Romeo and Juliet | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 1, Scene 3

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides in-depth summary and analysis of Act 1, Scene 3 of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet | Act 1, Scene 3 | Summary



Lady Capulet and the nurse enter looking for Juliet, who arrives when called. They discuss her age, and the nurse fondly reminisces about Juliet's childhood. When they quiet the nurse, who becomes engaged in remembering a crass joke her late husband made at the child Juliet's expense, Lady Capulet asks how Juliet would feel about being married. "It is an honor that I dream not of," Juliet replies, but her mother advises her to start doing so now. She tells her daughter of Paris's interest and extols his appropriateness as a husband, emphasizing the appeal of his physical beauty by comparing him to a "fair volume" with "gold clasps." A servingman announces the party, and they exit.


Juliet reveals herself to be a measured thinker and speaker. She is not rattled by the nurse's recollection of her dead husband's crude joke. While Juliet behaves both respectfully and obediently to her elders, she does so cautiously, using her words carefully to express her wishes even though she cannot impose her will. Juliet's restraint in this approach to adult love contrasts starkly with Romeo's frenzy.

Male beauty and its relationship to love receive thorough treatment from the women in this scene. The older women use wax, flowers, and a book as metaphors for Paris's beauty, in contrast to the powerful celestial imagery Lord Capulet uses to describe women. The metaphors the women apply to Paris suggest beauty is fragile: wax melts, flowers wilt and die, and books are fragile. However, both women dwell on Paris's beauty as his greatest asset. Lady Capulet tells Juliet to scrutinize his face and "find delight writ there with beauty's pen."

The scene also begins the play's lengthy consideration of marriage—how it shapes people and what an ideal marriage is. The nurse and Lady Capulet offer marriage as the ultimate goal: a state of grace and a state of physical fulfillment. The nurse tells Juliet to "seek happy nights to happy days" because she believes marriage (and sex) leads to happiness.

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