeo and Juliet By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act III: Scene 5

Summary

At dawn on Tuesday morning, Romeo and Juliet make their final exchanges of love before Romeo leaves for Mantua. The lovers try to resist the coming day that heralds their separation by pretending that it is still night and that the bird they hear is the nightingale and not the lark, a morning bird. However, the ominous threat of the Prince's sentence of death finally forces the lovers to part.

Juliet's mother arrives and, believing that Juliet weeps for Tybalt rather than the departure of Romeo, tries to comfort Juliet with her plan to have Romeo poisoned. Lady Capulet then tells Juliet the happy news that she is to marry Paris on Thursday. Juliet is stunned and tells her mother that she cannot be married in such haste.

Her father enters expecting to find Juliet excited about the wedding he arranged on her behalf. When she expresses opposition, he becomes enraged and demands that Juliet obey his "decree" and prepare to be wed. The Nurse tries to defend Juliet, but to no avail. Capulet threatens to disown his daughter if she continues to oppose him. The scene concludes with the Nurse advising Juliet to obey her father, and Juliet resolves to seek the advice of Friar Laurence.

Analysis

Once again, the dawn divides Romeo and Juliet, this time, for good. As the sun's rays "lace the severing clouds," Juliet wishes the sound of the morning lark were actually the call of the nightingale. Juliet tries to deny the arrival of the coming day to prolong her time with Romeo. Their language is passionate and intense as Romeo agrees to stay and face his death. As in previous scenes, Romeo and Juliet's love flourishes in the dark, but daylight brings separation and ill fortune: Juliet says reluctantly, "window, let day in, and let life out."

As Romeo descends the balcony, Juliet experiences a frightening vision of Romeo "as one dead in the bottom of a tomb." This prophetic image will prove true in the final scene when Juliet awakens from her drug-induced slumber to find Romeo dead on the floor of the Capulet tomb. Once again, images of love and death intertwine, infecting the joy of their wedding night with the foreshadowing of their coming deaths.

Lady Capulet, unaware that Juliet grieves for Romeo's banishment rather than the death of Tybalt, tries to comfort her daughter with her plans to avenge Tybalt's death by poisoning Romeo. The speech is full of dramatic irony since Lady Capulet's hope of poisoning Romeo anticipates the method he chooses to take his own life in the final act of the play. Although Romeo drinks the poison by his own hand, it is the hatred, driven in part by Lady Capulet that gives him cause.

Far from a loving, maternal figure, Lady Capulet is cold and vengeful. She, like Tybalt, is prepared to continue the feud without regard to the authority of the Prince. Lady Capulet is brutally calculating — her venomous ire at Juliet's refusal to marry Paris leads her to say that she wishes "the fool were married to her grave." Once again the image of Juliet's grave as her wedding bed anticipates the lovers' tragic reunion in death. It is as if Lady Capulet, by her single-minded focus on the family feud, condemns her own daughter to her fate.

Juliet's interaction with both her mother and her father in this scene confirms the failure of parental love because their sole concern is with a socially acceptable marriage that will improve the wealth and status of the Capulet family rather than the happiness of their daughter.

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