What advice would you give an actor playing this part?
In this passage Juliet has strong conflicting emotions. It is all showing how Juliet copes in a time of despair and how she deals with such a traumatic circumstance. It is a solo scene, and therefore I feel it shouldn’t be acted with too much hysteria. But instead quite calmly. I think this would make it seem more realistic and consequently more dramatic. She begins by saying:
‘Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again.’
This suggests that she is both hesitant about taking the poison and scared as to whether it will work. Because of this risk she is very afraid.
For this to be acted out during the period of time it was written there wouldn’t have been an actress to play Juliet. A pre-pubescent boy would play it because his voice wouldn’t have broken and would be suitable to play the opposite sex. However, to modernise it to fit into life today, I would have a woman act the part.
At this point in the scene, Juliet hasn’t had a real chance to digest what she is about to do or think about the consequences in detail. With this in mind, I would have the actress use few facial expressions, but instead, have straight pale almost life-less look about her. In the next couple of lines she goes on to say:
‘I have a faint cold fear thrills though my veins
That almost freezes up the heat of life’
Juliet is starting to feel more and more terrified about the ideas, I think here the actress should start to tremble and maybe start to shed a few tears as she raises her arms to look at her veins.
‘I’ll call them back again to comfort me
Nurse! – What should she do here?
My dismal scene I needs must act alone
In these lines Juliet seems to get more tense. She’s doubtful as to whether she is able to do this by herself and so calls for the nurse to come back. She knows that’s it is her family duty to marry her parents choice Paris, and that even her faithful nurse will not be able to help her go against social necessity and tradition.
Whilst acting this I think the actress should start to show Juliet is upset and nervous. This should be done by her starting to cry and, if possible, getting clammy or sweaty. When shouting ‘Nurse!’ the actress shout trail off at the end to show the definite change of mind leading into determination of doing this act alone. This can be shown by the actress sniffing as a physical full stop to the tears before leaning forward to pick up the poison.
The last few lines of the paragraph say:
‘What if this mixture do not work at all?
Shall I be married then tomorrow morning?
No, no, this shall forbid it; lie thou there.’
After saying this, Juliet places a dagger by her bedside. She is prepared to kill herself rather than marrying Paris if the poison doesn’t work and she were to wake in the morning. To do this shows she is obviously starting to get confused as well as terrified about the whole scheme.
Juliet I think should have a slight slip in her firm attitude as she starts to worry that the scheme will fail and she will have to resort to stabbing herself.
‘What if it be a poison which the Friar
Subtly hath ministered to have me dead,
Lest in this marriage he should be dishonoured,
Because he married me before to Romeo?
I fear it is, and yet methinks it should not,
For he hath still been tried a holy man.’
This section of the passage shows that she is becoming very anxious and paranoid. She fears that even the good Father Lawrence would try and kill her to save his reputation. But she recognises that this would be improbable and her fears take another form.
Being anxious, Juliet should start to pace up and down her bedroom, unable to rest. Her hand movements should start to get more dramatic as she asks herself these distressing questions. She should also start to pull at her hair in a distracted way.
Juliet then reflects that even if the potion is not poisonous she may be forced to awake alone in the tomb. She is a young girl and her imagination gives her a series of harrowing possibilities.
She fears she may wake and suffocate in the tomb before Romeo arrived or possibly, even wore, she may wake amongst the corpses and bones in the family vault and be driven crazy by the horrors of such surroundings.
‘O, if I wake, shall I not be distraught,
Environï¿½d with all these hideous fears,
And madly play with my forefathers’ joints,
And pluck the mangled Tybalt from his shroud.’
The actress may now stop pacing up and down and sink onto her bed, clutching her arms, rocking backwards and forwards.
She imagines being next to the festering body of Tybalt and being distraught enough to kill herself in madness. At this point she has worked herself to hysterical resolution, she suddenly stops this train of thought. She is still very frightened and feels helplessly naï¿½ve to it all.
The actress ceases to rock herself and takes on a calm, but slightly false attitude. Refocusing on Romeo, Juliet drinks the potion.
‘Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! Here’s drink – I drink to thee.’