In the Capulet orchard, Juliet impatiently waits for her nurse, whom she sent to meet Romeo three hours earlier. At last the Nurse returns, and Juliet anxiously presses her for news. The Nurse claims to be too tired, sore, and out of breath to tell Juliet what has happened. Juliet grows frantic, and eventually the Nurse gives in and tells her that Romeo is waiting at Friar Lawrence’s cell to marry her. The Nurse departs to wait in the ally for Romeo’s servant, who is to bring a ladder for Romeo to use to climb up to Juliet’s chamber that night to consummate their marriage.Read a translation of Act 2, scene 4 →
Romeo and Friar Lawrence wait for Juliet to arrive at the cell. An ecstatic Romeo brashly states that he does not care what misfortune might come, as it will pale in comparison to the joy he feels right now. Friar Lawrence counsels Romeo to love moderately and not with too much intensity, saying, “these violent delights have violent ends” (2.5.9). Juliet enters and Romeo asks her to speak poetically of her love. Juliet responds that those who can so easily describe their “worth” are beggars, her love is far too great to be so easily described. The lovers exit with Friar Lawrence and are wed.Read a translation of Act 2, scene 5 →
Throughout these scenes, Shakespeare emphasizes the thrilling joy of young, romantic love. Romeo and Juliet are electric with anticipation. In a wonderfully comic scene, Juliet can barely contain herself when the Nurse pretends to be too tired to give her the news. Romeo is equally excited, brashly and blasphemously proclaiming his love is the most powerful force in the world.
Though the euphoria of love clearly dominates these scenes, some ominous foreshadowing is revealed. The Nurse’s joking game in which she delays telling Juliet the news will find its sad mirror in a future scene, when the Nurse’s anguish prevents her from relating news to Juliet and thereby causing terrible confusion. A more profound foreshadowing exists in the friar’s observation, in reference to Romeo’s powerful love, that “these violent delights have violent ends” (2.5.9). Every audience member knows that the play is a tragedy, and that Romeo and Juliet will die. The friar’s words therefore are more than just a difference of opinion with Romeo; they reinforce the presence and power of fate.
Friar Lawrence’s devotion to moderation is interesting in that it offers an alternative to the way in which all the other characters in Romeo and Juliet live their lives. From Romeo to Tybalt, and Montague to Capulet, every character follows passion, forsakes moderation. The friar criticizes this way of acting and feeling, noting its destructiveness. Friar Lawrence is most certainly correct, but after expounding his belief, the friar gets himself embroiled in all of the excess and passion he counsels against. The passion of the young lovers might be destructive, but it is also exquisitely beautiful; if Romeo and Juliet were moderate in their affection, their love would not strike such a chord.