In Romeo and Juliet, act 2, scene 5, why is Juliet increasingly frustrated by the Nurse's irrelevant replies?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Juliet is a girl madly in love. She has met the man of her dreams and has sent the nurse to speak with Romeo and determine whether he will marry her. In the initial lines of the play, she frets because the nurse has been gone for three very long hours already:

. . . and from nine till twelve
Is three long hours, yet she is not come. (II.v.10-11)

As she waits, Juliet grows increasingly anxious: Will she become Romeo's bride or not? It's a big question, and it is worth noting that she is only 13; barely a teenager, she lacks the patience often acquired with a little more life experience.

Finally the nurse returns. She has known Juliet since infancy, so she would be quite aware of Juliet's personality. She knows that Juliet is waiting in anxious anticipation of the news the nurse will deliver.

So, like any good caretaker, she decides to goad her a bit.

She tells her that her bones ache. She tells Juliet that she needs some time alone before they talk. She tells her that she's too out of breath to talk about it.

JULIET

How art thou out of breath when thou hast breath
To say to me that thou art out of breath? (II.v.31-32)

All of this has exactly the effect on Juliet that the nurse intends. Juliet works herself into a frenzy, desperate for information about the status of her potential marriage. At one point, it seems like the nurse is finally going to fill Juliet in, and then she teases her once more:

Your love says, like an honest gentleman, and a
courteous, and a kind, and a handsome, and, I warrant, a
virtuous— Where is your mother? (II.v.55-57)

It's quite a humorous exchange, this playful banter between Juliet and her nurse. The reader can envision Juliet's ecstatic response when the nurse eventually gives her the news:

Then hie you hence to Friar Lawrence’s cell.
There stays a husband to make you a wife. (II.v.69-70)

The delayed gratification seems to make the news all the more joyous as Juliet rushes out to prepare for her future husband.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

With her bumbling mannerisms, bawdy language, and rambling conversations, the Nurse provides comic relief in several serious situations throughout "Romeo and Juliet."  Shakespeare utilizes her character to provide amusement and action for the audience, especially the groundlings who would not be as interested in pure tragedy and verse as the more educated class would.  So, in this most serious scene, the Nurse serves to not only accent the impetuous nature of youth, but provide some silliness for the audience that can probably recognize a relative of their own in the Nurse's character.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Act 2, scene 5, Juliet is awaiting the Nurse's arrival with news from Romeo of whether or not he will marry her and, if he will, where and when the wedding will take place.  By nature, Juliet, as well as Romeo, is extremely impatient and impetuous.  Neither one of them waits to think about anything before he or she actually does it.  This is one of the reasons Juliet is so impatient in this scene -- because it is a part of the characterization that Shakespeare has created for her.  This scene actually shows how Juliet and the Nurse are foils of each other -- through the Nurse's patience and Juliet's impatience.  A second, more easily accessible reason for her impatience is that she is waiting to find out if and when she will be married to the boy of her dreams. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team