Skip over navigation

Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare

Act 4, scenes 3–5

Act 4, scenes 1–2

Act 5, scenes 1–2

Summary: Act 4, scene 3

In her bedchamber, Juliet asks the Nurse to let her spend the night by herself, and repeats the request to Lady Capulet when she arrives. Alone, clutching the vial given to her by Friar Lawrence, she wonders what will happen when she drinks it. If the friar is untrustworthy and seeks merely to hide his role in her marriage to Romeo, she might die; or, if Romeo is late for some reason, she might awaken in the tomb and go mad with fear. She has a vision in which she sees Tybalt’s ghost searching for Romeo. She begs Tybalt’s ghost to quit its search for Romeo, and toasting to Romeo, drinks the contents of the vial.

Summary: Act 4, scenes 4–5

Early the next morning, the Capulet house is aflutter with preparations for the wedding. Capulet sends the Nurse to go wake Juliet. She finds Juliet dead and begins to wail, soon joined by both Lady Capulet and Capulet. Paris arrives with Friar Lawrence and a group of musicians for the wedding. When he learns what has happened, Paris joins in the lamentations. The friar reminds them all that Juliet has gone to a better place, and urges them to make ready for her funeral. Sorrowfully, they comply, and exit.

Left behind, the musicians begin to pack up, their task cut short. Peter, the Capulet servant, enters and asks the musicians to play a happy tune to ease his sorrowful heart. The musicians refuse, arguing that to play such music would be inappropriate. Angered, Peter insults the musicians, who respond in kind. After singing a final insult at the musicians, Peter leaves. The musicians decide to wait for the mourners to return so that they might get to eat the lunch that will be served.

Analysis: Act 4, scenes 3–5

Once again Juliet demonstrates her strength. She comes up with reason after reason why drinking the sleeping potion might cause her harm, physical or psychological, but chooses to drink it anyway. In this action she not only attempts to circumvent the forces that obstruct her relationship with Romeo, she takes full responsibility for herself. She recognizes that drinking the potion might lead her to madness or to death. Drinking the potion therefore constitutes an action in which she takes her life into her own hands, and determines its worth to her. In addition to the obvious foreshadow in Juliet’s vision of Tybalt’s vengeful ghost, her drinking of the potion also hints at future events. She drinks the potion just as Romeo will later drink the apothecary’s poison. In drinking the potion she not only demonstrates a willingness to take her life into her own hands, she goes against what is expected of women and takes action.

In their mourning for Juliet, the Capulets appear less as a hostile force arrayed against the lovers and more as individuals. The audience gains an understanding of the immense hopes that the Capulets had placed in Juliet, as well as a sense of their love for her. Similarly, Paris’s love for Juliet seems wholly legitimate. His wailing cannot simply be taken as grief over the loss of a wife who might have brought him fortune. It seems more personal than that, more like grief over the loss of a loved one.

Many productions of Romeo and Juliet cut the scene depicting Peter and the musicians. Productions do this for good reason: the scene’s humor and traded insults seem ill placed at such a tragic moment in the play. If one looks at the scene as merely comic relief, it is possible to argue that it acts as a sort of caesura, a moment for the audience to catch its breath from the tragedy of Act 4 before heading into the even greater tragedy of Act 5. If one looks at the scene in context with the earlier scenes that include servants a second argument can be made for why Shakespeare included it. From each scene including servants, we gain a unique perspective of the events going on in the play. Here, in the figure of the musicians, we get a profoundly different view of the reaction of the lower classes to the tragedy of Juliet’s death. Initially the musicians are wary about playing a happy song because it will be considered improper, no matter their explanations. It is not, after all, for a mere musician to give explanations to mourning noblemen. As the scene progresses it becomes clear that the musicians do not really care much about Juliet or the tragedy in which she is involved. They care more about the fact that they are out of a job, and perhaps, that they will miss out on a free lunch. In other words, this great tragedy, which is, undoubtedly, a tragedy of epic proportions, is still not a tragedy to everyone.

Are you ready for the test?
Quick Quiz   →

More Help

Previous Next
Translation

by DenerioWillis19, October 18, 2012

I really like how they translated the quotes into modern day time.

Thanks.

10 Comments

128 out of 170 people found this helpful

Dramatic Irony

by Shookie219, December 18, 2012

This site is wonderful but it doesn't point out some literary elements I think it should such as dramatic irony. In Act IV Scene I one of the first occurrences of dramatic irony is that Paris believes Juliet is weeping over Tybalt's death but she is weeping over Romeo which the audience knows.

It would be nice to have dramatic irony's pointed out a little!

8 Comments

134 out of 171 people found this helpful

Owen's Eternal Love for Brooklynn

by cameronwelch12, February 15, 2013

Hey guys, it's Cameron again, my poor friend Owen is having issues getting a girlfriend. His true love is Brooklynn Smithington AKA Brian Smithington's daughter. Owen is 4 years old and was born on a leap year. He also enjoys making sandwiches for his love's father Brian Smithington. Please help him get a date with Brooklynn and I will give you 3 wishes. - By the way, I am a Genie

4 Comments

76 out of 370 people found this helpful

See all 36 readers' notes   →

Follow Us