Compare the soliloquies of Romeo and Juliet when they are facing death(4.3 and 5.1), explaining what they reveal about the two characters.  Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Expert Answers

Want to remove ads?

Get ad-free questions with an eNotes 48-hour free trial.

Try It Free No Thanks
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While both Juliet and Romeo act out of love for the other in their considerations of death, the circumstances and emotions for each differ.  For Juliet, in Act IV, Scene 3, contemplates what will occur after she consumes the vial of mandrake that Friar Laurence has concocted in order for her to appear as though she is dead while he tries to notify Romeo. 

In this contemplation, Juliet has four fears: 

1. She worries that the vial will not work and she will have to marry Paris, so she places a dagger beside her:

I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins (4.3.16)

2. Since the Friar stands to be in trouble for having married her, she worries that the vial is really poison and will kill her:

What if it be a poison, which the Friar

Subtly hath minister'd to have me dead....

I fear it is:  and yet, methinks, it should not...(4.3.25-29)

3. She worries that she will awaken before Romeo gets there and she will suffocate:

How if, when I am laid into the tomb,

I wake before the time that Romeo

Come to redeem me?  there's a fearful point! (4.3.32-34)

4. Juliet worries that if she wakes early and does survive, she may go made surrounded by bones and the dead body of Tybalt and kill herself, anyway.:

The horrible conceit of death and night,

Together with the terror of the place....

O, if I wake, should I not be distraught

Environed with all these hideous fears? (4.3.39-52)

On the other hand, Romeo has a singleness of purpose and absolutely no fear.  When he hears that Juliet is dead, he wants no more from life and becomes determined to meet Juliet in death.  There is no conjecture, no self-debate with Romeo. He finds a poor apothecary and tells the man that what he gives him--gold--is "worse poison to men's souls" than what the apothecary gives him:

I sell thee poison; thou has sold me none.

Farewell, buy food and get thyself in flesh.

Come, cordial and not poison, go with me

To Juliet's grave; for there I must use thee. (5.1.86-89)

The apprehension of Juliet and the impetuous assuredness of Romeo are certainly in keeping with their characters.  For, throughout the play, Romeo has been the one to initiate action; he approaches Juliet, he runs to the Friar to tell him of his love for Juliet, he intemperately slays Tybalt, and he assumes that Juliet is, indeed, dead without having any word from Friar Laurence.  Juliet, on the other hand, has been more cautious than Romeo, asking him to just hold her hand and not try to kiss her at her party, begging him not to swear his love on the inconstant moon, telling him of her fears that there love is "too rash."

Read the study guide:
Romeo and Juliet

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question