What are ways in which Shakespeare develops the relationship between Juliet and her nurse in Romeo and Juliet?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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We see the relationship between Juliet and her nurse change and develop as the play progresses. While it is evident that Juliet finds her nurse to be a ridiculous person, it is also evident that they are very close at first. Nurse is Juliet's only confidant. However, when Juliet begins feeling betrayed by Nurse, who tries to persuade Juliet to forget about her exiled husband Romeo and marry Paris instead, Juliet severs their relationship.

We first see that Juliet thinks her nurse is a ridiculous person when we first meet both Juliet and Nurse in the first act. Nurse is annoying both Juliet and her mother by relaying ridiculous stories about Juliet's childhood. Juliet is so annoyed that she begs her nurse to stop, saying, "And stint thou too, I pray thee, nurse, say I" (I.iii.62). Juliet's mother has just begged Nurse to stop talking and now Juliet is repeating the request, as we see in the phrase, "[a]nd stint thou too," the word stint meaning "cease," or stop (Random House Dictionary). Since Juliet is also begging Nurse to stop her absurd story about Juliet, we can hear in Juliet's voice how annoyed and embarrassed she feels, showing us that she thinks her nurse is a silly, ridiculous person.

Regardless of her nurse's quirks, Juliet is actually closer to her nurse than to her parents; Nurse is Juliet's only confidant. We see this when Juliet confides in Nurse about her feelings for Romeo and uses Nurse as a go-between to learn about Romeo's plans for marriage. However, their relationship changes when Romeo is banished from Verona and Juliet's parents try to force her to marry Paris. Their relationship changes due to the fact that Nurse actually sides with her parents. It is evident in several places throughout the play that Nurse actually prefers Paris over Romeo. So when Juliet is faced with a decision to either be ostracized by her parents or become a bigamist, Nurse encourages Juliet to forget about Romeo and marry Paris, arguing that Paris is far above Romeo, as we see in her lines, "O, [Paris] is a lovely gentleman! / Romeo's a dishclout to him," meaning that Romeo is no better than a "dishcloth" in comparison to Paris (eNotes, III.v.228-29). When Juliet hears this, to herself she proclaims how hypocritically Nurse has behaved and promises that she shall from now on never trust nor associate with her nurse again, as we see in her lines, "Go, counsellor! / Thou and my bosom henceforth shall be twain" (250-51).

Hence we see that while at first Nurse was Juliet's only trusted friend, as the play progresses, their relationship develops into a much more distant and dissolved relationship.

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