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

Summary

The scene opens early on Wednesday morning. The Nurse enters Juliet's room and discovers her seemingly lifeless body on the bed. The Nurse tries to wake her, but believing her to be dead, cries out to the family in desperation. The Capulets, Friar Laurence, and Paris enter the room in response to the Nurse's cries. They dramatically mourn Juliet's loss while the Friar maintains his deception by offering words of support about Divine Will, comforting the family by expressing the belief that Juliet is in heaven. He then arranges for Juliet's body to be taken to the family vault. Capulet orders that the wedding preparations be changed to funeral preparations. The scene concludes with a comic interlude between the wedding musicians and Peter, a Capulet servant, as they engage in bawdy wordplay.

Analysis

The Nurse opens this scene by bantering humorously — almost giddy in her hope and good humor as she speaks with brassy references to Juliet's wedding night. The Nurse anticipates that Juliet will get little sleep that night. The viewer knows, however, that the euphoria will be short-lived and that unspeakable sorrow awaits the Nurse. In the Capulet household, moods tend to change quickly. When the Nurse discovers Juliet's body, the tone of the scene immediately changes from excited anticipation to shocked sorrow.

Romeo and Juliet again are ensnared in the love/death/marriage matrix that has defined and described their relationship from the beginning. Lady Capulet's chilling words echo loudly here, "I would the fool were married to her grave" (III.5.141). Capulet, who earlier referred to his daughter as carrion, speaks his most eloquent lines in the play, "Death lies on her like untimely frost / Upon the sweetest flower of all the field." Recall Act I, Scene 2, when Capulet says "the earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she." These passages blend the Friar's concept of nature as a cyclical force taking life to give life.

Capulet bemoans the loss of his last hope; however, in a macabre mix of sex and death, he describes Juliet's death as a sexual experience, emphasizing the Elizabethan translation of death as sexual ecstasy. He tells Paris that death has taken Juliet's virginity: "There she lies / Flower as she was / deflowered by him." This passage echoes Juliet's woeful proclamation in Act III, Scene 2 "I'll to my bed; / And death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead!" (III.2.137). Capulet continues saying "Death is my son-in-law." These images mournfully anticipate the consummation of Romeo and Juliet's deaths in the final act of the play.

Glossary

pennyworths small portions.

aqua vitae alcoholic spirits.

settled has stopped flowing.

deflowered by him having lost her virginity to him.

confusion's . . . confusions the solution is not to be found in this uncontrollable grief.

promotion advancement in rank.

she should be advanced that is, through the socially advantageous marriage to Paris.

in this love in your concern for her material and earthly well-being.

rosemary evergreen herb which was used as a symbol of remembrance.

ordained festival prepared for the wedding festivities.

lour scowl or frown upon.

pitiful case pitiful state of affairs.

merry dump here an oxymoron: a sad tune or song.

gleek a gesture of contempt or a rebuke.

pate the head, esp. the top of the head.

carry no crotchets put up with none of your notions or whims.

catling a small lute or fiddle string made out of cat gut.

prates talks much and foolishly; chatters.

rebeck a three stringed fiddle.

tarry for wait for.

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