Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Act I, Scene 3

Summary

The scene is still set inside the Capulet household, where Lady Capulet and the Nurse are chatting. Lady Capulet asks the Nurse to call Juliet; when Juliet arrives, Lady Capulet sends the Nurse away but immediately changes her mind, instead asking the Nurse to stay. The Nurse then launches into a convoluted story about Juliet’s birth and early years, which ends with a bawdy joke that embarrasses both Lady Capulet and Juliet. Lady Capulet begs the Nurse to leave off, but the Nurse only repeats the joke; only when Juliet asks her to be quiet does the Nurse stop talking.

Lady Capulet instructs Juliet to get to know Paris during the party, with an eye toward possibly marrying him. Juliet agrees to consider Paris as a potential spouse, but only insofar as her parents wish her to.

Analysis

Three scenes into the play, we finally meet the second title character, Juliet. We also meet her Nurse, who plays a significant role throughout the play. In addition to providing much of the comic relief, the Nurse also highlights the contrast between the lower classes to which she belongs and the upper-class Capulets. As Lady Capulet and Juliet discuss a potential marriage, the Nurse lets slip more basic concerns: she has only four teeth, and her own daughter, Susan, died in infancy.

Meanwhile, although we learn that Juliet is only 13, she has a presence that her own mother seems to lack. Juliet can convince the Nurse to stop telling bawdy jokes when her mother cannot. Also, when responding to her mother’s instructions to consider marrying Paris, Juliet seems to give the response expected of a dutiful daughter – but her response also reveals that she intends to look for whom she likes, not merely at whom her parents have chosen for her.

Contents