In William Shakespeare's Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, what is the effect of Juliet's allusions to hell?

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shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Romeo and Juiiet, Juliet is in her room awaiting Romeo’s arrival in act III, scene II. Romeo and Juliet were married earlier in the day. In the intervening time period, Romeo has killed Juliet’s cousin Tybalt in a sword fight.

Obviously, this bodes ill for Romeo, who must flee or risk being arrested or killed by Capulet’s people. At first Juliet does not know that any of this has occurred, but when the nurse enters her room with the cords (the rope used to climb up the walls), she tells Juliet what has happened, although Juliet misunderstands and thinks that it is Romeo, not Tybalt, who has been slain. Juliet responds like this:

What devil art thou that torment me thus?

This torture should be roared in dismal hell.

Juliet is saying that such news is like a sentence to everlasting pain and suffering. The nurse, in bringing the news to her, must be like a tenant of hell, a devil, to be privy to such awful information. The allusion to hell and its occupants reinforces the idea of how important Romeo is to Juliet. Life without him will be like damnation.

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