Summary and Analysis
Act II: Scene 5
Three hours after sending the Nurse for news from Romeo, Juliet waits impatiently for her return. The Nurse, knowing of Juliet's eagerness, deliberately teases the young bride-to-be by withholding the word of the upcoming wedding. Instead, the Nurse complains about her aches and pains. The Nurse finally relents when Juliet is almost hysterical with frustration and tells her that she is to marry Romeo that afternoon at Friar Laurence's cell. The Nurse then leaves to collect the rope ladder that Romeo will use to climb into Juliet's bedroom that night.
The dizzying speed with which the lovers met, fell in love, and agree to marry is now contrasted with the way in which the hours appear to lengthen for Juliet as she waits for news. The emphasis on the passing of time evokes Juliet's parting lines to Romeo from the balcony in Act II, Scene 2, when he promised to send word to her the next day: "'Tis twenty years till then."
The scene echoes Romeo's discussions with the Friar because both Romeo and Juliet are desperately impatient to wed. Juliet's soliloquy and her subsequent exchanges with the Nurse show her youthful energy and enthusiasm in contrast with the Nurse, who is old, decrepit, and slow. Unlike her demeanor in other scenes, Juliet acts like a young teenage girl who has little patience for deferred gratification. Since the Nurse has been much more of a mother figure to Juliet than Juliet's biological mother, it follows that Juliet would feel free to act her age in the Nurse's presence.
The Nurse delivers Juliet news of her wedding — a message for a woman or young lady, not a 13-year-old girl. Maturity beckons Juliet with ominous, fateful overtones.
The Nurse's comic role increases the tension in this scene as she deliberately refuses to be hurried by Juliet in imparting her news. Juliet is forced to wait and coax the news from the Nurse, stifling her impatience when the Nurse continually changes the subject. The Nurse focuses on Romeo's physical attributes, describing his legs, feet, and hands in a speech that echoes Mercutio's description of Rosaline in Act II, Scene 1. Both the Nurse and Mercutio share a bawdy sense of humor and view love as a purely physical relationship.
The Nurse then comments knowingly on the pleasures that await Juliet on her wedding night with the pregnancy that will likely follow. This comment reflects the inverted life/death theme that runs throughout the play. Although Juliet will not live to give life, her death unifies her and Romeo in spirit and mends the feud — both forms of life-giving.
bandy to toss or hit back and forth, as a ball.
feign to make a false show of; pretend.
jaunce trudge up and down.
coil commotion; turmoil.
drudge a person who does hard, menial, or tedious work.