In the events leading up to Act 3 Scene 5, Romeo has been banished and so is spending a final night with Juliet. Furthermore the audience has just learnt that Lord Capulet has agreed to let Paris marry Juliet on Thursday. This leaves the audience worried for not only Romeo’s safety but also Juliet as her father is starting to show signs of anger. Knowing this makes the audience tense; this is good as Act 3 Scene 5 can (in a stage performance) go at the beginning of the second half. This means the audience is in suspense over the interval; they know there is a conflict coming, perhaps even involving violence.
Having just left a scene showing anger, Shakespeare cuts straight to Romeo and Juliet together. This more romantic atmosphere has an opposite affect on the audience conjuring more tension; the audience wants to know what is going to happen to Juliet between her parents. Cutting from anger to happiness comes about again during the scene. A countdown to the climax has begun, the audience is impatient as they anticipate its coming.
When Romeo and Juliet are in bed together they finish off each other’s lines with rhyming couplets.
“ROMEO: I must be gone and live, or stay and die.
JULIET: Yon light is not daylight, I know it, I.” (11-12)
This composes harmony; in contrast these rhyming couplets only come when they are talking of leaving. This togetherness and separation go well together questioning the audience to whether Romeo and Juliet are a perfect couple? It certainly makes the audience think.
Just after line 36 the Nurse enters “hastily”. Shakespeare uses few stage directions in his plays so on occasions when he does it is to be noted. The Nurse’s rushed entrance can either bring danger or there is a comic potential (or perhaps both). The Nurse already knows of Romeo and Juliet’s marriage but may not be prepared for what she might find. Mixed together, the tension of the forthcoming dispute and this comical happening it creates a good cliffhanger.
The Nurse and Juliet address each other by their titles. These could be delivered in a variety of ways to create different effects. It creates danger, confusion and perhaps a chance for comedy in a couple of one-word lines.
Throughout this scene many of Juliet’s lines are dramatically ironic.
“Methinks I see thee now thou art so low,
As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.”
In the case of lines 55 and 56, as Romeo makes his leave, it is dramatically ironic as the audience already knows that soon Romeo will kill himself, and Juliet will see him dead (most likely in a tomb). This is also the last time Juliet will see Romeo alive and yet she is already seeing him dead. This makes the audience think and feel privileged, as they understand that her lines are ironic and in fact puns although Juliet herself does not know.
Juliet uses more puns when she and Lady Capulet are talking. Although this time Juliet is aware of it as well as the audience, Lady Capulet is not.
“Yet let me weep for such a feeling loss.” (74)
All through their conversation the audience keeps thinking that Juliet is about to confess to her mother about Romeo. However, every time they are let and down and Juliet’s hints go unnoticed. This makes the audience more worked up and frustrated. The more the audience anticipates Juliet’s confession the more tension there is when her parents eventually find out (is they ever do).
Lady Capulet starts by trying to comfort Juliet, surely trying to befriend her. The audience, sometimes confused by her generosity, know of the Capulet’s agreement with Paris. Therefore they are suspicious and foresee a change in heart and another change in atmosphere; they know Lady Capulet has to get down to business. After a long wait Lady Capulet finally does her tine and informs Juliet of her arranged marriage with Paris; a shock for both audience and Juliet for it is done most obviously. It was common in the times of Shakespeare for children (mainly of rich and often girls) to be married to a person chosen by the parents. This was to gain money, power or (and) to improve relations with other families, countries or regions. Despite the triviality of this Shakespeare seems to understand how a young woman might feel being married to some she does not know or like. Juliet gets very upset and refuses to marry. The audience is feeling sympathy for Juliet but also expect her to confess as last to get rid of Paris. There is a combination of excitement and fear that mix together well and get the audience on the edge of their seats. Juliet’s safety is now feared for though as Capulet is now known to be determined. He was in the previous scene and he will be now.
Enter Lord Capulet. Oblivious to the scene so far and whose actions are to be feared by the audience. However the audience can see the plan as Capulet begins the same way as Lady Capulet. He tries to cheer up Juliet and then jumps to business in a quick change of atmosphere.
“How now, a conduit, girl? What, still in tears?”
Is this a sign of love, or is it just pure determination? From the way Lord and Lady Capulet have been portrayed I seem that they have a plan.
The tension in the scene has been building up. So has the number of characters on stage. Two, three, one, two then four; building up to a climax. Brawls come is bigger numbers, peace and love comes with fewer numbers. The audience can understand the number of people of stage, they can tell when it is safe and when it is not.
Capulet’s mood changes suddenly again when he hears that Juliet does not wish to marry Paris. He throws a fit scaring audience and characters on stage. He tries to put guilt on Juliet, the audience has much sympathy and their thoughts of Capulet do not improve but worsen. He is so angry and mad that at points he may even be beating his own wife.
“Fie, fie, what, are you mad?”
All on stage with the exception of Capulet are women. Capulet’s bad temper and throwing of insults makes him look quite a misogynist.
After Capulet has left Juliet tries to speak to her mother and threatens to kill herself if she has to marry Paris. This is more dramatic irony as the audience knows she will eventually kill herself but not because of Paris. This makes the audience feel proud and perhaps think that Lady Capulet could have stopped both the death of Romeo and Juliet. This is what makes it so tragic. Lady Capulet ignores her.
The whole of this scene seems to be coherent on the theme of death and suicide. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a tragedy; this makes this scene so ironic. It is a major full of thoughts of death but does not include it physically.
As Lady Capulet has left, Juliet now looks to the Nurse for support. However the faithful Nurse has changed and now fears Capulet and the loss of her job. She tries to persuade Juliet into thinking that she would be much better off with Paris. This betrayal is another shock to the audience; one of the last allies has changed sides it seems. Now the audience is waiting to find out what Juliet will do now her whole family is against her. They are confused and perhaps worried that Juliet seems to agree with the Nurse and thanks her.
The scene ends with a second soliloquy from Juliet. This gives an insight to exactly what Juliet is thinking. Through the scene her discussions have been full of puns and lies. These soliloquies give her true feelings. This makes the audience to feel in touch with Juliet and helps to relate to her. Again Juliet says she shall commit suicide. She also shows that she is ashamed of the Nurse and even curses her. She is very upset and leaves the audience is suspense as they wonder what she will do if there is no way out. What will happen next?
Shakespeare uses a lot of dramatic irony and puns to build tension within the audience. It is a scene full of irony. There are numerous chances for characters to change the course of the whole play for the better but they do not. This irony is what makes this a brilliant scene. The audience is forever in tension and on edge. Combined with the sudden changes in atmosphere it forms the perfect cliffhanger scene for the play.