Explain the meaning of the following line from Romeo and Juliet: "Then I'll be brief. O happy dagger, / This is thy sheath. There rust and let me die."

Juliet desires to commit suicide and is fortunate to find Romeo's weapon, which is why she personifies the dagger as being happy. Juliet also metaphorically compares her body to a sheath, which is where she will thrust the dagger. Inside her body and covered with blood, the dagger will rust and kill her.

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These are Juliet's last words. She had hoped to be able to poison herself by kissing Romeo , but now she hears a noise and realizes that, if she does not kill herself immediately, she will be captured. There is bitter wordplay in the phrase "I'll be brief." Normally,...

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These are Juliet's last words. She had hoped to be able to poison herself by kissing Romeo, but now she hears a noise and realizes that, if she does not kill herself immediately, she will be captured. There is bitter wordplay in the phrase "I'll be brief." Normally, when people say this, they mean that they will speak briefly, but Juliet literally means that her existence on earth will now be as brief as possible.

Although it is more difficult than poisoning herself, requiring more strength and resolution, Juliet sees that the quickest way to die is to stab herself with Romeo's dagger. Even the great heroes of antiquity who committed suicide fell on their swords or, like Brutus in Julius Caesar, had someone hold out a sword for them to run into. Juliet, therefore, has to show steely determination. She calls the dagger "happy," which means "lucky." This is hypallage, a transferred epithet, since she means that she is lucky to have found the dagger.

Juliet then describes herself as the dagger's sheath, the most appropriate place for the dagger to rest. It will never be used again, as it will rust in her body after it has killed her. Juliet personifies the dagger by addressing it directly, but the final "let me die" is as much a prayer to God or the universe at large for the end of her suffering as it is an apostrophe to the dagger.

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In act 5, scene 3, Juliet wakes up from her artificial slumber and is astonished to discover that Romeo is deceased. Despite Friar Laurence's pleas to escape the cemetery, Juliet refuses to leave and is determined to die beside Romeo's body. Once Friar Laurence leaves, Juliet laments that there is no more poison left to drink and proceeds to kiss Romeo's lips. Juliet then hears Paris and the watchmen rapidly approaching and decides to act quickly. Juliet spots Romeo's dagger and proceeds to say,

JULIET. Then I'll be briefO happy dagger! [Snatching Romeo's Dagger]
This is thy sheath; [stabs herself] there rust, and let me die
[falls on Romeo's Body, and dies.] (Shakespeare, 5.3.169-170).

Juliet personifies the dagger as being happy because the weapon will help her commit suicide. At this point in the play, Juliet desires to die beside her lover and discovering Romeo's dagger will help her accomplish that goal. Essentially, Juliet is pleased to find the sharp dagger because she knows that she can use the weapon to commit suicide, which will finally bring her peace and comfort. Juliet then metaphorically compares her body to a sheath, which is a covering for a blade or knife. By referring to her body as a sheath, Juliet is suggesting that her flesh will be the dagger's final resting place. Juliet also acknowledges that her blood will also cause the dagger to rust once she stabs herself. Juliet then takes Romeo's dagger and commits suicide by stabbing herself before the watchmen arrive.

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The line is from act 5, scene 3. After waking from her drug-induced slumbers, Juliet has just discovered the dead body of her beloved Romeo. As one can imagine, Juliet is utterly devastated by this appalling tragedy. The only way she can now be with Romeo is in death. There's nothing for it, then; she's going to have to kill herself.

Juliet can hear the sound of a watchman and Paris's page fast approaching, so she knows she doesn't have much time to lose. That's what she means by "Then I'll be brief." As for "O happy dagger," this refers to what is for Juliet the fortunate discovery of Romeo's knife, which she will use to kill herself. "This is thy sheath. There rust and let me die" means that Juliet intends for her body to be the dagger's sheath, the place where it will finally rest. That she wants it to rust inside her indicates the finality of her last act on Earth. She is determined that the dagger will never be unsheathed again; it will rust inside her belly.

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A dagger or sword or any metal weapon, if not maintained, will rust.  In Shakespeare's day, sheaths were leather, and if the metal weapon was left inside unused or unmaintained long enough, the acids from the leather would corrode, or "rust" it. Similarly, if blood was allowed to remain on the metal after stabbing, and not wiped off, that would etch or "rust" the metal, leaving hemoglobin stains. Shakespeare employs a brilliant image in implying that the dagger will never be removed from its sheath, or Juliet's bosom, and therefore will rust; the word also suggesting the eternal decay as is previously mentioned.

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It means she's going to kill herself. Juliet's chest becomes the dagger's sheath (place you store your cutlery). "There rust and let me die" refers to the eternity of rotting death they will spend together. She calls it happy dagger somewhat ironically, since it's giving her what she wants, but it is still killing her.

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