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In Act I, scene 3 of William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, the nurse’s recollections about Juliet’s infancy reveal a great deal about the nurse’s own character. Such revelations include the following:
- The nurse herself has been a mother to a girl named Susan, who has since died. The nurse’s love of her daughter, respect for God, and appealing humility are all revealed when she says,
Well, Susan is with God,
She was too good for me.
The ability of the nurse to be simultaneously loving, pious, modest, tender, and bawdy helps to make her one of the most appealing of all of Shakespeare’s characters.
- The nurse loves to talk, often repeating herself. She seems full of life, energy, and good humor.
- It often takes the nurse a long time to get to a point. She rambles a bit, in the process revealing not only her prodigious memory but also her tendency to think and speak not by following a straight logical line but by engaging in many amusing detours.
- The nurse recalls details that others might ignore but that help to re-create in our minds the vivid pictures that already exist in hers. Thus at one point she states,
For I had then laid wormwood to my dug (that is, her breast),
Sitting in the sun under the dove-house wall.
- The nurse is proud of her good memory (as when she says, “I do bear a brain”).
- The nurse loved, and still loves, Juliet, as she shows throughout this entire reminiscence and especially when she calls Juliet by the affectionate nickname “fool.”
- The nurse also loved (and still loves) her husband, who is now deceased.
- The nurse herself has a good sense of humor and appreciates humor in others, as when she describes her husband as “a merry man.”
- The nurse assumes that she can talk at such length and can speak so openly in front of Lady Capulet, and her assumption seems correct until Lady Capulet finally tells her to stop talking.
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