In Act 4, scene 5 reaction speeches of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, compare the reactions of the Nurrse, Lady Capulet, Capulet, and Paris.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Juliet was beloved by her family and by Nurse. Paris, her expected husband, equally loved her though perhaps not so well as he knew her less well. Comparison between the speeches is a little difficult since they all pretty much say the same thing: "Woe" and "Alack the day." Nonetheless, there are some differences in the aspects they emphasize, so these can be compared.

An interesting point is that Capulet has more speeches in the scene than the others. This seems to be opposite of what our present culture might predict. While each lamenting principal speaker in Act 4, scene 5 bemoans their loss and curses the day as witness of their woe:

O woe! O woful, woful, woful day!
Most lamentable day, most woful day,

Capulet speaks of lost Juliet as "my only life," saying she is the "sweetest flower of all the field." He says that Death that makes him wail also "ties up my tongue, and will not let me speak." Capulet then also speaks of Juliet in a reference that only he uses. He speaks of her death as being a wedding to Death itself:

Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir;
My daughter he hath wedded: I will die

Paris naturally emphasizes the disappointment of Death on his wedding day. He speaks of his long yearning for the dawn of the day on which he would wed fair Juliet and bemoans that the face the day presents is that of Death:

Have I thought long to see this morning's face,
And doth it give me such a sight as this?

Lady Capulet focuses her lament on the pain of losing her child. As does Capulet, she calls Juliet "my life" and pleads for Juliet to revive or she herself with die with Juliet. She repeats that Juliet was her one child, her one joy, her one comfort and blames "cruel death" from catching that one comfort from her sight:

But one, poor one, one poor and loving child,
But one thing to rejoice and solace in,
And cruel death hath catch'd it from my sight!

Nurse retains her focus on the villainy that the day presented, bemoaning the day and cursing it:

O day! O day! O day! O hateful day!
Never was seen so black a day as this:
O woful day, O woful day!

In keeping with his lead role in the lament, Capulet solemnizes the bemoaned day by reversing the purpose of the festivities that were planned and being set up:

Our solemn hymns to sullen dirges change,
Our bridal flowers serve for a buried corse,
And all things change them to the contrary.

A good corollary question to ask yourself is why Shakespeare gave Capulet the dominant role in the lament. Present day intuition might suspect that role would have belonged to the wife and mother, Lady Capulet. What plot or other literary purpose was served by making Capulet dominant in the lament scene?

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