romeo and juliet Analysing Act 3 Scene 5 Act 3, scene 5 is a crucial scene in shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. The scene is a springboard from which the play plummets to a grizzly end and the subtle climax of the series of events before it. It also contains elements of many of the main themes of the play, love, trust, family, hate, fate and some interesting theatrical techniques such as dramatic irony and double meanings. The scene is quite easy to analyse being constructed of four duologues and Juliet’s soliloquy. It is therefore a good scene to look at in more detail.
Shakespeare begins his play by establishing the core conflict that drives the plot of Romeo and Juliet; the pointless feud between the Capulet and Montague families (of which the cause has been forgotten). This is done in the prologue were we are told “civil blood makes civil hands unclean”. The first four scenes continue in much the same manner introducing characters places and the era the play is set in. The plays catalyst lies in Act 1 scene 5 when Romeo a Montague and Juliet a Capulet fall in love at a Capulet ball.
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The play then moves at a surprising speed. Romeo marries Juliet the next day. Then Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, offended by Romeo’s appearance at the Capulet’s party challenges Romeo to a duel. Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt as Tybalt is now in effect Romeo’s brother, although Tybalt does not know of their new relationship, Tybalt is offended and kills Romeo’s friend Mercutio. In response Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished from the city, he spends one night with Juliet before act 3 scene 5.
In act 3 scene 5 Juliet’s father, who does not know of her relationship with Romeo insists that she marries Paris, a noble bachelor. Juliet is faced with a dilemma, she cannot marry again as it is a mortal sin to marry two people and her soul will burn in hell for ever. A modern audience may find this difficult to understand as religion has less of a hold on people’s morals now than in the 16th century, (evidence that even Shakespeare is not timeless! ) However if she does not marry County Paris her parents will disown her and let her starve on the street in dishonour.
Lord Capulet says “hang, beg, starve, die in the streets” Act 3, Scene 5 begins with a duologue between Romeo and Juliet. The couple are arguing in a light hearted manner about whether it is day and Romeo should leave the city or whether it is night and he should stay with Juliet. Romeo says he must leave as the lark has sung signifying day break but Juliet insists that “It was the nightingale and not the lark”. Shakespeare is using the images of birds to represent night and day.
This gives Shakespeare the opportunity to write an interesting pun which is worth quoting in full, “Some say the lark makes sweet division; This doth not so, for she divideth us” The word division is occasionally used to refer to variations in a melody. Shakespeare extends this metaphor so Romeo and Juliet can share the lines, this may be done to show how they think in harmony with one another. This technique is also used when Romeo and Juliet first meet and they speak a sonnet together. Romeo gets Juliet to let him leave by calling her bluff. Come death and welcome Juliet wills it so” Romeo is implying he will happily die for Juliet, we later find out that this line is not as innocent as it seems and is in fact foreshadowing Romeos suicide. If I was directing this duologue I would want it to be as joyous as possible. Romeo and Juliet get very little time together on stage and for the play’s tragic end to have full impact the audience need to understand what Romeo and Juliet lose. Juliet should deliver her lines like a child who wants to stay at a friend’s house when it is time to go home.
This will help her appear innocent and make the audience want to protect her, again giving the tragic end more impact. I think Shakespeare wanted to do this too as he made it clear how young Juliet was from the beginning of the play playing on the instinct many people have of protecting female children. I would always make a point of directing Romeo and Juliet with the ending in mind, as I would for any good tragedy. As soon as Romeo leaves the scene things take a turn for the worse for Juliet.
She suddenly has an “ill divining soul” and wonders if she will ever see Romeo again, emulating Romeo’s unconscious tragic foreshadowing in their duologue and continuing the theme of fate. Then her father, mother and finally her Nurse abandon her in a series of duologues. During this part of the scene Juliet uses sarcasm, irony, ambiguities and double meanings. This would be a wonderful opportunity for a director to contrast the playful, innocent Juliet that comes alive when Romeo is around with a flat, upset and even spiteful Juliet that emerges when he is not.
When her Nurse suggests she should marry Paris, Juliet is sarcastic saying the Nurse has comforted her “marvellous much” and later calls the Nurse an “ancient damnation” behind her back. The way Juliet suddenly changes her opinion of the Nurse who she used to see as a great friend could be taken as Shakespeare making a statement about love, that in a society where love is rejected, with arranged marriages or any other tool, love can become a platform for hate and injustice, represented by Juliet’s sinister side.
This message is reinforced when Juliet says “thankful, even for hate that is meant by love” to her father. The second duologue in this scene is all about what characters don’t know. Lady Capulet enters the scene soon after Romeo leaves and assumes Juliet is upset about the death of Tybalt when in fact she is upset about her doubts about Romeo. Juliet does not know that her marriage to Paris has been arranged. And Lady Capulet does not know about Juliet’s marriage to Romeo.
Only the audience has the full picture. This brings up the theme of appearance and reality again. Juliet’s relationship with her mother seems slightly stiff and formal. Juliet calls her mother “lady mother and “madam”. Lady Capulet seems unable to try to comfort Juliet despite her grief; instead she says that Juliet’s Grief shows “some want of wit” suggesting Juliet is a foolish girl. With this in mind I would follow the stage directions and leave Juliet on her balcony but put Lady Capulet on the main stage.
This would create a feeling of distance between the two characters. As only the audience have a complete view of what is going on Shakespeare has an opportunity to use this to create dramatic irony which in turn creates tension. The use of dramatic irony is fitting as Romeo and Juliet has the most famous example of dramatic irony in the world, the tragic end. Juliet says “no man like he [Romeo] doth grieve my heart”, Lady Capulet thinks she is referring to Romeos murder of Tybalt but she is actually upset that she cannot see Romeo.
My favourite bit of dramatic irony in this duologue is when Juliet says “Indeed, I never shall be satisfied With Romeo, till I behold him–dead–Is my poor heart” Juliet is actually saying her heart is dead and she wishes to behold Romeo, but Lady Capulet thinks Juliet wants Romeo dead and her heart is broken at Tybalt’s death. Then Shakespeare makes Lady Capulet use dramatic irony. “But now I’ll tell thee joyful tidings, girl. ” The audience knows Lady Capulet is about to announce the wedding plans to Juliet but Shakespeare waits 8 lines to tell Juliet.
This could be to build up tension; the audience knows what is coming and do not like it at all so Shakespeare forces them to stew drawing them into the play. Or it could be to give us one last look at a happy innocent Juliet, for this reason Juliet should act like an excited child, desperate to find out what the happy event is. When Juliet hears about the marriage she is instantly defiant and begins by swearing an oath “By saint peters church and saint peter too” her mother thinks this is a strong oath but Shakespeare’s 16th century Christian audience would have known St Peter is supposedly the man who judges whether you go to heaven or hell.
This suggests Juliet will not marry again as St Peter would send her too hell. Lady Capulet finally demonstrates her incompetence as a mother by giving up at the slightest sign of defiance and letting Lord Capulet take over a problem which should probably be dealt with by the mother as she will have had experience of suddenly being told you are going to marry at a young age (it is suggested at the beginning of the play that Lady Capulet gave birth to Juliet at 14) and be able to show empathy.
This brings up themes of family and femininity. If I was directing Lady Capulet I would get her to sound relived at Lord Capulet arrival to show her attitude of “passing the buck”. I would get Lord Capulet to enter the scene on Juliet’s balcony as he needs to demonstrate physical superiority over Juliet and this would be difficult to achieve if he was below her. Lord Capulet enters with a speech that, although making his love for Juliet clear, seems slightly pompous and ridiculous.
This is an example of Shakespeare using a technique that appears in most of his plays, giving upper class characters nonsensical speeches in beautiful language to demonstrate that appearance is not everything. For this reason I would make Lord Capulet use big bold gestures but could hopefully get a fat balding actor with a big red face to play him, with a heavy gold chain around his neck and huge rings round his fingers. Standing next to an elegant Juliet wearing a flowing nightgown and shouting down to his equally elegant wife he would look ridiculous.
Lord Capulet’s words are also ironic as he believes his announcement of marriage will bring a “sudden calm” to Juliet when in fact it will further her grief. In this speech Lord Capulet creates a metaphor out of Juliet’s tears like his wife did before him when she talked about Tybalt being “washed” from the grave. This emulates Romeo and Juliet sharing metaphors and sonnets and Shakespeare could be implying that Juliet’s parents are or were in love, if so they are hypocrites.
The dramatic irony used in this scene may be being used to show up the Capulet’s incompetence as parents, Juliet drops so many hints about her true feelings but her parents do not pick up on them, either they do not know Juliet well enough to do so or Juliet’s character has changed dramatically. Upon hearing of Juliet’s disobedience Lord Capulet is furious. Although a modern audience may think Juliet’s refusal is quite justified arranged marriages were the norm in Shakespeare’s time and under normal circumstances Juliet would have probably happily accepted the marriage as it would lead to a rich and happy life.
Capulet is at first confused and asks a series of frustrated rhetorical questions. And then becomes angry when Juliet can give him no good reason for her refusal to wed he insults her calling her a “tallow-face” and “green sickness carrion”. The later insult is referring to green sickness a disease which it was believed at the time would occur if a woman did not marry before a certain age, causing the skin to turn green. Capulet also treats Juliet as his property talking about her in the terms of an animal.
He tells her to “fettle her fine joints” and that he does not care where she “grazes”. The word fettle means prepare but it is only really used when referring to horses. This brings up themes of masculinity, femininity and the family. Shakespeare is questioning whether a woman is just property of her family and it seems one of the reasons Capulet is so angry is his male pride will not let him dishonor himself by breaking a promise to Paris. Capulet has a very interesting line in one of his speeches “I will drag thee on a hurdle tither” threatening to drag Juliet to the wedding.
A hurdle is a device used for dragging prisoners to their death and Capulet does, by trying to force Juliet to wed, drag Juliet to her death, forcing her to commit suicide. In this duologue both the Nurse and Lady Capulet speak up for Juliet. They are conforming to female stereotypes putting the family members first and being aware of their feelings while Capulet puts his honor first. Capulet exits. Juliet briefly asks her mother for help even threatening to kill herself but Lady Capulet simply says “I have done with thee” showing how little she really cares for Juliet.
The audience will now expect the Nurse who has shown nothing but kindness and love to Juliet previously (even conspiring with her at personal risk, as if it was found out that the nurse had betrayed Capulet’s trust by sending messages to Romeo she would be fired and get a bad reputation) to be some consolation. However the Nurse simply thinks, somewhat inexplicably, that Juliet should marry Paris suggesting Romeo is a “dishclout” in comparison. Many people think this throws a new light on the Nurse’s true character and shows she thinks the priority of any female is to get married and have children.
But I think the Nurse has had the fight knocked out of her by Capulet, this is why I would direct Lord Capulet to hit her. The Nurse may also feel like helping Juliet has become too risky and she should look after her own interests. It would be interesting to see this play directed by Shakespeare himself to help answer a few questions. Juliet has now lost the only other person who was very close to her in the play and could be considered totally alone. She never speaks to Romeo again and only speaks to the nurse once to deceive her.
She asks if the Nurse will help her “sort such needful ornaments” to wear at the wedding she does not intend to attend. Juliet’s soliloquy could be seen as a transformation from a madly in love girl to a desperate woman as she says “If all else fails… [I] have the power to die” showing she can seriously consider killing herself. Juliet’s soliloquy is written in blank verse, which is non-rhyming iambic pentameter. To direct this it would be important that Juliet knelled at her father’s feet on the balcony showing his supremacy.
Juliet’s mother would look on from the stage aghast unable to physically restrain her husband and this would make Lord Capulet the tallest and therefore the most powerful figure on the stage. The nurse would appear briefly on the balcony so Capulet could take his anger out on her and push her off stage maybe even hit her. Once Capulet left the scene Lady Capulet would begin to walk away and Juliet would appeal to her, “delay this marriage for a month; a week” I would direct Juliet to say these words through sobs. Still knelling clinging on to the banisters of her balcony.
After Lady Capulet exits the nurse will walk out onto the lower stage with some hastily applied makeup showing bruising on her face and begin walking across trying not to be noticed by Juliet. Juliet will reach out to her; the nurse will barely stop moving as she gives her unhelpful response and her last words will be delivered from off the stage showing how she does not want to make eye contact with Juliet. The nurse will deliver her lines without any heart and soul (this will add some irony to the line “from my soul too else beshrew them both”) suggesting she has been subdued by Capulet’s blow.
This scene really focuses on giving Juliet a chance to be a character on her own and contains almost all the character development she undergoes. As Juliet becomes separated from those close to her she becomes more and more desperate trying to look for consolation in her closest family but after losing the nurse she reveals unexpected resource and courage. I think the most effective thing about this scene is the way Juliet goes from having a playful argument with Romeo to contemplating suicide without the scene feeling overdramatic or rushed.