Can someone give me an example of stichomythia in Act 4 of Romeo and Juliet?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Stichomythia is a device that is useful in creating intensity in scenes of, in this case, the play, Romeo and Juliet. Juliet has learned that she is expected to marry Paris and is still reeling from, not only her parents' insistence, but the nurse's suggestion that she must marry the "lovely gentleman," (III.v.219) Paris. We see examples of stichomythia as Act IV commences. It is characterized by short, one-line, sharp, often terse or distressed comments between characters holding contrary positions . As Friar Lawrence meets Paris, the pace picks up and the audience can understand the Friar's difficulty. This has the effect of increasing the intensity of the situation, ensuring that the audience feels the heightened tension. When Juliet enters and speaks with Paris, stichomythia is evident:

Paris: Happily met, my lady and my wife!

Juliet: That may be, sir, when I may be a wife. (18-19)

The pace continues in this fashion and Paris is a little offended by Juliet's indifference. The use of stichomythia continues to line 35 when Juliet reveals her wish to end this conversation and to speak earnestly with Friar Lawrence. It reinforces the fact that Paris does not understand Juliet. His arrogance and Juliet's quick thinking are revealed through this technique as Juliet successfully manages to avoid Paris's questions. It is a significant point in the play as the plot develops and Juliet looks for ways to resolve her hopeless situation. 

When the nurse discovers Juliet's apparently lifeless body and Capulet, Lady Capulet and the nurse have interchanging conversations in Act IV,v, lines 17 to 25 regarding the fact that Juliet is "dead," the seriousness of the situation is confirmed. 

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