Romeo and Juliet | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Act 3, Scene 2

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides in-depth summary and analysis of Act 3, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Alone in her room while she waits for the nurse, Juliet anticipates her imminent wedding night, demanding that night come so that Romeo can "leap to these arms." She speaks in a complex extended metaphor about night being the place for lovers to create their own light. Lovers "do their amorous rites" in darkness by the light of "their own beauties." Night enables them to be comfortably intimate. Juliet asks the night to give Romeo to her, hoping that when she dies the night will "take him and cut him out in little stars,/And he will make the face of heaven so fine,/That all the world will be in love with night."

Juliet is at the height of impatience when the nurse enters, wringing her hands and taking a long time to tell Juliet that Romeo has been banished for killing Tybalt. At various points the nurse allows Juliet to think Romeo has also been killed. Juliet weeps for both her cousin Tybalt and her new husband, but because Romeo is alive, she regains her composure—aside from her reaction to the news that Romeo has been banished. She sends the nurse away, intending to go to her "wedding bed" to let death "take [her] maidenhead" instead of Romeo. She hints that she will hang herself with the cords that were meant to bring Romeo to her bed. The nurse says she will go find Romeo at Friar Lawrence's cell where he is hiding, and Juliet gives the nurse her ring to bring to Romeo.

Analysis

The scene contrasts with the violence, anger, and despair that ended Scene 1. Juliet's intense, even ecstatic energy and impatience are immediately evident as she speaks of Romeo and the coming night. As Romeo has suffered some confusion of identity (or loss of self) in the previous scene, so does Juliet in this one. When she thinks Tybalt, her dear cousin, and Romeo are both dead, she is destroyed.

Juliet's emotional reactions to Tybalt's murder and the nurse's words echo earlier themes: the meaning of names and the importance of reputation. Although Juliet slowly accepts the news that Romeo has killed Tybalt, her husband's banishment is to her the equivalent of death; she plans to go to bed to die. When the nurse says she will find Romeo and be sure he comes to Juliet that night, she is frightened for her young charge, but her response is also consistent with her appreciation for marriage and sex.

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