I am doing an essay about the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. I will be looking at her character functions in the play, with the language and her impact of her in the play. The Nurse is employed by the Capulet family since the birth of Juliet, and the Juliet’s upbringing has been left entirely in her hands. The Nurse has a lot of affection for Juliet. She plays more of a mother figure to Juliet than her natural mother does. She provides entertainment by making jokes and bawdy comments. She also relieves the tragedy with her humour in the play. The nurse is an imperative character in the play because Shakespeare uses her to moves the plot forward. She is like a messenger informing Romeo and Juliet of the news and keeps the story going.
Shakespeare also uses her to bring humour in the play which contrasts with the tragedy waiting to happen in the end of the play. In the play she is described as being as a capacious lady, she is written to wear a flowing dress. Romeo pretends that she is a ship and that her headscarf is a sail, “A sail, A sail”. From the way she looks, moves and wares bring humour in to the play. She audience laugh at her and from the Act 2 Scene 4 we can expect that she will be bringing humour in the play. All of the absurdity that she brings contrasts with the Tragedy of Rome and Juliet. She also heightens the problem or the tragedy and raises even more tension there is.
The Nurse is very talkative, she loves to make speeches and talk about the past The Nurse frequently tells stories and is reminiscent about her past. E.g. She often talks about her daughter Susan, who became deceased when she was only months old. “Susan and she- God rest all Christian souls- were of an age.” This all make Lady Capulet and Juliet infuriated towards her. She often does not think before speaking, she frequently talks about sex to Juliet and says that marriage is not about love, but it is about sex. “Yea’, quoth he, ‘ fallst upon thy face? Thou wilt fall backward when thou comest to age wilt thou not, Jule? It stinted and said, ‘Ay’.” She uses a lot of rude and sexual language in the play. She also recall what her husband said to her daughter
“… dost thou fall upon thy face?
Thou will fall backwards when thou hast move wit”
She tell Juliet another vulgar stories, which contrasts with the more noble language of Lady Capulet .She talks about sex in the presence of Lady Capulet, which is not very appropriate as she is a high status women and she is married, so when the Nurse talks about marriage being just about sex, Lady Capulet may feel uncomfortable. These types of characteristics irritate characters such as Lady Capulet but keep the audience humoured and entertained. This shows us that she is really close to Juliet in person closer than her own mother.
The Nurse is totally devoted to Juliet and is also loyal towards her. Although she is thoughtless at times, her intentions are always good. Even when talking about uncomfortable issues such as sex to Juliet, she is only trying to warn Juliet about life from her experience, it might have been her own marriage which was based on sex. The nurse doesn’t understand that times and people have changed. This shows the Nurse’s ignorance, as she is not well educated and not very intelligent
The relationship of the Nurse and Juliet is more like a mother and daughter relationship where as lady Capulet and Juliet isn’t. The Nurse takes care of Juliet and is very protective of Juliet. She tells Romeo to not mistreat Juliet “But first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her in a fool’s paradise as they say it were a very gloss kind of behaviour.”
When Juliet speaks to her mother she speaks very formally, calling her “madam”. The conversation is stilted and proper, whereas with the Nurse she talks very openly.
The Nurse uses many different terms when she is referring to Juliet,
“What, Lamb? What Ladybird?”
That is another sign of a close bond. The language in which they use to communicate is far less formal than that of the language with Lady Capulet. There seems to be a relaxed atmosphere around them. She is also a confidante towards Juliet, Juliet can tell her secrets and personal things to the Nurse. There relationship is like a relationship between two sisters and also a relationship between a mother and her daughter. This bond has been developed because the Nurse has looked after Juliet ever since she was a child and has treated as a daughter, as she has been wet Nurse for Juliet. As they spend so much time together, they feel they can trust each other and confide in one another. Lady Capulet relationship with Juliet is complete different, she doesn’t fell comfortable being alone with Juliet
“Nurse, come back again, have remember’d me,
thou’s hear our counsel”
The Lady wishes to discuss things with Juliet, but finds it uncomfortable. She calls the Nurse back immediately. She is seen as a trusted family servant to the Lord Capulet in Verona. Lady Capulet can’t even talk to Juliet in private she need the nurse with her. This shows us that Lady Capulet is doesn’t had close relationship with her own daughter while the Nurse does. We also see that Nurse tring to protect Juliet from her father, Lord Caplet when Capulet threatens and insults Juliet for refusing to marry Paris, the Nurse tries to intervene. She says
“God in heaven bless her! / You are to blame, my lord, to rate her so”
But her courage earns her nothing but insults; while all this happens Juliet mother doesn’t even tries to defend her daughter. This shows the Nurse really cares about Juliet more than her own mother. The Nurse relationship with Juliet is very intimate
The nurse has different relationship with other people in the play. The relationship with Mercutio and Romeo is more informal. At act 2 Scene 4 we see the Nurse, accompanied by her servant Peter. She is approached by 2 young men, Mercutio and Romeo. The y start to make joke on the Nurse, Romeo starts it off, “A sail, a sail!” and followed by Mercutio’s, “Two, two; a shirt and a smock” Romeo and Mercutio consider the Nurse and Peter to be overdressed, so that his shirt and her smock look like ships’ sails. The Nurse is also acting as though she thinks she’s a fine lady, and when she orders Peter to bring her a fan, Mercutio sarcastically comments to his friends, “Good Peter, to hide her face; for her fan’s the fairer face” . We also see Mercutio assaults her dignity with an offensive joke:
“‘Tis no less, I tell you, for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon”
She also tries to get back at Mercutio by saying,
“By my troth, it is well said; “for himself to mar,” quoth a’?”
In this scene we se the Nurse relationship with Mercutio and Romeo we see that there relationship is more informal and they like to joke around with each other. On the other hand the relationship of The Nurse with Lady, Lord Capulet is more kind of a formal relationship, because they are here employers and they have a higher standard.
The nurse is a messenger for Juliet and Romeo. Without her the plot would not have moved. She was the one who told both of them who was the other one. At the Masked ball Romeo asks the Nurse who is Juliet and finds out that she is a Capulet and Juliet sends the Nurse to find out who is Romeo and discovers his name and is dismayed to learn that he is a Montague. Juliet evens send her to find out Romeo and ask her in the market square in Act 2 Scene 4.
“Gentlemen, can any of you tell me where I may
find the young Romeo?”
Although she spoke to him recently, it was brief and she cannot remember what he looked like. It is the same with Romeo. She tell Romeo not to betray Juliet
should lead her into a fool’s paradise, as they say, it
Were a very gross kind of behavior”
When she gets the response of Romeo she goes back to Juliet, who is waiting anxiously. When the Nurse enters in Act 2 Scene 5 she tries to delay the information about Romeo by telling Juliet that she is out of breath “thou out of breath” “jaunt” she also tries to delay the information by telling Juliet how handsome in Romeo. She makes Juliet really frustrated because she is being teased by the nurse. She teases Juliet, and has little regard for her feelings. She enjoyed herself because she is power over Juliet, which she never gets. In this scene she is garrulous which contrasts with Juliet’s direct manner e.g.
“How art thou out of breath, when thou hest breath
To say to me that thou art out of breath?
The excuse that thou dost make in this delay
Is longer than the tale thou dost excuse”
At this point Juliet seems to understand that the Nurse is teasing. She says that if the Nurse has enough breath to say she is out of breath, she has enough breath to deliver the news, and that delivering the news would take less time than making excuses for not delivering it. Then Juliet asks for just one little word. She says,
“Is thy news good, or bad? answer to that;
Say either, and I’ll stay the circumstance
Let me be satisfied, is’t good or bad?”
The Nurse is the one who tells Juliet of the death of Tybalt and the Banishment of Romeo. She shows more sadness for the death of Tybalt than the banishment of Romeo. This is natural because Tybalt is part of the family.
“Tybalt is gone and Romeo is banished”
She imparts the information of Romeo killing Tybalt and creates confusion for a while and makes Juliet think that Romeo is dead
“O Romeo … O Romeo!”
From this Juliet is distraught from finding out at first that her husband has died then her cousin was killed by her own husband, Romeo. When the Nurse tries to comfort Juliet and criiceses Reomeo Juliet turns on her
“shame come to Romeo” (Nurse)
“Blistered be thy tongue” (Juliet).
Shakespeare uses the Nurse in the Scene to create confusion and to allow the audience to see the love of Juliet for Romeo.
In this scene we see how much distress has the Nurse put Juliet in. Juliet has a conflict of emotions; she is out of her mind. It’s a conflict of loyalty to her family and to her husband. For a moment her words reveal her ambiguous feelings about Romeo.
“O serpent heart, hid with a flowring face!”
A “flowering face” is beautiful, like that of the evil serpent in the Garden of Eden. Juliet follows this metaphor with a dozen more, all of which express shock and amazement that Romeo could look so good and be so bad. Another one like this is
“Beautiful tyrant, fiend angelical ”
Here Shakespeare done a good quality of Romeo “beautiful” a good word while “tyrant” describing him as a evil person. “Fiend” describing Romeo as an evil person on the other hand “angelical” describing Romeo as an angel, Shakespeare uses Juliet to speak in an oxymoron language to show the audience Juliet mixed feelings towards Romeo.
Nurse realises the depth of Juliet feelings for Romeo
“I’ll to my wedding-bed
And death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead”
Through the impact of these lines, which say that, not Romeo, will take her maidenhead but it will be death. At this point the Nurse shows sympathy and goes to fetch Romeo from the Lawrence’ cell, “I’ll find Romeo” and Juliet tell her to gives her a ring to give to Romeo. Here the Nurse is also used as a messenger from Juliet to send Romeo a ring and tell him to come back to Juliet.
The nurse does stand up for Juliet in Act 3 scene 5 against Juliet’s father violent rage against Juliet. The nurse was the only person that Juliet could turn to for help and comfort. At act 3 scene 5 Juliet gets threatened to marry Paris and she need the Nurse to help her to persuade her parents. She is in an impossible situation, she is already married to Romeo and the Nurse knows that. After all the outburst of Juliet’s parents the nurse advice Juliet to marry Paris, Romeo is banished he’s as good as dead, “disclout”. From this point Juliet turns against the Nurse from this point she changes. When the Nurse confirms what she really thinks, that Juliet should marry Paris, Juliet says “Amen” I agree. But she doesn’t mean it, she turns against the Nurse, she has changed and has her own mind. The nurse is no longer the person to whom Juliet can turn to. Juliet is angry and let down by the Nurse.
“Thou and my bossom henceforth shall be twain”
Now see will ask “friar to know his remedy” she will go to Friar Lawrence for help now.
The nurse was being realistic when she was telling Juliet to marry Romeo which contrasted with Juliet romantic vision of her love. I think the Nurse still has Juliet’s best interest at heart and has not betrayed in any way. I feel the only reason the Nurse is telling Juliet to wed Paris as opposed to Romeo is because then she will still keep a good relationship with the Capulet family and so she doesn’t end up on the streets, with no money and not a healthy life. As Romeo is banished, he cannot provide a good home and family for Juliet while Paris can and Juliet does not break her bonds with her family. For all her upbringing of Juliet, she is unable to understand her true feelings and fails to read her intentions when she apparently accepts Paris. At this point the audience would be shocked from what the Nurse has advised Juliet to do and would feel angry toward The Nurse.
But as wee see the Nurse reaction towards the death of Juliet after drinking the potion we see that she really does care for Juliet. At act 4 Scene 5 we see .The nurse at Juliet chamber try to wake Juliet up for the wedding. She was the first person to find out that she was dead because she has a close relationship with Juliet and familiar intimate relationship When the nurse find out that Juliet is dead she is in horror
“She’s dead, deceased, she’s dead”
Here Shakespeare uses repetition” she’s dead. He also uses the hard “d” sound alliteration, all this language get the horror impact for that scene. All this shows us the Nurse really cares about Juliet; she is like her own daughter. It’s a very dramatic moment, she is distressed. In the play she would be in panic and it all shows us that she really cares about Juliet. On the other had her mother’s reaction to Juliet’s death is completely different, she just thinks about herself.
“O me, O me, my child, my only life”
She is upset but Shakespeare uses interesting word to describe that, which implies that she is thinking about herself, “me” “my”. She only uses o my child o my life she just cares about herself. The father of Juliet has a deep regret over the death of Juliet,
Shakespeare uses poetic language to describe the regret over the death,
“Death lies on her like an like an untimely frost”
Here Shakespeare uses simile to describe the death, he uses natural images which are very beautiful;
“Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.”
Here we have very beautiful images while the situation is very horrible. Shakespeare also uses gentle, soft sound images “sweetest”, he also uses alliteration “flower” “field”
In line 85- 91 Shakespeare compares what the day would have been like, the sorrow of the death of Juliet that make the family change.
That is the last scene in which we see the Nurse. Throughout the play, she appears, however when she loses Juliet’s trust, she is lost from the play. The Nurse plays a critical role in Romeo and Juliet. Without her, the play would be less entertaining as she adds humour to the play, but also makes the sad moment even more depressing as when Juliet dies, we feel sorry for the Nurse the most as she has brought her up from when she was born and she has to witness her tragic death, which she may feel partly responsible for, as she advised Juliet to forget about Romeo and wed Paris. The plot could not have been developed and the story could not have been facilitated if it was not for the essential character of the Nurse!