Summary and Analysis Act V: Scene 3



Paris arrives at the Capulet tomb to lay flowers in Juliet's memory. His page warns him that someone is approaching, and they hide in the bushes outside the tomb. Romeo appears with Balthasar and breaks into the tomb on the pretext of seeing Juliet one last time. Balthasar, apprehensive about what Romeo is going to do and fearful of Romeo's wild looks, also hides himself outside the tomb. Paris, believing that Romeo has come to desecrate the bodies in the tomb, confronts Romeo. Romeo tries to warn Paris off, but Paris challenges Romeo and they fight. Paris is wounded and dies. Just before he dies, he begs Romeo to place him in the tomb next to Juliet. Romeo is filled with compassion and grants his wish. Paris' page, who has watched the fight, goes to call the night watchman.

Romeo is dazzled by Juliet's beauty even in death. Without hesitation, he kisses her, drinks the poison, and dies at her side. A moment later, the Friar arrives and discovers the dead bodies of Romeo and Paris. Juliet then wakens from her death-like sleep and looks for Romeo, saying, "Where is my Romeo?" Upon seeing the bodies of Romeo and Paris, she resolves to remain in the tomb.

The Friar tries in desperation to convince Juliet to leave as the night watchman approaches, but Juliet refuses. The Friar flees, and Juliet is alone with Romeo and Paris dead at her side. She tries to drink poison from Romeo's vial. Finding it empty, she tries to kiss some poison from his lips. Hearing the night watchman approach, Juliet fatally stabs herself with Romeo's dagger.

The night watchman and the Prince arrive shortly, accompanied by the Capulets and Lord Montague. Lady Montague has died of grief at Romeo's banishment. The Friar faithfully recounts the events of the past week and offers his life in atonement. The Prince acknowledges the Friar's benevolent intent and instead lays the blame for the deaths squarely on Montague and Capulet for their longstanding quarrel. The Prince also blames himself for his leniency and fines Montague and Capulet severely. The two families are finally reconciled as the Prince ends the play by saying, "For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."


The final scene of the play brings both the transcendent reunion of Romeo and Juliet and the reconciliation of the feuding families. The family tomb becomes a symbol of both birth and death. It is, on the one hand, the womb from which Juliet should emerge alive — and hope be born anew. However, the tomb is also a dark and fateful vortex that consumes life, light, and hope. Romeo pledges in Act V, Scene 1, that he will defy fate and lie with Juliet that night. In his final act, he falls by her side and lies with her in perpetuity.

As Romeo charges into the tomb, a "detestable maw," he sheds much societal pretense that previously influenced his behavior. His plans are "savage-wild," "[m]ore fierce than empty tigers or the roaring sea," and he vows to tear anyone who attempts to detract him "joint by joint" and to "strew this hungry churchyard with thy limbs." Romeo has separated himself from his family, from the feud, from Verona, and now from his humanity.

This last scene, appropriately, takes place in the dark of night. Heretofore, Romeo and Juliet's relationship flourished at night, and each provided the other with light. In his final speech, Romeo once again uses light and dark imagery to describe Juliet as she acts as a source of light in the darkness of the tomb. "her beauty makes / This vault a feasting presence full of light." Such images simultaneously make the audience all the more aware of how close the lovers come to finding joy — making their end in darkness all the more tragic. However, these images also suggest a spiritual light that may surround a wedding feast for the couple beyond death.

Continued on next page...

Back to Top