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In Act 3, Juliet says, "O serpent heart, hid with a flow'ring face! Did ever a dragon...

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mysterious-ma... | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 2, 2011 at 8:03 AM via web

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In Act 3, Juliet says, "O serpent heart, hid with a flow'ring face! Did ever a dragon keep so fair a cave? Beautiful tyrant! fiend angelical!"

What does this mean?  I know there are oxymorons in this quote, but I don't get it.  It's from Romeo and Juliet.

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sboeman | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted March 2, 2011 at 10:18 AM (Answer #1)

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In Act III Scene I, Romeo kills Tybalt--Juliet's cousin--since Tybalt killed Mercutio.  We also know that Romeo & Juliet are now married (in a rather hasty and secret ceremony).  When the nurse brings news that Romeo slew Tybalt, Juliet responds with the words you mentioned, and a few more.

In her mind, she is hoping she has not been deceived by this Romeo guy; in other words, he might have a "flow'ring face" (meaning "handsome"), but actually have a "serpent heart" in him that would be cruel enough to slay her cousin.

Most of this emotional rant deals with contradictions, or oxymorons, as she tries to understand why such a great guy might kill Tybalt.  In other words, he might be "beautiful", but he could still be a "tyrant"; he might be "angelical", but still be a "fiend".  Basically, her mind is trying to process whether he is good or evil.

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