Fear and Tension in Act IV Scene 3 of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
"Romeo and Juliet" was first performed around 1595 on a bare stage
without any sets, with only a trap door and discovery room. The fact
that there were no sets meant that Shakespeare had to create fear and
tension in what the characters would say, not through decorative sets.
The audience would stand in front of the uncovered stage.
The play is set in Verona in Italy, where two families of equal class
lived: the Capulets and the Montagues. These two families were strong
enemies - it was only when the youngest member of each family
tragically died (for each other) that the feud ended.
Juliet has just been betrayed by her family, after being forced into a
relationship she doesn't want with Count Paris; and her nurse has
advised her to go ahead and marry Paris - a marriage that Juliet's
father has arranged. We know that she is willing to try anything to
avoid her forthcoming wedding to the Prince, as mentioned in a
previous scene: Act four, scene one.
"O bid me leap rather than marry Paris,
from off the battlements of any towerâ€¦"
When Juliet says this, it makes the audience see that she really
doesn't want to marry Paris, and is suggesting she would rather end
her own life than go ahead and marry him. She continues,
"â€¦ and hide me with a dead man in his shround -
Things that, to hear them told, have made me tremble -
And I will do them without fear or doubt."
All the things that Juliet has feared in the past, she is willing to
do - anything but marry Paris!
After talking to the Friar, he hands Juliet the potion that is the
subject of Act four, scene three.
In this scene, Juliet lies alone on her bed; thinking about every
single reason, as to whether or not she should drink the liquid Friar
Lawrence supplied her with. This is the only scene in which Juliet is
the lone character. It's a decision she has to make for herself -
there is no nurse, and the family have left her room. It's an intimate
moment where the audience can see Juliet opening up; she is alone on
stage, completely exposed, and they can see how she feels about the
most difficult decision that the character, Juliet will have to make.
Usually, she would confide in her nurse about her struggles, but for
this decision, Juliet really is alone.
At the beginning of the scene, Juliet calls her nurse back, "I'll call
them back again to comfort me. Nurse!" But there is no reply. It's at
this point she realises that it's her decision alone, "What should she
do here? My dismal scene I needs must act alone!" She realises that
it's her own responsibility, and needs to find the courage in herself
to come to the right decision. She then holds up the "vial" in her
hands and starts thinking.
Juliet says, "Farewell. God...