How Does Shakespeare Provoke Sympathy for Juliet in Act 3 Scene 5?

Throughout the play and this scene there is a huge feeling of pity and sympathy created for Juliet by Shakespeare, she is in a very difficult and almost hopeless situation, double marriage being not only illegal but also a mortal sin in the catholic religion- which the Capulets were. He uses the theme of fate to create this. You can feel that throughout the play it feels like there is some hand controlling what is happening, out of the control of the young lovers or either of the families. It seems that through a trail of coincidences, the death of the teenagers are almost written in the stars from the start, as in the prologue it refers to them as “A pair of star-crossed lovers”. The idea of fate and destiny were popular in Elizabethan times, with fate often represented as a woman blindfolded, spinning a wheel.

The scene opens with Juliet and Romeo in bed together, having consummated their marriage, and even in a time where she should be completely happy there is an ominous feeling that it is too good to last as they are separated by day again (a theme running throughout the play). However despite this the couple seem truly happy in each other’s company, which provokes sympathy as the audience know full well from the prologue (where it says “…their death-marked love” suggesting that from the second they met, their love-at-first-sight was destined to be their demise) that the lovers will not be together forever and it will not have a happy ending. This is outlined by when Juliet exclaims Romeo looks like “one dead in the bottom of a tomb” when he has climbed down from her balcony. This dramatic irony outlines the pity felt for Juliet, as the audience know that she is almost predicting the future and it is almost as though she herself knows what is to come. He shows the two are happy by using the aubade form. This is a piece of poetry about lovers separating at dawn- “Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day;” showing the lovers don’t want to be separated. They use humour and charm to show how blissful they are- “It was the nightingale, not the lark” here Juliet tries to convince Romeo it it still night so he doesn’t have to leave her.

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The light and dark theme starts this scene with the above quote, again where Juliet says “Yon light is not daylight… it is some meteor that the sun exhaled”, as she is desperate for him to stay as she doesn’t know, after today, when she will next see him. And this is not the only time this has been used, in act scene “…she hang upon the cheek of night Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear” this similie outlines the contrast between the two which shows she is beautiful and bright in Romeo’s eyes. In act 5 scene 3, “…her beauty makes This vault a feasting presence of light” showing that Romeo and Juliet need no natural light as it means they can’t be together, but light up each other’s lives, this is also ironic as Romeo believes her dead, when she is only sleeping, and it is her living beauty which lights the tomb.

The word ‘feasting’ also suggests that the light is in plentiful supply. Dark is often in this play used in the opposite and unexpected way that it is stereotypically seen, as light is often the ‘good’ and dark the ‘bad’ whereas here dark keeps the lovers together and light tears them apart- described quite literally when saying “Since arm from arm that voice doth us affray”- using a metaphor to desvribe the lark’s song pulling apart their embrace. I think this theme is also less obviously hidden in some parts of the play such as on the day when Mercutio and Tybalt are killed it is very sunny and hot (representing light) “For now these hot days, is the mad blood stirring” and this day started the start of the tragedy and almost ruined Romeo and Juliet’s chances of being together as it caused Romeo to be banished. This also inspires sympathy for Juliet as she cannot see her love by the light of day in case they are seen together as he is banished and a criminal.

The scene takes a turn for the as Capulet becomes aware Juliet refuses to marry Paris. Capulet cannot understand why Juliet is being so insolent because he is none the wiser of his daughter’s marriage to Romeo (this is in line with the theme of the lack of understanding between generations); again we feel sympathy for her as Juliet does not have any plausible escape from the situation, as it seems fate has trapped Juliet due to a series of events and coincidences. Nowadays this would be seen as an incredibly rebellious and taboo thing to do without informing your father, but in Elizabethan times it was even more so as it was seen as the father’s duty to find and approve a marriage for his daughter as the father had complete control of his offspring being part of the hierarchal structure of the world believed in Elizabethan times, so in this way an Elizabethan audience may feel a lot more sympathy towards the father.

At first he has a tone of concern and care when he sees his daughter crying “…the bark thy body is Sailing in this salt flood” this extended metaphor showing he does love his daughter, describing her body as a boat being tossed on the sea- her sadness and tears, he says this with a very obvious caring tone, but soon turns sour when realising how disobedient Juliet is being “…hang, beg, starve, die in the streets” the caesuras in this line shows Capulet is in disbelief and so angry he can’t string his sentence together. This can be acted very effectively if the actor uses the words shortly and staccato. The father becomes very poisonous, calling Juliet names “hilding”, “young baggage”, even threatening her “you shall not house with me.” The fact that something that makes Juliet so happy and she finds so beautiful has to be ruined by something with so much hatred again makes us feel pity for her.

When Lady Capulet finds Juliet weeping because she doesn’t know when she’ll next see Romeo, Lady Capulet assumes she is weeping for the loss of Tybalt, again showing the lack of understanding between the generations. Lady Capulet is very unsympathetic saying “wilt thou wash him from his grave with tears?” suggesting Juliet is crying for Tybalt a ridiculous amount, and crying this much will not bring him back to life. Again we feel pity for Juliet here, as even her mother cannot offer any condolence to her, giving the audience the general idea Lady Capulet is perhaps quite a cold woman.

Lady Capulet also explains her plan to poison Romeo “…to Mantua, Where that same banished runagate doth live, Shall give him such an unaccustomed dram, That he shall soon keep Tybalt company”. This must’ve terrified Juliet, the thought that her mother was planning the murder of her husband. Lady Capulet seems to be putting more and more pressure on Juliet throughout the scene, Juliet says “…if you could find out but a man To bear poison, I would temper it”, cleverly using the double meaning of the word temper meaning either to water down or to mix. Of course Juliet meaning the former but Lady Capulet assuming she means the latter. Juliet repeats this clever double interpretation a few times throughout the dialogue with her mother. Another example when Juliet says “Indeed I never shall be satisfied With Romeo, till I behold him-dead- Is my poor heart so for a kinsman vexed.” Here the use of hyphens means the way the pauses before and after “dead” changes the meaning of the sentence. One meaning being until she sees Romeo again, her heart will be dead, another being until she sees Romeo dead, her heart will ache. Again her mother believing she means the latter but Juliet meaning the former. This is a perfect example of how cleverly crafted the whole play is by Shakespeare and also how he tries to influence the audience to sympathise with Juliet.

Another way sympathy is created is how throughout this scene Juliet slowly becomes more and more isolated, as both her mother and father want her to marry Paris, which she clearly cannot do as she would be committing bigamy and she is in love with Romeo. And then her nurse, who she sees as her second mother, and whom she is probably closer to than her blood mother also tells her she should marry Paris. She asks her nurse for help in a very distressed manner, showing she is scared and worried “O God! O Nurse, how shall this be prevented?”. She cuts ties with her nurse in the soliloquy form, “Ancient damnation! O most wicked fiend!”, the way she ‘speaks to herself’ here is very symbolic showing she is alone and has almost no-one to go for to talk to left. Then going to seek condolence with Friar Lawrence, the only other person apart from the nurse who knows the truth, knowing now if nothing can be done she will have to commit suicide, this is saddening as the audience realise she is almost at a dead end and everything has gone horribly wrong.

Throughout this play, the way Shakespeare crafts and inspires sympathy from the audience for Juliet is very clever, although there is distinct differences from the sympathy felt now than felt by the Elizabethan audience which must be understood. Nowadays men can marry who they want, but then Romeo should’ve gained permission from Capulet to marry her daughter and give him a dowry. Family pride and honour was also very important in Elizabethan times, and two families which were rivals would not be something that would be ignored, especially in a small what was state like Verona where they probably were very important to its economy. Whereas in a present day audience, the way Juliet is treated will be seen as harsh and cruel as she just wanted to marry the man she loved and she couldn’t because of what seemed to be a very selfish and childish disagreement of which neither of the families knew how it had begun.

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