Romeo and Juliet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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 Did Lady Montague literally die of grief, or did Shakespeare employ figurative language to describe her sadness in Romeo and Juliet? My class and I are having a heated debate about the death of Lady Montague. We remain somewhat befuddled. Although ACT 5, Scene 3, suggests that she perished of grief, we are pondering if Shakespeare meant this literally. 

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Lady Montague did not literally die of grief.  It is a metaphor for how she had a heart attack from the stress of the feud and Romeo’s exile. 

Poets often describe people dying of a broken heart, but it isn’t a medical condition.

A person can’t literally die of grief.  It is not a medical diagnosis.  When we say someone dies of grief, we are basically saying that the person lost the will to live and succumbed to grief.

Alas, my liege, my wife is dead to-night!

Grief of my son's exile hath stopp'd her breath. (Act 5, scene 3, p. 113).

Literally, Lady Macbeth has stopped breathing.  The most likely reason was a heart attack.  People can have a heart attack due to extreme stress, especially if they are not in good health.  There is not much information about Lady Montague’s health, but Romeo’s exile was hard on her.

Before Romeo’s exile, there is evidence that Lady Macbeth was under stress from the feud with the Capulets.  When she enters the ongoing fight with her husband, she seems overwhelmed.

Thou shalt not stir one foot to seek a foe. (Act 1, Scene 1, p. 13)

She is basically telling her husband, “Don’t you take one more step!” She doesn’t want him to fight.  She is also worried about Romeo, and she says she’s glad he wasn’t at the “fray” in the marketplace.  She lives in day to day life terrified that her son or husband is going to be killed.  Eventually, the stress gets to be too much for her.

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