Summary and Analysis
Act IV: Scene 3
Juliet and her nurse make the final preparations for the wedding that is to take place the following morning. Lady Capulet offers her assistance, but Juliet asks to be left to her prayers and sends the Nurseand her mother away. Juliet then reflects on the Friar's plan. She wonders if the Friar has given her actual poison to cover his role in marrying a Capulet and a Montague. She decides she must trust the Friar. However if the potion fails to work, she resolves to die rather than marry Paris. To that end, she places a dagger by her bedside. Juliet's imagination runs wild as she imagines the horrors she will face if the plan does not work and she awakens alone in the tomb. Only when she imagines Tybalt's ghost moving toward Romeo to avenge itself does she muster the courage to take the potion and intercept Tybalt:
O look, methinks I see my cousin's ghost
Seeking out Romeo that did spit his body
Upon a rapier's point! Stay, Tybalt, stay!
Juliet asserts her independence in this scene by asking her betrayers, the Nurse and Lady Capulet, to leave her alone. By this action, she both physically separates herself from her family and proactively takes a step toward the fruition of her plan to be with Romeo. This direct request marks a turning point for Juliet. Previously, she often reacted to her surroundings rather than making her own decisions. For example, she waited for instruction from Romeo as to when they would wed; she allowed her father to order a marriage to someone else; and she depended on the Friar to provide her with a plan to avoid a union with Paris.
As the play has progressed, however, she has grown more mature and independent. She now steps forward to confront her greatest fears and reach toward her ultimate goal — to be with Romeo.
When Juliet is left alone, she is struck by the horror of her situation. She imagines the gruesome, grisly, nightmarish horrors one would expect of a 13-year-old facing her own mortality: being buried alive in the airless tomb and facing Tybalt's corpse "festering in his shroud." At that moment, she is tempted to call for her nurse. However, at the instant of her greatest fear, Juliet realizes that she must act independently. She displays mature courage and determination as she prepares to take the final step in her defiance of both her parents and fate itself. Juliet accepts that she must now trust the Friar's potion, and if the plan fails, be prepared to take her own life with the dagger at her bedside.
Once again, the play draws upon the themes of birth and death to emphasize the way in which Juliet must die and be placed in the tomb in order to be reborn to begin her new life with Romeo. She is resolute in her decisions. Her maturity has blossomed. She is no longer a young teenager; she is a woman and a wife who commands her own fortune. To this end, she places a dagger by her side — a resonant statement of her independence.
culled picked out; selected.
behoveful necessary or required.
faint cold fear fear causing a chilling faintness.
subtly hath ministered cunningly has administered.
receptacle repository or sepulcher.
shrieks like mandrakes a mandrake is a poisonous plant whose root was thought to have magic powers because of its fancied resemblance to the human body. It was believed that the mandrake would shriek as it was pulled out of the ground, and to hear a mandrake's shriek was thought to bring death or madness.
environ'd with surrounded by.
rage insanity, madness.