What is the imagery and dramatic irony in Juliet's lines (1-33) of Act 3, Scene 2 in Romeo and Juliet?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Juliet has an impatient yet pensive tone as she borrows from mythological imagery in the lines you mention.  In this lesser-known monologue by Juliet, she waits for her new husband to come to her and consummate the marriage.  Quite obviously, Juliet is impatient.  She has to wait for night to fall, and it simply can't come fast enough.  All of Juliet's images in her monologue revolve around this one theme.  Most interestingly, however, Juliet borrows from Greek mythology to set the scene:

Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds, / Towards Phoebus' lodging!  Such a wagoner / As Phaeton would whip you to the West / And bring in cloudy night immediately.  (3.2.1-4)

What an interesting image to use, one that definitely has been given by an impassioned lover!  Phaeton, of course, couldn't control the horses.  Therefore, although, night might come faster, it certainly wouldn't come with any regularity or certainty.  All of Juliet's other images here revert back to this image of night coming quickly.  Juliet even uses apostrophe when she directly addresses night in her monologue.  Juliet combines apostrophe with metaphor in a beautiful image describing her lover:

Come, gentle night; come, loving, black-browed  night; / Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die, / Take him and cut him out in little stars, / And he will make the face of heaven so fine / That all the world will be in love with night / And pay no worship to the garish sun.  (3.2.20-25)

Oh, but the dramatic irony in this scene is enough to break anyone's heart!  The audience knows that Romeo has killed Juliet's cousin, Tybalt.  This murder will most certainly foul the lovers' chances to be together!  Juliet, of course, has no knowledge of this until the Nurse tells her later in the scene.  The audience, then, has no choice but to look on with sad eyes.

lit24 | Student

ActIII sc.2, takes place late Monday afternoon, a few hours after Romeo and Juliet had been secretly married by Friar Laurence. The scene opens with Juliet waiting impatiently for the night to come so that Romeo could steal into her chamber and cosummate their marriage.

The tone of Juliet's soliloquy is one of restlessness, anxiety and impatience:

"So tedious is this day,

As is the night before some festival

To an impatient child that hath new robes

And may not wear them."

Like any normal bride on her wedding night she also looks forward expectantly and eagerly for sexual fulfilment as she loses her virginity.

"And learn me how to lose a winning match

Played for a pair of stainless maidenhoods."

Juliet's soliloquy is rich and purple with poetic imagery. In Shakespeare's time the plays were staged in the open in the afternoon, and so inorder to stimulate the imagination of the audience Shakespeare had to strain his poetic energies to create the mood and atmosphere of a wedding night through his rich poetic passages. Although the play was staged in bright daylight the magic of Shakespeare's poetic diction and imagery make us also participate in  Juliet's  feelings and emotions as she waits impatiently and eagerly for the arrival of Romeo on her wedding night.

Night is compared to a curtain under cover of which lovers can meet and make love: "spread thy close curtain love-performing night," and to an old and sober lady dressed in black ("sober-suited matron"). Later Juliet pleads with night to quickly bring Romeo to him. She glowingly remarks that after she is dead he should become transformed into a constellation of stars in the sky and will look so strikingly beautiful that everyone will fall in love wtih the night and "pay no worship to the  garish sun."

The dramatic irony ofcourse, is that Juliet is completely oblivious of the sword fight that has taken place after her marriage.  She does not know that Tybalt killed Mercutio and that in revenge Romeo has killed her own cousin Tybalt. As a punishment, the Duke has banished Romeo from the city and if he is seen anywhere in the city he will be put to death. The irony is that although Juliet might  wait with great expectation for her lover Romeo on her wedding night  he cannot meet her except by risking his own life.