Summary and Analysis
Juliet waits impatiently for night to fall so that she can celebrate her wedding night with Romeo. The Nursearrives and in her grief, misleads Juliet into thinking that Romeo has been killed. When the Nurse eventually reveals that it is Tybalt who is dead, Juliet's fears are only slightly relieved. Upon hearing that Romeo has been banished, Juliet is overwhelmed by grief. The Nurse tells Juliet that Romeo is hiding at Friar Laurence's cell and Juliet sends the Nurse with a ring, bidding Romeo to come and "take his last farewell."
Within the peaceful confines of the Capulet orchard, Juliet looks forward to the "amorous rites" of her marriage to Romeo. Juliet's impatience in anticipation of the nurse's arrival echoes her excited anticipation in Act II, Scene 5, when she had to wait for news of the wedding arrangements. A considerable sense of impending doom hangs in the atmosphere. Although she is unaware of the tragic news that awaits her, Juliet's soliloquy fantasizing about her wedding night embroiders tragic images into the fabric of her epithalamion, or wedding song.
Light and dark imagery again play important roles in creating mood, foreshadowing action, and giving fate a vehicle by which to visit itself upon the characters in the play. Juliet beckons the darkness because it has been a sanctuary for the couple, "if love be blind, / It best agrees with night." She and Romeo met under the cover of night; they agreed to marry as they were shrouded in darkness and were forced to part as dawn broke; they consummate their marriage at night; and they ultimately die together under the cover of night. Their affinity for the darkness illustrates their separation from the temporal, feuding world.
Although external light (the "garish sun") has become their enemy, the lovers have often provided light for each other. Juliet's eyes were like the stars in Act II, Scene 2, in Act I, Scene 5, she "doth teach the torches to burn bright!," and Juliet was Romeo's sun in the balcony scene. Here, Romeo brings "day in night." Juliet begs fate to "cut Romeo out in little stars" so that "all the world be in love with night." These stars represent both the timeless quality of the couple's love and their fate as "star-cross'd lovers" who will only truly be united in death.
The Nurse's report transforms Juliet from an anxious young bride into a bereft widow. Even when Juliet understands that Romeo is not dead, his banishment is equivalent to death in her eyes: "I'll to my wedding bed / And death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead." The association between Juliet and death as her bridegroom once again pairs the themes of love and death and emphasizes that her young life is constantly overshadowed by death.
Juliet feels conflicted because her love for Romeo clashes with her love and sense of duty to Tybalt, her cousin. Juliet expresses her conflicting emotions for Romeo using oxymoronic language: "Beautiful tyrant, fiend angelical."
The Nurse, on the other hand, expresses her feelings plainly. As part of the Capulet household, she grieves the loss of Tybalt as a family member. The Nurse praises Tybalt and blames Romeo for what has happened.
In fact, the Nurse's curse, "Shame come to Romeo" acts as a catalyst for Juliet, helping to clarify her feelings. Juliet's initial shock at Tybalt's death gives way to her intense feelings of love for Romeo and a notable transition in her character. Henceforth, Juliet's loyalty is firmly grounded in her love of Romeo and no longer predicated along family lines. She is now a wife first and a daughter, cousin, Capulet second.
The Nurse's inability to comprehend the intensity of Juliet's love for Romeo shows a significant development in her relationship with Juliet, who is emerging as a young woman with her own opinions and emotions. She no longer relies on her Nurse for maternal guidance. The rift between the Nurse and Juliet foreshadows the final split in their relationship which occurs in Act III, Scene 5 when the Nurse betrays Juliet by advising her to forget Romeo and marry Paris.
As Phaeton . . . immediately Phaeton, the son of Apollo, was allowed to drive the chariot of the sun for a day. His reckless driving nearly set the earth on fire and Zeus, the king of the gods, struck him dead with a thunderbolt.
wink close and be unable to see.
civil night sober, serious night.
lose a winning match . . . stainless maidenhoods that is, win Romeo by surrendering to him.
unmann'd untrained; also, as yet husbandless.
cords the rope ladder so that Romeo can climb up to Juliet's balcony.
death-darting eye of cockatrice a cockatrice is a fabulous serpent supposedly hatched from a cock's egg and having power to kill by a look.
bedaubed smeared or stained with blood.
divinest show excellent appearance.
all naught all wicked.
all dissemblers all liars.
aqua vitae alcoholic spirits.
tributary paying tribute.