Romeo and Juliet | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 2, Scene 5

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides in-depth summary and analysis of Act 2, Scene 5 of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet | Act 2, Scene 5 | Summary

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Summary

Juliet is in her room, anxiously waiting for the nurse to return with news and bemoaning the old woman's age, which is clearly slowing her down. When the nurse finally arrives, she torments Juliet with her whining and fatigue and the need to catch her breath, just when Juliet most needs her to talk. Then she describes Romeo's beauty and body, but Juliet impatiently points out, "All this did I know before." Finally, the nurse tells Juliet what she needs to know—that she should go immediately to the friar's cell to marry Romeo, who will then come to her later that night.

Analysis

Juliet thinks of love as something with speed and force, which the nurse's age prevents her from either appreciating or facilitating. She tries tirelessly to get the Nurse to share her news, including why she looks sad, but as in previous scenes, the nurse spreads confusion. Again, there may be an element of comedy (presumably to keep the rambunctious audience entertained), but there is also the downright clash of Juliet's youthful anticipation and the nurse's submission to her aging body, which simply cannot keep up.

The nurse also offers a curious commentary on Romeo, whom she declares a bad choice, despite his physical beauty "past compare." She gets sidetracked by her aches and exhaustion and then adds that Juliet's lover is "an honest gentleman, and a courteous, and a kind, and a handsome, and, I warrant, a virtuous" man. Perhaps she is just teasing her beloved charge, as she finally gives Juliet the news plainly. The nurse's final words affirm marriage as a place for sex ("you shall bear the burden soon at night" refers to intercourse).

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