Last Updated on January 7, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 812
Act III, Scene 3
Friar Laurence enters his cell and calls out to Romeo, who is hiding inside. When Romeo appears and asks what his punishment will be, Friar Laurence explains that he has been banished for killing Tybalt. Declaring that there is no world for him outside of Verona, Romeo deems his banishment a fate worse than death. The Friar rebukes Romeo for his foolishness and urges him to be grateful that the Prince has decided to spare his life. Refusing to listen, Romeo bemoans the fact that he won’t be able to touch or see his beloved Juliet.
Romeo becomes increasingly despondent and falls to the ground, but his theatrics are interrupted by the arrival of the Nurse, whom Romeo immediately peppers with questions about Juliet. When the Nurse describes Juliet’s emotional torment, Romeo assumes that his new wife must hate him and draws his dagger, threatening to stab himself. Frustrated, Friar Laurence orders Romeo to stop behaving in such an irrational and unmanly manner and says that Romeo is being ungrateful for his many blessings. Friar Laurence reminds Romeo that he is lucky—lucky that Juliet is still alive, lucky that the man who wanted to kill him is dead, and lucky that he is only banished. Quickly coming up with a plan, the Friar tells Romeo to go to Juliet’s room as originally planned but to leave for Mantua before daybreak. While Romeo stays in Mantua, they will spread word of his and Juliet’s marriage and petition the Prince to lift Romeo’s banishment. The Nurse gives Juliet’s ring to Romeo, brightening his mood, and he sets off to meet Juliet after bidding the Friar farewell.
Act III, Scene 4
Lord Capulet and his wife enter, accompanied by Paris. Lord Capulet explains that due to recent unfortunate events, he has not had the chance to talk to his daughter regarding Paris’s suit. Lady Capulet promises Paris that she will find out what Juliet is thinking in the morning. Assuring Paris that he has no doubt that Juliet will agree to do as he orders, Lord Capulet tells his wife to inform Juliet that she must marry Paris on Thursday (after deciding that Wednesday is too soon). The wedding will be an intimate affair, Capulet declares, as he does not want to give off the impression that the family does not care about Tybalt’s recent death.
Romeo’s reaction to his banishment further highlights the disparity between his and Juliet’s respective emotional maturity. Though Juliet is devastated by the banishment, she quickly pulls herself together and sends the Nurse to deliver a token of affection to Romeo. Romeo, however, refuses to listen to the Friar’s wise words and dramatically threatens to kill himself when he thinks Juliet may be angry with him. The Friar forcefully rebukes Romeo for this behavior and, in doing so, calls attention to an important element of Romeo’s personality. The Friar declares that Romeo’s wild emotions have made him lose focus on what is important: the love Romeo has vowed to treasure.
Thy dear love sworn but hollow perjury,
Killing that love which thou hast vowed to cherish;
Thy wit, that ornament to shape and love,
Misshapen in the conduct of them both,
Romeo is a highly sensitive and emotional person, and while his dramatic response to banishment is certainly in character, it is notable that Friar Laurence must counsel him to put his duty to his significant other first—a conclusion Juliet reaches all on her own.
The idea of suicide reoccurs throughout act III as both Romeo and Juliet contemplate ways to escape their undesirable situation. Cursing his name, Romeo says, “In what vile part of this anatomy / Doth my name lodge? Tell me, that I may sack / The hateful mansion.” Unlike his proclamation in act II that he would simply cast off his name if it offended Juliet, Romeo now seems to believe that he can only erase his name by killing himself. This change reflects Romeo’s realization that he cannot escape the obligations and implications of his name—especially in light of what has happened with Tybalt and Mercutio.
Unlike Romeo, who dramatically threatens to kill himself, Juliet appears to evaluate the idea of suicide quite dispassionately, framing it as a practical way to remain faithful to her husband and a course she will only pursue if the Friar cannot present any preferable alternative. That both protagonists independently contemplate suicide not only foreshadows their eventual deaths but also speaks their increasing desperation as the odds continue to stack up against their love. It is easy to think of all the ways their deaths could have been avoided; however, their mutual despair in these scenes can help the audience understand why Romeo and Juliet make the (sometimes irrational) choices they do.
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