What is the effect of the parallelism in Act 3 Scene 2 (Line 96-97) of Romeo and Juliet?

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The parallelism in this interchange between the Nurse and Juliet—"Will you speak well of him that killed your cousin?" / "Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?"—leads into a monologue from Juliet which explores the issue further, with the same point being revisited again in parallel terms: "Wherefore, villain, didst thou kill my cousin? / That villain cousin would have killed my husband." Juliet uses the identifier "villain" to describe both cousin and husband, because in either situation described, her loyalties are divided: if Romeo, a man from a rival family, kills a member of Juliet's family, Juliet should, theoretically, be bound by honor to hold him in contempt. However, because of the situation between the two families, Juliet equally feels unable to express complete solidarity with the man she loves, because in doing so, she sets herself in opposition to her own family.

The parallelism here, then, has the effect of expressing the difficulties of the situation in which Juliet finds herself. From both angles, the situation looks untenable. Juliet's repetition of the word "villain" suggests she is shuttling between a position in which Romeo is a villain, and a position in which her own family is, and is unable to find a point of compromise between the two. This emphasizes the impossibility of her position, and also the fact that she fully appreciates its difficulty.

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This scene takes place just after Juliet's nurse has informed her that Romeo has killed her cousin, Tybalt.  The nurse asks Juliet, "Will you speak well of him that killed your cousin?"  And Juliet's response, "Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?" echoes the structure of the nurse's initial question.  The effect of this parallelism is that it bluntly exposes the paradox within which Juliet is trapped: how can she feel love for the man who killed her kinsman?  Yet how can she hate the husband that she loves?  Obviously, anyone who murders her beloved cousin in the streets should be her enemy as well, but she is duty-bound to honor and love her husband as she has taken an oath before him, the friar, and God.  How can she do both?  The parallelism, besides emphasizing her impossible position, also shows Juliet's intelligence in that she understands the position she's in. 

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Romeo and Juliet

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