Romeo and Juliet Act Four

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Scene I

The scene opens with Paris speaking to Friar Laurence at the Friar's cell. He is discussing his planned marriage to Juliet. Paris says that Lord Capulet thinks that marriage to Paris would cure Juliet's depression. Only a few selected people such as the Friar and the Nurse know that Juliet is not depressed over Tybalt's death but is in fact distraught that she can't see Romeo because he has been banished from Verona.

Juliet enters and Paris comments on her emotional state.

Poor soul, thy face is much abused with tears.

Juliet says she has business with the Friar and Paris assumes she has come to make confession to the holy man.

Before leaving, Paris plays the part of a gentleman. Though Juliet does not love him, he is not a bad guy. He is a gentle and romantic young man.

God shield I should disturb devotion!
Juliet, on Thursday early will I rouse ye:
Till then, adieu; and keep this holy kiss.

Paris and Juliet will never speak to each other again.

When Paris leaves Juliet commands the Friar to;

O shut the door! and when thou hast done so,
Come weep with me; past hope, past cure, past help!

Friar Laurence does not know what to do. Juliet pulls out a knife and threatens to kill herself unless the Friar can think of a way to save Juliet from marrying Paris.

The Friar says there might be a way but it would be dangerous, and it would mean undertaking 'a thing like death'. Juliet readily agrees. She would rather be buried alive and live with corpses than have to marry Paris.

O, bid me leap, rather than marry Paris,
From off the battlements of yonder tower;
Or walk in thievish ways; or bid me lurk
Where serpents are; chain me with roaring bears;
Or shut me nightly in a charnel-house,
O'er-cover'd quite with dead men's rattling bones,
With reeky shanks and yellow chapless skulls;
Or bid me go into a new-made grave
And hide me with a dead man in his shroud;
Things that, to hear them told, have made me tremble;
And I will do it without fear or doubt,
To live an unstain'd wife to my sweet love.

The Friar gives Juliet a vial that contains a potion that will mimic death. If she takes the potion that night, the next day her parents will think she is dead, and she will be buried in the Capulet tomb. Then the Friar will send letters to Romeo in Mantua to let him know the plan, to let him know what has transpired. Then Romeo and the Friar will go into the tomb and wait for her to awake and Romeo will then take her with him to Mantua. The Friar is hoping for a happy ending. Juliet races home to carry out the plan.

Scene II

The scene opens with Lord Capulet making arrnagements for the wedding. The Nurse and Lady Capulet are in the scene. Juliet returns from the Friar's looking happy.

See where she comes from shrift with merry look.

When Juliet enters she falls on her knees before her father and begs forgiveness saying;

Henceforward I am ever ruled by you.

Lord Capulet believes that his wayward daughter has been reclaimed. He decides that the wedding should be moved up a day. It should take place tomorrow. Juliet asks the Nurse to go with her to sort out some clothes for the wedding. As Juliet and the Nurse leave the stage, Lady Capulet says that there need not be a rush on the wedding. They don't have enough provisions. Lord Capulet says she shouldn't worry, that he will stay up all night getting the wedding preparations ready.

I'll play the housewife for this once.

He tells his wife to go and help Juliet get ready. He exits to meet with the intended groom; Paris.

Scene III

The scene begins with Juliet and the Nurse in Juliet's bedroom, which would likely be indicated with just a simple bed. They are picking out clothing for the wedding. Lady Capulet comes in to help.

What, are you busy, ho? need you my help?

Juliet suggests that Lady Capulet and the Nurse leave to get ready for this sudden wedding.

Alone, Juliet contemplates the use of the potion. She suddenly gets scared and calls for the nurse. But then she stops

What should she do here?
My dismal scene I needs must act alone.

Juliet wonders what will happen if the potion doesn't work. She takes out a knife to end her life if this plan of the Friar's does not work. She then wonders if it might not be a poison that the Friar has given her because he might be dishonoured for marrying her before to Romeo. Juliet discards that thought because he is a holy man and theoretically answers to God, and can't do evil. Then her fears start mounting. What if she wakes in the tomb before Romeo comes to rescue her? Perhaps she would die, unable to breathe in the foul air of death. Or if she did not suffocate, she might go mad, surrounded by the spirits of the dead. Her imagination goes into overdrive and she sees the ghost of Tybalt approaching her looking for Romeo. She summons her courage and drinks the potion.

Scene IV

It is three o'clock in the morning and there is great commotion. Lady Capulet is getting food ready and then Lord Capulet comes in lighting a fire under the servants. There is a lot to get done before the wedding can take place. The Nurse tells Lord Capulet to get some sleep, or else he will be sick, but Lord Capulet brushes that off. He tells the Nurse to wake Juliet. He is going to talk to Paris who has just arrived.

Scene V

This scene opens with Juliet lying on her bed. The Nurse comes in and tries to wake her. Juliet will not wake. She is under the influence of the drug that the Friar gave her. It mimics death. Perhaps the Nurse sees the empty vial and assumes Juliet has killed herself. The Nurse calls for the family. Lady Capulet and Capulet enter and think that Juliet is dead. They are highly distraught. They form a wailing chorus, much like in Greek Tragedy. Then Friar Laurence and Paris comes in. Friar Laurence then tells the Capulets that they must make burial arrangements. Juliet must be placed in the tomb for his plan to work.

Shakespeare often uses deep contrasts in his plays, an especially compelling one is the wedding-funeral contrasts. In Hamlet, the contrast goes from a funeral to a wedding. Here, in Romeo and Juliet, it goes from wedding joy to funeral melancholy. Lord Capulet sums it up beautifully;

All things that we ordained festival,
Turn from their office to black funeral;
Our instruments to melancholy bells,
Our wedding cheer to a sad burial feast,
Our solemn hymns to sullen dirges change,
Our bridal flowers serve for a buried corse,

At the end of the scene, which I am sure is rarely included in a performance of Romeo and Juliet, Peter and the musicians are left on stage. It would not be included because it waters down the emotional impact of Juliet's death. The musicians were called to celebrate the wedding. What they are doing in Juliet's bedroom, who knows. Peter wants them to play a song but they refuse. They argue and Peter leaves. The musicians decide to wait for the mourners and get free food. An example of Musicians singing for their supper. Musicians were then and now, ususlly poor.

Part One of the Balcony Scene-Rehearsal



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