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Shakespearean Drama. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet. Act 3: Introduction In less than two days, Romeo and Juliet have met, flirted, and married – without so much as a date squeezed in between.

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Shakespearean drama

Shakespearean Drama

The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and juliet
Romeo and Juliet

Act 3: Introduction

  • In less than two days, Romeo and Juliet have met, flirted, and married – without so much as a date squeezed in between.

  • They live intensely in the moment. To fit those moments, Shakespeare sets his scenes during vividly specific times:

    • The play’s first scene takes place in the morning, when the sun brings out the hot tempers.

    • But in the secret, half-lit time between sunset and dawn, love blooms in soft-spoken privacy.

  • Juliet’s parents start to take a much more active interest in Juliet’s love life. And the Elizabethan-era power lines are drawn: Man (Capulet) ruled woman (Lady Capulet), and parent (Capulets) ruled child (Juliet).

  • Tybalt stirs things up, too: He already has a hot temper. Now, we will see that he’s a dangerous swordsman, too.

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Romeo and Juliet

Act 3 highlights:

  • The Nurse’s arrival with the news about Tybalt and Romeo drives home the point that this is surely a tragedy, not a comedy. This contrast can be seen in the Nurse’s behavior:

    • In Act 2, scene 5, she is playfully devious in telling Juliet about where Romeo wants to meet her for their marriage.

    • However, that playfulness is no longer comic but infuriating by Act 3, scene 2, when she doesn’t indicate right away who has died.

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Romeo and Juliet

  • Juliet’s dedication to Romeo truly emerges at this point: She states she would sacrifice 10,000 Tybalts to be with Romeo, and later includes her parents on the list of people she would rather lose than Romeo.

  • The conflict between the older generation and the younger is clearly seen in the final scene of Act 3:

    • The Nurse encourages Juliet to forget about Romeo and focus on Paris, whom the Nurse prefers.

    • Juliet’s response is dripping with poisonously sweet sarcasm and the aside: “Ancient damnation!” (3.3.236) This is both a reference to the Nurse’s age and to Juliet’s problems. Juliet is now truly alone to face the hostile world.

  • Romeo’s misery is shown in his preference for death over banishment.

  • Key foreshadowing comes from Lady Capulet: “I would (wish) the fool were married to her grave” (3.5.140)

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Romeo and Juliet

Night and day

  • Night is a time when the rigidity of the family feud can be suspended and the young lovers can be free from what society dictates. It is the benign and romantic time that shields them. The nightingale is their bird. The morning lark brings danger.

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Romeo and Juliet

Night and day

  • In Act 1, the brawl takes place in broad daylight, which undermines the security that is supposed to exist during the day. One of the play’s conflicting images is day overtaking night.

  • Conversely, important love scenes take place in the dark, away from the disorder of the day. For example, Romeo loves Juliet at night, but kills Tybalt during the day.

  • The conflict of night and day and light and dark is raised to new levels in Act 2:

    • Benvolio states “Blind is his love, and best befits the dark” (2.1.32), in reference to Romeo’s passion.

    • When Romeo finally sees Juliet again, he wonders, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon” (2.2.2-4)

    • Romeo then invokes the darkness as a form of protection from harm: “I have night’s cloak to hide me from their eyes” (2.2.75).

    • Remember in Act 1, Romeo compares Juliet to “a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear” when he first sees her: a play on light and dark.

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Romeo and Juliet

  • By Act 3, this all comes together in one of the play’s most beautiful soliloquies, from Juliet: “Come gentle night; come black-browed night. Give me my Romeo, and when he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars; and he will make the face of heaven so fine, that all the world will be in love with night, and pay no worship to the garish sun” (3.2.20-25).

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Romeo and Juliet

Act 4: Recap

  • Love conquers all: But Romeo and Juliet’s love faces huge challenges:

    • Romeo has killed Tybalt and is banished to Mantua.

    • Lord Capulet has arranged Juliet’s marriage to Paris.

    • After one glorious night together, Romeo and Juliet are forced to split.

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Romeo and Juliet

  • As Juliet struggles to preserve her happiness, she faces (and makes) some extreme decisions.

  • Romeo does not appear in Act 4. This gives more time to analyze his rival, Paris:

    • Paris is a wealthy nobleman whose alliance with the Capulets could help the family “move up” in the world.

    • If the Nurse is reliable, we know Paris is good looking – but that’s about where his appeal ends.

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Romeo and Juliet

  • Notes of interest:

    • In Shakespeare’s England, the average age of marriage was 24 for women and 27 for men.

    • Members of the nobility often married when they were younger, but even so, Elizabethans would have regarded Juliet’s marrying age of 13-14 as extremely young.

    • In the long poem Shakespeare used as his source for the plot, Juliet is slightly older: 16.