Act III – Scene.v
It is just before dawn and Romeo prepares to leave
Juliet’s bedroom and start his exile.
There is a birdcall and Juliet tells Romeo that it is a night bird rather than a lark heralding the dawn. Romeo resists, saying that he must leave before morning comes or he will be put to death. However, overcome with love, he stays longer with Juliet.
The nurse enters to warn Juliet that Lady Capulet is coming, and the two
lovers tearfully part.
Romeo descends, and as she looks down on him, he appears pale as one dead in
the bottom of a tomb.
Lady Capulet enters and seeing Juliet’s tears, assumes she still mourns for
Tybalt. Lady Capulet tells Juliet of her desire to see Romeo dead. With some clever punning Juliet leads her mother to believe that she wishes the same, when in fact she is firmly stating her love for
Juliet is advised of the plans for her to marry Paris on Thursday.
She is horrified, rejecting the match. She says ‘I will not marry yet; and when I do, I swear it shall be Romeo whom you know I hate rather than Paris’.
Capulet enters the scene and when he learns of Juliet’s response, threatens
to disown her.
When her parents leave, Juliet asks her nurse how she might escape her
The nurse tells her to go through with the marriage to Paris as he is a good match and Romeo is as good as dead anyway. Juliet pretends to agree. She then tells her nurse that she is going to make confession at Friar Laurence’s cell. Juliet is shocked at her nurse’s disloyalty and vows that she will not take her counsel again. She also concludes that if the Friar is unable to help, she still has enough power to take her own life.
Shakespeare again plays on the theme that Juliet has
supernatural powers. Romeo describes her as transforming night into day. She now has the power to change a lark into a nightingale through the power of language.
There is a repetition of the orchard/balcony scene where the lovers
experience visions that foreshadow the end of the play. Juliet describes Romeo as looking pale as one dead in the bottom of a tomb.
To Romeo she appears the same, but he describes it as the effects of sorrow. The next time, of course, that Juliet will see Romeo, he will be dead.
Juliet has now fully matured, evident in her domination over her mother who
is no match for her daughter’s intelligence.
She doesn’t even recognize her daughter’s proclamation of love for Romeo, which Juliet has carefully disguised. Juliet has also decided to break from her disloyal nurse. The nurse was a mentor for Juliet when she was a child, but she had abandoned all ties with her childhood and is now a married woman.
Shakespeare has cleverly linked this maturity with sexual experience,
allowing the audience to witness Juliet’s metamorphosis. In fact Juliet feels so confident now, that she defies her father being determined to control her own destiny, even if it means her own death.
The reader might wonder why Juliet did not take the option offered to her by her father of being
disowned, but this is not a course that she can take. Juliet, as a woman, cannot leave society, for a woman in Verona who cannot control the direction of her life must take the route of suicide.