Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Act II, Scene 4

Summary

Benvolio and Mercutio discuss a letter Tybalt has send to Romeo’s house, challenging Romeo to a duel for daring to crash the Capulet’s party the previous night. Mercutio doubts that Romeo is up to the challenge, being so lovesick over Rosaline. He also makes fun of Tybalt for being a bit of a dandy and having too much pride.

Romeo enters, in a better mood; he and Mercutio make fun of one another for a bit, and then the Nurse appears. Romeo tells her to ask Juliet to come to Friar Laurence’s cell in the afternoon, and they will be married there. He also asks the Nurse to make a rope ladder so that he can climb up to Juliet’s balcony on their wedding night.

Analysis

Scene IV poses a stark contrast to the balcony scene. In Scene II, both Romeo’s and Juliet’s lines are in poetry, and they both expound at length on the power of all-consuming emotional love. Scene IV, by contrast, is spoken almost entirely in prose; and, rather than dwelling on the exalted nature of love, the scene relies mostly on crude sexual jokes and puns. These are delivered mostly by Mercutio and by Peter, the Nurse’s servant, providing the alternative viewpoint that runs throughout the play and contrasts the concerns of the upper classes.

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