Explain how Juliet’s relationship with the Nurse changes during Act III?

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sfwriter | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Ancient damnation! O most wicked fiend!
Is it more sin to wish me thus forsworn,
Or to dispraise my lord with that same tongue
Which she hath prais'd him with above compare
So many thousand times? Go, counsellor!(250)
Thou and my bosom henceforth shall be twain.
I'll to the friar to know his remedy.
If all else fail, myself have power to die. (III.V. 246-53)

Up until the end of Act III, Scene v the Nurse is ready and willing to aid Juliet and Romeo in their forbidden love.  The Nurse is the go-between the two young lovers, and facilitates their meetings to some extent.  The nurse listens to Juliet talk about Romeo, and she even brings ropes for Romeo to climb up to Juliet's chamber.  But in this scene, which is one of a truly horrible family dispute, the Nurse shows her true colors.  Capulet has come into Juliet's room, and told her that he has made a bargain with the nobleman Paris.  Juliet and Paris are to be married on Thursday, and Capulet will brook no arguments.  Juliet tries to protest, but Capulet will not even let her speak a word.  In this argument Lady Capulet sides with her husband.  The Nurse, in adherence to her old ways, tries to defend Juliet against her father.

NURSE: God in heaven bless her!
You are to blame, my lord, to rate her so.

CAP: And why, my Lady Wisdom? Hold your tongue,(175)
Good Prudence. Smatter with your gossips, go!

NURSE: I speak no treason.

CAP: O, God-i-god-en!

NURSE: May not one speak?

CAP: Peace, you mumbling fool!
Utter your gravity o'er a gossip's bowl,
For here we need it not. (III.v.173-83)  

But as soon as Capulet and Lady Capulet leave the room, the Nurse counsels Juliet to commit the sin of bigamy.  The Nurse sees that there is too much resistance from Juliet's father (at one point Capulet says that Juliet can starve in the streets because he has disowned her), and she thinks that the most practical course is to pretend as if Juliet has never married Romeo, and simply marry Paris on Thursday as her parents have planned.  She even tries to convince Juliet that Paris is more handsome than Romeo.  The Nurse, who is employed, after all, by Juliet's parents, seems to think that pretending that the marriage to the now-criminal, Montague family member Romeo is the most expedient course of action, and she does not consider either Juliet's love for Romeo, or the possibility of spiritual contamination from marrying a second time while the first husband is still living.  Juliet is shocked and hurt, and for the first time in the play says truly unkind things about the Nurse (see the first quotation, above.)  Juliet cannot imagine why the Nurse, who has been her friend for so long, would disown Romeo so quickly, and also encourage her to commit such a grievous sin as bigamy just to please her parents.

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