Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Act IV, Scene 5

Summary

The Nurse enters Juliet’s chamber to wake her for the feast. After mistaking Juliet for merely sleeping several times, the Nurse finally realizes Juliet is dead. She sets up a cry that wakes the household, bringing the Capulets, Paris, and Friar Laurence into the room. The Capulets, Paris, and the Nurse lament at length, but Friar Laurence scolds them all, saying that Juliet is happier in heaven and they are selfish to try to keep her to themselves. The scene ends with Juliet being carried to the church and the musicians packing up their instruments and making fun of one another.

Analysis

This scene presents tragedy flanked with comedy. The Nurse’s initial attempts to wake Juliet are humorous, in addition to presenting yet another case of dramatic irony in the fact that the audience, unlike the Nurse, knows that Juliet will not wake up. The Nurse’s realization that Juliet is “dead,” rather than resolving the dramatic irony, heightens it, since the audience knows Juliet is not actually dead, either. Friar Laurence’s speech is packed with double meaning: it sounds like a sermon based on the fact that death has sent Juliet into eternal life, when in fact it is a lecture on how the family feud has selfishly prevented Juliet from being united with Romeo openly.

The scene ends not with Juliet being removed from the house, but with the musicians, who are packing up now that they realize they won’t be playing music for a wedding after all. Their banter is full of musical-related puns, playing on the fact that words, like the events of the play, have two meanings.

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