Romeo & Juliet. Acts 4.1 – 4.5. Love & Passion. Act 4, Scene 1
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Acts 4.1 – 4.5
Act 4, Scene 1
Juliet’s love for Romeo is so strong that she says she would rather die than marry Paris. The Friar convinces her to be brave and got through with his plan of having her drink a potion that will allow her to appear ‘dead’. The Friar’s idea that this will give him time to seek out Romeo, tell him of his plan and allow for them to come to Juliet and wake her up.
This increases the audience’s sympathy for Juliet. We have seen her grow – in a very short amount of time; a matter of days – from a young girl to a bold and courageous woman. She agrees to the Friar’s plan without hesitation.
Act 4, Scene 1
When Venus says to the Friar “Venus smiles not in a house of tears” (4.1.8) (Venus being the Roman goddess of love) he is being more appropriate than he knows. ‘House’ has an astrological meaning (as most in an Elizabethan audience – certainly the wealthier - would have been aware). The zodiac is made up of twelve ‘houses’ or signs.
This again points to the idea of the stars influencing the fate of the lovers.
We again see Juliet predict her fate in 4.1.84-85:
“Or bid me go into a new-made grave / And hide me with a dead man in his shroud* –”
* In some editions of the play, ‘tomb’ is used instead of ‘shroud’.
Again, the image of death as Juliet’s lover is – once again – presented to us.
Act 4, Scene 3
Juliet drinks the potion the Friar has given her.
Notice how distant the Nurse and Juliet have become – the normally talkative Nurse is silent during her time on stage.
The courage and isolation are highlighted during Juliet’s soliloquy, which takes up the rest of the scene. We will examine this in more depth in a later lesson. It is important to note that Juliet’s soliloquy here echoes Romeo’s and his doubts later on. Such similarities in action and imagery between the two happen more frequently towards the end of the play.
She fears that if she even if she awakens, she may go mad being surrounded by so many bones of her dead ancestors. She also worries that the Friar has misled her. She takes her knife with her in case the potion does not work – this shows she clearly intends to carry out her suicide if all else fails.
Act 4, Scene 5
Juliet is discovered apparently dead. The wedding becomes a wake.
At the beginning of the scene we see the Nurse full of her usual bawdy jokes about pleasures of the flesh. This clever relaxation of the mood actually serves to increase the tension in the play because of the audience’s knowledge about what is going to happen.
This scene – like the play as a whole - is full of ironies. Capulet remarks that death “lies on her like an untimely frost.” (4.5.28) – ironic because her ‘untimely’ death is not really death at all.
Shakespeare does not allow the tragedy of this scene overshadow the powerful impact of the tragic climax at the end of the play. He holds down the tragedy here by making the scene short and by placing it between two other sections of lighter mood.
4.5 - continued
The Friar tells everyone to accept heaven’s will (another idea of fate) with good grace. He mentions the image of rosemary – a flower associated with remembrance and the dead – that the Nurse introduced earlier in the play as Juliet’s favourite flower. Significantly, when it was previously mentioned, she linked it with Romeo.
It is after this that the players (musicians) say to the Nurse that they may as well pack up and leave.
This interlude may seem rather out-of-place given the significance and tragedy of the scene. Remember, Shakespeare plots everything out carefully and would have the dramatic structure of the play in mind at all times. He introduces this lighter mood to break from the tragedy and allow the tragedy of the next scene and final act to have maximum impact.
The audience also know at this point 9as they have from the beginning) that Juliet is not really dead.
Act 4, Scene 3
‘Mouth’ imagery is used again when Juliet describes the vault as having a ‘foul mouth’ where ‘no healthsome air breathes in’ (4.3.34).
The image of Juliet drinking the potion as a toast to Romeo is also ironic, as is also echoed at the end of the play.
Act 4, Scene 4
In this scene we see the Capulets preparing for the wedding. This scene is a sharp contrast to the terror and stillness of the previous scene and also to the next one when Juliet’s body is discovered.
Imagery of the mouth – in this case eating and drinking – link the scenes together. By the end of Act 4, images of mouths, drinking and death have all combined into one; the taking of poison.
Act 4, Scene 5
Capulet uses a lot of death-as-Juliet’s-lover imagery in this scene: ‘O son, the night before thy wedding day
Hath death lain with thy wife. There she lies,
Flower as she was, deflowered by him.
Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir.
My daughter he hath wedded…’
In another way it is also true that Juliet is wedded to death as she is married to Romeo (who is to die with her in the tomb) and both her and Romeo are ‘star-crossed’ and therefore fated to death all along (tying imagery with theme).