Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Act V, Scene 3

Summary

Paris and his servant are at Juliet’s tomb. Paris orders his servant to stand a few steps away and listen for any other visitors, while Paris leaves flowers at the tomb.

As Paris walks away, Romeo and Balthasar approach the tomb; Romeo gives Balthasar a letter and tells him to deliver it to Romeo’s father. Romeo also says that he is entering the tomb to collect a ring he had given Juliet, and that Balthasar is not to follow him under any circumstances.

Romeo then opens the tomb, but before he can enter, Paris confronts him, believing that Romeo has come to wreak some further vengeance on Tybalt’s corpse. Romeo begs him to go away, but Paris attempts to capture Romeo; they fight, and Romeo kills Paris.

Romeo then enters the vault, where he muses on the fact that, despite being mere moments away from his own death and despite facing the death of Juliet, he is strangely happy. He then takes the poison and dies almost immediately.

Outside the tomb, Friar Laurence has caught up with Balthasar, who tells him that Romeo has been in the tomb about half an hour. Friar Laurence hurries into the tomb, where Juliet is waking to see Romeo dead beside her. Frightened by the sound of the approaching watchman, Friar Laurence leaves, urging Juliet to follow him and promising he will find her a safe place in a convent if she does. Juliet, however, attempts to drink the poison as well. Finding no poison left in the cup, she takes Romeo’s dagger and stabs herself.

Outside the tomb, the watchmen have gathered, along with most of the townsfolk, the Capulets, and the Montagues. Paris’s servant, Balthasar, and Friar Laurence are rounded up and tell their parts of the story. Capulet and Montague agree to put up golden statues of their children as a monument to the end of their feud and as a memorial. Prince Escalus’s lines end the play.

Analysis

The final scene contains the action of the play promised in the Chorus’s opening sonnet. Although the results are obvious – Romeo and Juliet are dead, as is Paris – how the situation got to that point takes a bit more sorting out. In fact, so dense is the dramatic irony that the testimony of three separate people is needed to explain to all the characters what has actually happened in the past several days.

Prince Escalus ends the play with six lines that seem to add little to the play itself. In fact, they are in keeping with the pattern of most of Shakespeare’s works, which typically end with lines from the monarch or most senior nobleman still living. In Romeo and Juliet, as in several other Shakespeare plays, the monarch represents order; he or she is often seen in the first scene (as here), but not again until the final scene, when his or her final lines wind up the play. Between these two appearances of “order” in the form of the monarch come the “disorder” of the plot, which is most often resolved by death (in the tragedies) or marriage (in the comedies). The fact that Romeo and Juliet ends with the deaths of the main characters is the reason it is most often classified as one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, despite its multiple comic scenes.

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