Romeo and Juliet | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 2, Scene 4

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides in-depth summary and analysis of Act 2, Scene 4 of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet | Act 2, Scene 4 | Summary

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Summary

Benvolio and Mercutio enter, still looking for Romeo, in part to alert him that Tybalt is enraged at their attending the party and has challenged Romeo to a duel. When Romeo arrives they tease him, only to find he is much improved (and teasing back): "Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo," Mercutio says appreciatively.

The nurse and the servant Peter enter, sent by Juliet to find out the details of the plan to marry Romeo. After teasing the nurse in a crass manner, Mercutio leaves her and Romeo, along with Benvolio. The nurse expresses indignation about the departed men and then cautions Romeo concerning his treatment of Juliet: "if you should lead her in a fool's paradise ... it were a very gross kind of behavior." They make a plan to get Juliet to the friar's cell that afternoon for the marriage ceremony and some "cords" to make a ladder for Romeo to climb to her room later so they can spend the night together. The nurse also tells Romeo of Juliet's other suitor, Paris, and explains that Juliet has little interest in Paris.

Analysis

Romeo has been transformed—or returned to something like his original self before he met Rosaline. After some back-and-forth jesting rich with sexual innuendo, Mercutio remarks that Romeo seems himself again. This comment will likely resonate with the audience, who has just heard Juliet's take on the subject of what it means to be Romeo. Both passages touch on the recurring theme of identity. Romeo means different things to Juliet and Mercutio. Mercutio assumes that Romeo has finally stepped away from the hapless role of lover and returned to that of friend. Juliet's Romeo is not only her lover but also her "lord."

We see both of those Romeos in this scene. He is the young lusty man who allows Mercutio to taunt the nurse, but then, in his friends' absence, Juliet's soon-to-be husband respectfully asks the nurse to "commend [him] to" his bride.

The nurse's role in this scene includes providing comic relief but also offering some protective wisdom. The audience may chuckle when hearing her use the adjective sententious, which means "judgmental," when she likely intends to use the noun sentiments, or "feelings." Her social status and gender notwithstanding, the nurse stands up for herself and for Juliet. In response to Mercutio's crass teasing, she exclaims that she'll "take him down" or find others who will. She warns Romeo against misusing Juliet and refuses Romeo's offer of money for her efforts. She also reveals that Paris—"the properer man"—is pursuing an uninterested Juliet, though the nurse makes the revelation in so confused a way that Romeo seems not to grasp its implications. The nurse makes little sense, but it's Romeo whose reason seems to fail, perhaps because he is preoccupied by the upcoming wedding.

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