Act 4 Scene 4-5 of William Shakespeare's Romeo and JulietExplain the ironic imagery of Juliet as the bride of death, beginning with the line, " the night before thy wedding day / hath Death lain...

Act 4 Scene 4-5 of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Explain the ironic imagery of Juliet as the bride of death, beginning with the line, " the night before thy wedding day / hath Death lain with thy wife."

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Scene 5 of Act IV or William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the Nurse has been instructed to awaken Juliet as the groom, Paris, has already arrived on this day which is to be their wedding day.  However, Juliet has secretly taken the potion which Friar Laurence has given her.  This potion causes Juliet to be cold and seem dead.  When the Nurse finds her this way, she cries out, and Lady Capulet comes to Juliet's chamber followed by Lord Capulet and Paris.  As Friar Laurence enters and asks if Juliet is ready to go to the church, Capulet tells Paris,

O, son, the night before thy wedding day/Hath Death lain with thy wife.  See, there she lies,/Flower as she was, deflowered by him./Death is my son-in-law, death is my heir;/My daughter he hath wedded.  I will die/And leave him all.  Life, living, all is Death. (IV,v,37-43)

The visual imagery in this passage is that of a flower.  But Juliet has been "deflowered" by Death.  The word "deflowered" means that her virginity has been taken from her; however, Lord Capulet believes that Death has been the "husband" who has taken Juliet's virginity.  This is a case of situational irony as the audience knows that Juliet has already married Romeo and been "deflowered" by him.

Of course, there is more situational irony in this scene, as well, since the audience also knows that Juliet is not really dead, but is simply in a deep sleep induced by Friar Laurence's potion.

Read the study guide:
Romeo and Juliet

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