Summary and Analysis
Act IV: Scene 2
Juliet returns to the Capulet house to find wedding preparations well underway. She tells her father that she will abide by his wishes and agree to marry Paris. Lord Capulet is so overjoyed at the news that he decides to move the wedding from Thursday to Wednesday. Lady Capulet protests, saying that such quick notice doesn't allow enough time to prepare, but the euphoric Lord Capulet ignores her. Juliet is now to be married the following morning.
Here, fate twists Juliet's fortunes once again. Capulet, in his impulsive zeal, complicates the Friar's plan by moving the wedding forward a full day. Juliet must take the potion that night and lapse into a suspended state 24 hours sooner than the Friar had anticipated. This development reduces the amount of time the Friar will have to notify Romeo in Mantua.
Juliet has acquiesced to Capulet's reckless whims and appears compliant — even excited to an extent. This enthusiasm, however feigned, seems to heighten her father's zeal even further. Juliet shows great composure in facing her father, even though she knows that his plans and her arrangements are so different. Juliet's enthusiasm is, however, at least somewhat genuine since the mechanism by which she intends to resolve her personal crisis is already in motion.
Capulet, of course, misinterprets Juliet's apparent good cheer, believing that Friar Laurence has persuaded Juliet to marry Paris. Capulet is characteristically impulsive, rash, and unpredictable. His blind enthusiasm leads him to insist that his entire family and staff work through the night to make adequate preparations for the hastened ceremony. In this scene, he shows a greater disrespect for his wife than in previous scenes. His blathering authoritarianism reaches new levels as he again insults Juliet, accusing her of "peevish, self-willed harlotry." He completely dominates his wife, disregarding her desire to delay the wedding and ordering her to Juliet's room to help the Nurse.
The comparison between Juliet and her mother is noteworthy. Whereas Lady Capulet cannot exercise any control in her life and receives no respect from her husband, Juliet has taken control of her life and tries to exert some influence over her situation. She has become self-possessed to the extent that she can command her own fate; however, when society eliminates her options, she is left with the only thing she can control — her death.
Juliet displays remarkable powers of duplicity as she describes her meeting with Paris at the Friar's cell. She tells her father that she gave him, "what becomed love I might / Not stepping o'er the bounds of modesty." To Capulet, the statement confirms Juliet's total compliance with his wishes. Clearly, however, as Romeo's wife, Juliet's devotion to Romeo is absolute.
Juliet's duplicity goes beyond her skillful use of language. She partakes willingly in the wedding preparation; however, amid all the frenzy, Juliet prepares for her presumed death. She has emotionally removed herself from her surroundings. Her trust rests in the Friar and her love in Romeo. The Capulet household is alive with activity on her behalf — for an occasion she neither desires nor intends to attend. The people around her have betrayed her, and the wedding preparations manifest that betrayal.
none ill no bad ones.
I'll try . . . fingers from the saying that only bad cooks will not be able to lick their own fingers; that is, the servants will see if they are willing to test their own cooking.
unfurnish'd unprepared, without supplies.
forsooth yes indeed.
harlotry willful behavior or hussy. Capulet regards his daughter with contempt.
gadding wandering about in an idle or restless way.
becomed befitting; becoming.
bound obliged or indebted.
closet a small room or cupboard for clothes.
provision food and other supplies.
huswife a housewife.