What is the nurse's attitude toward love in Acts 1 and 2 of Romeo and Juliet?

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ktmagalia's profile pic

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

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The nurse's mocking attitude toward love and marriage is exemplified in the following excerpt from Act One.  In this passage, the nurse shares a story about Juliet as a small child with Lady Capulet.  The nurse, a crude but loving mother's helper, reveals her understanding of the role of women in a man's world. She jokingly recounts the day her husband picked up young Juliet after a small fall, and said "So, you fall on your face now, but later, when you are older you'll be falling on your back."  The nurse thought this extremely amusing, and of course this tells of her understanding of a woman's (or fool's) "duty" and "role" in a relationship: a far cry from the ironically romantic ensuing story.

And then my husband--God be with his soul!
A' was a merry man--took up the child:
'Yea,' quoth he, 'dost thou fall upon thy face?
Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit;
Wilt thou not, Jule?' and, by my holidame,
The pretty wretch left crying and said 'Ay.'
To see, now, how a jest shall come about!
I warrant, an I should live a thousand years,
I never should forget it: 'Wilt thou not, Jule?' quoth he;
And, pretty fool, it stinted and said 'Ay.' (Nurse, 1.1.3)

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clairewait's profile pic

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

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The nurse's feelings about love are not necessarily portrayed so much as her feelings about marriage.  Because of her relationship to Juliet, she thinks of her like a daughter - and wishes only for her happiness in life.  This of course, includes marriage:

Peace, I have done. God mark thee to his grace!
Thou wast the prettiest babe that e'er I nursed:
An I might live to see thee married once,
I have my wish. (Nurse, Act 1, Sc. 3)

Then, like Juliet's mother, she seems only concerned with the fact that Juliet is being persued by someone very good looking.

A man, young lady! lady, such a man
As all the world--why, he's a man of wax. (Nurse, Act 1, Sc. 3)

When Juliet's mother asks if she can grow to love him (Paris) the Nurse responds with, basically, she can learn to.

In Act 2, the nurse's feelings on love are not further developed.  In fact, at the very end of Act 1, when Juliet seems interested in Romeo, the nurse disapproves (because he is a Montague).  We assume she still wishes for Juliet to marry Paris.

Ironically, just a few scenes after the balcony scene with Romeo and Juliet, the nurse is willing to do anything to help Juliet marry the Montague she earlier had warned Juliet about.

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