Romeo and Juliet Study Guide

Act III, Scene 5

Summary

Romeo and Juliet are in bed together. It is nearly dawn, and Romeo must leave soon for Mantua or risk being caught and put to death. The couple hear a bird sing and notice a few pale streaks of light coming in at the window. Romeo says the bird is the lark, the herald of morning, and the light is the coming dawn. Juliet, however, says the bird is the nightingale, the herald of night, and the light is merely the light from the city. Romeo offers to stay for her sake, but Juliet urges him to go when he reminds her the penalty for his staying is death.

The Nurse then enters and warns Juliet that Lady Capulet is coming. The couple say their farewells, and Romeo climbs down the rope ladder the Nurse prepared for him. Juliet has a momentary vision of seeing Romeo “as one dead in the bottom of a tomb.”

Lady Capulet comes in and tells Juliet there is a manhunt on for Romeo, Tybalt’s murderer. She then tells Juliet that Juliet is to marry Paris in three days’ time. Juliet tells her mother that she would rather marry Romeo than Paris. Capulet comes in, hears Juliet’s refusal, and threatens her: either she marries Paris, or her parents throw her out of the house. The Nurse counsels her to marry Paris, as there seems to be little chance Romeo will ever come back.

Scene V Analysis

The action of the play is rapidly reaching a crisis. Romeo has escaped unharmed for the time being, but meanwhile, Juliet is expected to marry Paris in three days and has seriously angered her parents by refusing to do so.

Juliet’s lines to her parents in this scene are packed with the double meaning and dramatic irony woven throughout the entire play. She tells her mother “I shall never be satisfied with Romeo/till I behold him.” Lady Capulet believes that Juliet means that she will not be satisfied until Romeo is brought to justice for killing Tybalt, but Juliet means that she will not be satisfied until she is reunited with Romeo. To the news of her impending marriage to Paris, Juliet says “I will not marry yet; and, when I do, I swear/It shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate/Rather than Paris.” Lady Capulet takes her to mean she would rather marry her worst enemy than Paris; Juliet, of course, means that she would rather marry Romeo.

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