Romeo and Juliet Act Five

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Scene I

The scene opens on a street in Mantua. Romeo tells the audience about a dream he had of juliet. He dreamt that he had died and Juliet breathed life into him with kisses. It is of course foreshadowing. Foreshadowing in this case is a dramatic method of letting the audience know that Romeo is going to die. When the audience knows the tragedy is coming, it heightens the emotional tension for the audience and the catharsis is more powerful. The audience cannot be disappointed by the end of the play, because it doesn't come as a surprise. The end is not a shock but an emotional release in a structured framework. The structured framework is the play.

The tragedy kicks into high gear when Romeo's page; Balthasar, who has been ordered by Romeo to keep tabs on Juliet, has seen the fake funeral of Juliet. Of course Balthasar thinks Juliet has really died, as does everyone else. Romeo does not know of the potion plan and the faking of Juliet's death. Balthasar's news of Juliet's apparent death causes Romeo great emotional pain. He determines to find an apothecary, a drug dealer, to buy some poison. He is going to go back to Verona, enter the Capulet tomb and kill himself with whatever poison he buys, and lie forever with Juliet's corpse. But first he needs to get the poison.

Juliet must have been buried on her birthday, as Romeo says when looking for the apothecary,

Being holiday, the beggar's shop is shut.

It is currently Lammas Tide. Juliet's birthday would have been the day before. If it was her birthday, it creates a bit of a time problem, for the nurse says at the beginning of the play that Juliet's birthday is a fortnight away. A fortnight is two weeks. However the action of the play takes place in less than a week. Romeo hails the apothecary, which brings the poor man out of hiding. It is against the law for the Apothecary to sell poison but Romeo offers him gold, and the man who is down on his luck can't refuse.

Armed with his poison, Romeo leaves for Verona and a fatal date with Juliet.

Scene II

This scene opens in Friar Laurence's cell. Friar John enters calling for Friar Laurence. We don't know who this new character is and why he has come to see Friar Laurence.

Quickly we find out, for Friar Laurence says;

Welcome from Mantua: what says Romeo?
Or, if his mind be writ, give me his letter.

We find out that Friar John has come back from Mantua, where Romeo has been exiled. Friar Laurence asks where the message from Romeo is? Friar John has been sent by Friar Laurence to tell Romeo about the potion plan, the plan for Juliet to take the potion which will mimic death. We know as audience members that Romeo's page; Balthasar, has already told Romeo that Juliet is dead, and Romeo has bought poison to kill himself in the Capulet tomb to be with Juliet.

Friar John tells Friar Laurence that he could not bring the message to Romeo because he was quarantined in a house of pestilence. The townspeople would not let him out to get the message to Romeo. Nobody would take the message for him. Friar John then gives Friar Laurence the letter back that was for Romeo. Friar Laurence is concerned that Romeo won't know of the plan and won't come to Verona to rescue Juliet. He tells Friar John to get him a crowbar and he will rescue Juliet from the tomb.

Friar Laurence says that Juliet will wake in three hours. He will rescue her and hide her in his cell until he can write Romeo again. He leaves to go to the Capulet tomb.

Scene III

This scene opens in a churchyard and the entrance to the Capulet tomb. It is night. Paris and his page enters. His page is carrying flowers and a torch. Paris has come to the tomb to honor Juliet. Paris tells the page to hide in the trees and listen for the approach of any visitors to the graveyard. Paris then spreads the flowers in front of the tomb and vows that he will return each night to honor her.

The Page then whistles, to let Paris know that someone was approaching. Paris melts into the darkness to hide.

Romeo and Balthasar arrive on stage. Romeo tells Balthasar to leave him and not interfere with what he is about to do. Balthasar decides to hide nearby to watch out for his master.

Romeo starts to open the tomb.

Thou detestable maw, thou womb of death,
Gorged with the dearest morsel of the earth,
Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open,
And, in despite, I'll cram thee with more food!

Paris steps out of the shadows and challenges Romeo to fight. Paris thinks Romeo is going to desecrate Juliet's grave. In the fight Romeo fatally wounds Paris. Paris' dying wish is that Romeo puts him in the tomb with Juliet. Romeo picks up Paris and carries him into the tomb. When Romeo sees Juliet he is surprised how beautiful she looks in death.

Death, that hath suck'd the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:
Thou art not conquer'd; beauty's ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
And death's pale flag is not advanced there.

Romeo then takes the poison and kisses Juliet one last time.

Outside the tomb, Friar Laurence arrives and encounters Balthasar. Balthasar tells the Friar that Romeo killed Paris and then went into the tomb. Friar Laurence goes into the tomb calling for Romeo. He sees Paris and Romeo dead. Juliet is starting to come to.

Juliet wakes and sees the Friar:

O comfortable friar! where is my lord?
I do remember well where I should be,
And there I am. Where is my Romeo?

There is a noise. Someone is coming. The Friar tries to drag Juliet away. He shows her the dead body of Romeo. He says they can't stay. But she won't go. She won't leave Romeo. The leaves her there in the tomb.

She sees the poison cup, and tries to drink out of it, but there is nothing left. She gently chides Romeo for drinking it all. She then kisses him.

I will kiss thy lips;
Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,
To make die with a restorative.

Interestingly, she looks at the poison as a means of restoring her by killing her. She implies that the poison is a cure. A cure for life. She hears a watchman coming. She grabs Romeo's dagger.

Yea, noise? then I'll be brief. O happy dagger!
Snatching ROMEO's dagger
This is thy sheath;
Stabs herself
there rest, and let me die.

Juliet dies.

The play comes to a conclusion with the Capulets and Lord Montague. Lord Montague says his wife died of grief. More likely, Shakespeare had to kill her off because the actor probably played Juliet or one of the pages, and therefore couldn't be on stage at that time. The Prince comes and the Friar. The pages; Balthasar and Paris' page and the Friar relate what happened that night. I would think it defuses the tragedy by adding this bit. It is a lot of exposition, a lot of explaining of what just happened, a summing up of the plot. In facr, reading the end of the play can pretty well sum up the plot of the play for the reader.

The death of Romeo and Juliet 'bury their parents' strife.' Their deaths make peace between the two families. The elaborate winding up of the plot was a way of decompressing the audience, easing them out of the shock of Romeo and Juliet's death. That the audience knew it was coming makes the tragedy inexorable and thus possibly more painful.

The Prince has the last words of the play.

A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.



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