How does Shakespeare explore Juliet's struggle when she hears the news of Tybalt's death?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Juliet experiences a range of emotions when the nurse enters the room to tell her what has happened. At first, she misunderstands the nurse, who wails "He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead...O Romeo, Romeo!" and believes that Romeo is dead. Then when the nurse begins to speak of Tybalt she believes that both Romeo and her cousin have been killed. When she learns the truth, she is initially (and understandably) angry at her lover:

O nature, what hadst thou to do in hell 
When thou didst bower the spirit of a fiend 
In mortal paradise of such sweet flesh?(85) 
Was ever book containing such vile matter 
So fairly bound? O, that deceit should dwell 
In such a gorgeous palace! 

After this initial reaction, however, she proceeds into a heart-wrenching speech as she realizes the ramifications of the event. In particular, she is devastated by Romeo's banishment:

Tybalt is dead, and Romeo banished.’ 
That ‘banished,’ that one word ‘banished,’ 
Hath slain ten thousand Tybalts. Tybalt's death 
Was woe enough, if it had ended there... 
But with a rearward following Tybalt's death, 
‘Romeo is banished’— to speak that word 
Is father, mother, Tybalt, Romeo, Juliet, 
All slain, all dead. ‘Romeo is banished’— 
There is no end, no limit, measure, bound, 
In that word's death; no words can that woe sound. 

With this speech, she reveals that her love for her new husband transcends her love for her cousin, and by extension her family. Tybalt's death is a family tragedy, but the greater tragedy for Juliet is the fact that her new family is being torn asunder by Romeo's banishment. At this point the audience learns that she can no longer be defined as a Capulet, but as Romeo's wife. Once she has made this choice, she can only interpret the event as one in which "that villian cousin would have killed my husband."

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