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What is the context of this quote from Romeo and Juliet?  "O serpent heart, hid with a...

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted October 6, 2013 at 6:29 PM via web

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What is the context of this quote from Romeo and Juliet?  "O serpent heart, hid with a flow'ring face"?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 6, 2013 at 7:50 PM (Answer #1)

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Shortly after the marriage of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is forced to avenge the death of Mercutio and kills Tybalt, Juliet's cousin. In Act III scene ii of Romeo and Juliet, (not Macbeth), Juliet is conflicted by news of Romeo, her husband and Tybalt, her cousin:"My dearest cousin and my dearer lord" (III.ii.66). Juliet is confused as to what has happened as the nurse has entered, hysterically calling out "he's dead, he's dead, )he's dead"(37) and she continues calling out Romeo's name. 

The nurse is shocked and is herself so overcome with grief that "I swounded at the sight"(56) and she does not make it clear to Juliet the circumstances of what actually happened, mistakenly making Juliet believe it is actually Romeo who is dead; "hath Romeo slain himself?"(45)

Juliet feels betrayed by Romeo when she hears that he "killed him (Tybalt), he is banished,"(70)she having no idea of the circumstances. Romeo has "a serpent heart" which is hidden by his beauty - his "flow'ring face." However, Juliet is unable to deny her love for Romeo and becomes angered by the nurse's words "O, what a beast was I to chide at him!"(95) and defends her husband even though she has no idea what would have caused him to kill her cousin.

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