What is Shakespeare’s purpose in the delaying tactics of the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet?    

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The comic character of the Nurse displays a fickleness at certain points in Shakespeare's play that defies explanation, especially in Act IV, Scene 5 when she urges Juliet to marry Paris although she knows that Juliet has already married Romeo. So, after she returns from suffering the jests of Mercutio and then speaking with Romeo, the Nurse takes advantage of her position of holding important knowledge that Juliet desperately wants to hear, perhaps, again because of her fickle nature. Also, she may well be enjoying the opportunity to be the center of Juliet's attention, complaining of her back, and scolding her,

....Ah, my back, my back!
Beshrew your heart for sending me about,
To catch my death with jouncing up and down! 

The Nurse continues to tease the anxious Juliet, an indication that she is close to the maiden.

In this pivotal scene, Shakespeare achieves both low humor (from the Nurse) and high suspense (from Juliet).


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