What is Act IV about in Romeo and Juliet?

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mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act 4 is the turning point of the play. Romeo has been exiled for killing Tybalt. Juliet's parents still want her to marry Paris. Juliet is in deep mourning for Romeo.

Act 4 begins with Paris coming to see Friar Laurence. He talks about his upcoming wedding. Friar Laurence, aware of the marriage between Romeo and Juliet, tries to tell Paris to slow things down. Juliet enters and after Paris leaves, she tells Friar Laurence that she would rather kill herself than marry Paris. Friar Laurence tells her he knows how she can do this. He tells her to drink a vial that he has and she will fall into a deep sleep. To the outside it will look like she is dead, but in reality she will only be sleeping. Friar Laurence tells her he will let Romeo know.

"And this borrowed likeness of shrunk death thou shalt continue two-and-forty hours and then awake as from a pleasant sleep."

Juliet goes home and her parent and nurse are all talking and planning the wedding. Juliet tells her father that she is happy to be marrying Paris. Her father is so happy that he decides to move the wedding up a day. Juliet and her nurse go the her chamber for her to get ready for bed. Juliet tells her nurse that she would like to sleep alone that night. The nurse agrees and leaves her. Juliet drinks the vial.

"Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again. I have a faint cold thrill through my veins that almost freezes up the heart of life. I'll call them back again to comfort me...My dismal scene I need must act alone. Come, vial."

The next morning, Lord Capulet is busy with the wedding plans. He tells the nurse to go and wake Juliet. The nurse tries to wake her, and when she can't she alerts the house. The nurse believes Juliet is dead. Lord and Lady Capulet and Paris all arrive and learn that Juliet has died. Friar Laurence arrives and tells them to make the wedding decorations into funeral decorations. 

The act is the turning point for everything. Friar Laurence has done what he thinks was the right thing to do. Instead of having to marry a man she doesn't love, Juliet would rather die. Friar Laurence helps her deceive everyone. The real tragedy has now been set in motion. This is such a tragic play. If Romeo and Juliet's parents had just let them be together, the tragedy would never have happened, but instead they both let past hurts dictate their actions and it cost them the most important thing to them, their children.

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Romeo and Juliet

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