Describe how each scene in ACT 2  builds towards the "fated" ending of Romeo and Juliet    William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the rising action of the Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act II contributes greatly to the climax of the play and, ultimately the ending.

Scene I

In the first scene of the act, the three friends returnfrom the Capulet's party to which they were not invited.  Unbeknownst to Benvolio and Mercutio, Romeo feels that he cannot leave without seeing Juliet once more.  Futilely, they call to him, believing he is still depressed about his rejection by Rosalind.  Benvolio concludes that Romeo does not mean to be found, and the audience learns that Romeo does hear Benvolio because the first line of Scene II forms a couplet with the last line of this scene: "To seek him here that means to not be found" (2.1.45).

This scene initiates the alienation of Romeo from his friends while the next scene alienates him from his parents as he declares that he will give up his name for Juliet if need be.

Scene 2

Probably the most quoted scene from the play, Scene 2 employs much language of courtly love, light/dark imagery, and beautiful figurative language, all of which illustrates the idealizing of their love on the part of Romeo and Juliet as well as their passion for one another.  Whereas Rosalind has been described in terms of the moon, Juliet is described as the sun, suggesting the heat of their passion; Juliet, too, compares their love to lightning that ends almost as quickly as it is seen, and to a bud that "by summer's ripening breath" will quickly develop, thus foreshadowing the short, passionate duration of Romeo and Juliet's lives. Romeo senses the danger of their love, too, as he says,

O blessed, blessed night! I am afeard,
Being in night, all this is but a dream,
Too flattering-sweet to be substantial. (2.2.145-147)

Further in the scene, Juliet, too, expresses feelings that foreshadow the play's tragic end with an infinitely famous line,

Sweet, so would I.
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow. 2.2.193-196)

Scene 3

Thisscene also contributes to the foreshadowing of the play's denouement.  Friar Laurence's soliloquy on the dichotomy of nature and man, both can be good and/or evil depending upon their moderation or lack of in things, hints at the dangers of actions of passion.  There is also a hint of the potion which the friar will later give Juliet.

For naught so vile that on the earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give;
Nor aught so good but, strain'd from that fair use,
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.
Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied,
And vice sometime's by action dignified (2.3.17-23)

The scene ends with Friar Laurence agreeing to marry Romeo and Juliet, but he cautions Romeo, "Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast," words that later prove ironic as the friar himself impulsively gives Juliet a potion and then hastily rushes from the tomb, leaving Juliet alone to discover Romeo's body.

Scene 4

As the play nears its climax, Benvolio and Mercutio discuss the challenge that Tybalt has sent to Romeo; they wonder if Romeo will be able to handle the challenge as he is so love-sick.  Clearly, their discussion also acts as foreshadowing of the fateful actions to come in the next act.

While the Nurse's entry provides comic relief, Romeo arranges his wedding plans with her,developing the tremendous conflict of Juliet in Act IV that ultimately leads to Romeo's and her deaths.