Act I – Scene.iii
This scene takes place in the Capulets’ house between
Juliet, her nurse, and Lady Capulet.
The nurse tells a long story concerning Juliet as a child and how she became
an innocent accomplice to a sexual joke. Despite Lady Capulet trying to stop the nurse, she continues, causing embarrassment to Juliet.
Lady Capulet wishes to obtain Juliet’s views on marriage, which replies that
she has not given the subject any thought. This questioning is prompted by the fact that Lady Capulet was the same age that Juliet is now when she first gave birth.
She advises Juliet that the valiant Paris has expressed an interest in her. Juliet responds by saying that she will look out Paris at the feast to see if she might love him.
We establish from this conversation that it was the
nurse who effectively brought Juliet up, suckling her as a baby. Lady Capulet is not confident enough to speak to Juliet about marriage without the nurse being present.
Lady Capulet is herself a woman who married at a young age, and is
supporting her husband’s plans for their future and that of Juliet. She too, wishes to obtain power for the family through a good marriage for her daughter.
Juliet, by agreeing to look favorably on Paris when she meets him at the
feast, is going along with her parents’ plans.
The nurse’s tale concerning Juliet as a child being involved innocently in a
sexual joke, is an indication that Juliet’s fate was set many years previously, in that her marriage would have to fall in with the plans for the Capulet family.
This scene also provides a good insight into the three main female
characters in the play. Lady Capulet is seen as an ineffectual mother; the nurse is portrayed as being slightly vulgar; and Juliet at this stage in the play, is shown to be a rather na've young girl who is
obedient to her mother and nurse. However, there are glimpses of an inner strength that Juliet possesses which is wholly absent in her mother.
Juliet is able to control her nurse, where Lady Capulet is unable to do so. Juliet’s hidden strength is indicated in the following quotation: ‘But no more deep will I endart mine eye than your consent gives strength to make it fly’. On the surface, this implies a complete surrender to her mother’s control, but there is an alternative interpretation to this phrase in that Juliet uses vague language indicating that she is asserting some control over her position. While agreeing that she might be able to love Paris, she is not fully committing herself to her parents’ wishes. There is an element of passive resistance.