How does Shakespeare, through the use of literary and dramatic devices, explore Juliet's struggle when she hears the news of Tybalt's death in Romeo and Juliet?

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tmcquade eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Juliet first hears the news that Romeo killed Tybalt, she is distraught.  She is torn between her love for Romeo and her love for her cousin, and initially, she is confused about where her first loyalties lie.

It takes a while for the Nurse to clearly tell Juliet what has happened, and the Nurse's confusing outbursts at first lead Juliet to think that Romeo himself is dead.  When she finally understands the truth, she cries out:

O God! did Romeo's hand shed Tybalt's blood?

The Nurse confirms this news, and Juliet responds venomously at first with a series of powerful metaphors and oxymorons, as well as personification, to Romeo's suspected duplicity:

O serpent heart, hid with a flowering face!
Did ever dragon keep so fair a cave?
Beautiful tyrant! fiend angelical!
Dove-feather'd raven! wolvish-ravening lamb!
Despised substance of divinest show!
Just opposite to what thou justly seem'st,
A damned saint, an honourable villain!
O nature, what hadst thou to do in hell,
When thou didst bower the spirit of a fiend
In moral paradise of such sweet flesh?
Was ever book containing such vile matter
So fairly bound? O that deceit should dwell
In such a gorgeous palace!

She cannot get over the fact that Romeo looks so beautiful, so good, and so kind on the outside, yet secretly harbors such ugliness and evil.  However, as soon as the Nurse agrees with her, saying that "there's no trust/no faith, no honesty in men; all perjured/all forsworn, all naught, all dissemblers," and asking that "shame come to Romeo," Juliet comes to Romeo's defense:

Blister'd be thy tongue
For such a wish! he was not born to shame:
Upon his brow shame is ashamed to sit;
For 'tis a throne where honour may be crown'd
Sole monarch of the universal earth.
O, what a beast was I to chide at him!

This speech, again using both metahor and personification, as well as hyperbole, clearly shows the turmoil Juliet is going through.  Her cousin has been her close relative and friend for many years, but Romeo is now her husband, her true love, and she realizes that her first loyalty should be to him.  She therefore asks the Nurse:

Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?
Ah, poor my lord, what tongue shall smooth thy name,
When I, thy three-hours wife, have mangled it?

Juliet is only able to accept Tybalt's death when, upon reflection, she realizes that if Romeo had not killed Tybalt, Tybalt would have killed him:

That villain cousin would have kill'd my husband:
Back, foolish tears, back to your native spring;
Your tributary drops belong to woe,
Which you, mistaking, offer up to joy.
My husband lives, that Tybalt would have slain;
And Tybalt's dead, that would have slain my husband:
All this is comfort; wherefore weep I then?

Her grief, however, does not end at this point, for the news of Romeo's banishment leaves her disconsolate.  She would rather hear the news of Tybalt's, her mother's and her father's deaths than to hear that her lover will not be able to come to her.

Read the study guide:
Romeo and Juliet

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