The story revolves around the two feuding families of Verona; the Capulet’s and the Montague’s, the young couple Romeo and Juliet falling in love with each other and the problems they face in doing so. Act three scene five, known as the Second Balcony Scene, is of great dramatic importance and contains various moods, ranging from the calm lyrics of the lovers to the anger and bitterness of old Capulet. This scene is pivotal to the play seeing the last time the lovers meet alive and Juliet’s brave defiance of her parents. The story is popular because it has a universal appeal. People at the time would be familiar with similar problems. Marriages between Catholics and Protestants cause problems. It has influenced literature for hundreds of years as authors have chosen similar themes. West Side Story is a modern Romeo and Juliet story set in the USA. ‘Love story’ by Eric Segal is similar theme of parental disapproval.
The scene starts just before dawn with Romeo preparing to leave Juliet’s bedroom and start his exile in Mantua. In the script this is performed at the window itself. In film version by Franco Zefferelli, I have seen the director start off with the couple in bed. Personally I would follow the script and start it off on the balcony. This way it is easier for the audience to see what’s going on and it also makes the balcony a centre point, more special. It has been their wedding night arranged with great secrecy through the help of the nurse. There is a birdcall and Juliet tells Romeo:
“It was the nightingale, and not the lark”.
Romeo resists, saying that he must leave before morning comes or he will be put to death. However, he stays longer with her. Juliet shows tension as she realizes that Romeo must leave her, but begs him to stay; she cannot bear to part with him. It is appropriate that the time is dawn, which divides the day and the night. Shakespeare plays on the theme that Juliet has supernatural powers. Romeo describes her as transforming night into day. She now has the power to change a lark into a nightingale through the power of language.
The tension is further reflected in the light and dark images that colour their speeches. Romeo knows he must immediately depart for:
“Night’s candles are burnt out,”
and he sees light in the east. Juliet tries to explain it away as a” meteor in the darkness”. As Romeo finally goes down the balcony to his exile, Juliet, with dramatic irony, asks:
“O think’st thou we shall meet again”?
Romeo bravely tries to comfort her. Looking down upon him from her balcony, Juliet says with chilling foreboding:
“O God! I have an ill-divining soul. Methinks I see thee, now thou art below. As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.”
Tragically when the lovers meet next, it will be in a tomb, and Romeo will be dead. All the characters without knowing it are showing echoes of the future.
The next part of the scene is the conversation between Lady Capulet and Juliet. I think Juliet should be alone in the room staring out of the window after Romeo, weeping. When her mother enters she would quickly get up and try to wipe her tears. She tries not to talk about it and walks around trying to keep herself busy and to distract her mother’s attention.
The dialog starts calm and relaxed. When Lady Capulet enters she finds Juliet crying and immediately assumes that she is crying over the death of Tybalt, instead of Romeo leaving. Lady Capulet gets a bit suspicious of why she has been crying so long:
‘ ;some grief shows much of love,
But much grief shows still some want of wit.’
She warns Juliet that if she cries too much she would be seen as over sensitive. When she realises how upset Juliet is she makes a plan. Lady Capulet appears insensitive to her daughters sadness.
At this part of the scene Juliet says ironic lines that mean one thing to her mother and another thing to herself and the audience.
‘Indeed I never shall be satisfied
with Romeo, till I behold him – dead-
is my poor heart so for a kinsman vexed.’
Juliet has to be careful so that her mother is hearing what she wants her to hear. She doesn’t want to reveal her secret. This kind of language keeps the play on edge. It shows she is not completely lying, almost tricking her mother. It also engages the sympathy of the audience who know the full story.
There is a lot of movement on stage and vivid images spoken through the language of the characters. Shakespeare uses blank verse a lot to break the rhythm of the text. I noticed he breaks off the verse if there is anger or disagreement. This helps it stand out more.
Lady Caplets plan is to have Romeo poisoned. She tells Juliet that she will send someone to Mantua to do the deed. The tension of the play rises again. The last thing Juliet wants is Romeo to be killed. She had to think quick how to stop it:
‘Madam, if you find out but a man
To bear poison, I would temper it.’
At first when you hear the line you would think Juliet was really going to poison him. The lines and words she uses are very convincing and fool her mother. She has a few bits that she says to the side, to the audience. This makes the scene atmospheric. It almost makes it more creepy and devious and the audience again feel they are the only ones in Juliet’s confidence.
Lady Capulet agrees with Juliet and tries to change the subject quickly, to cheer her daughter up. Throughout the play this is one of the only conversations Juliet and her mother have alone, without the nurse present I think Lady Capulet wanted to hurry the conversation and get it over with as soon as possible. Usually if there is news the Nurse would tell Juliet. I think Lady Capulet wanted to use this news to bring her closer to her daughter. She thought that Juliet would be pleased with her for doing this. But she couldn’t have been more wrong. The excitement rises dramatically when Lady Capulet says:
‘Marry my child, next Thursday morn
The gallant, young, and noble gentlemen,
The county Paris, at St Peter’s church,
Shall happily make thee there a joyful bride.’
At this point, the audience and Juliet are the only people who know about Romeo and Juliet’s secret marriage. The audience is almost laughing at Lady Capulet because she is the only person who doesn’t know. Also the audience have seen the previous scene when Lord Capulet was making the arrangements. They know both sides of the story. Juliet is obviously very shocked and upset and I picture her falling to the ground on her knees, with surprise. As no surprise, Juliet refuses very frankly to her mother. You would expect a bit of an argument here but straight away Lady Capulet hands it over to Lord Capulet. Once again she shows herself insensitive to her daughters feelings. But Lord Capulet is head of the household and so would make the decisions.
‘ Here comes your father, tell him so yourself.’
This brings me back to the point I made earlier. Lady Capulet doesn’t want Juliet to hate her so she hands the problem over to Lord Capulet to make it look like it was his fault. She gives up on her straight away, almost can’t be bothered with her.
This next part of the scene is in sharp contrast to the quiet, anxious farewell between the two lovers.
Lord Capulet enters as Lady Capulet predicted in the line above, along with the nurse. He starts off talking to them both in a very happy mood but sad at the loss of his brothers son, Tyblalt. He flows out lines of love for his daughter and wife. This entrance is the most dramatic of them all. As soon as Lady Capulet says: ‘Ay sir, but she will none, she gives you thanks’ it changes suddenly and automatically Capulet gets angry at the fact that his daughter refuses to marry Paris.
Lady Capulet and lord Capulet are both confused and furious over her disobedience. Capulet, whose temper has been shown before, explodes into a violent rage and shouts at his daughter for her ingratitude. He attacks her physically and rages at her. She tires the best way she can to beg for mercy but he wont have any of it. He calls her “young baggage” and “a disobedient wretch” and threatens to disinherit her if she does not obey his commands. The audience might wonder why Juliet did not take the option offered to her by her father of being disowned, but this is not a course that she can take. Juliet, as a woman, cannot leave society, for a woman in Verona who cannot control the direction of her life must take the route of suicide. Women were frequently married against their will and most upper class marriages were arranged by parents. Often when children were very young. He said she will definitely marry Paris on Thursday even if he has to drag him there himself. At this point the Nurse jumps in to try and defend Juliet a bit:
‘God in heaven bless her. You are too blame my lord for rating her so.’
Lord Capulet just tells her to keep quiet and carries on with his rage. In his anger he tells her:
‘And you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend’.
He looks upon her as a piece of property and will give her to who he likes. Women were seen as property, first of the father, then of the husband. He didn’t care anymore about her happiness. When he first arranged the marriage he was a bit dubious, saying she was too young but now I think he want to use the wedding to cheer the family up after the loss of Tybalt and to advance his family and wealth.
After hearing of how her father threatened to abandon her she decides to take another way of convincing him. She begs him to listen but he leaves. She softens her language to her father flattering him i.e. calling him ‘good father’ rather than demanding his attention. Her father leaves so once again she turns to her mother for pity.
‘Delay this marriage for a month, a week,
Or if you do not, make the bridal bed
In that dim monument where Tybalt lies.’
Lady Capulet also shows unexpected cruelty. She makes no attempt to sympathize with her daughter or to understand her feelings. Her wicked nature is seen in her plan to poison Romeo and in her preference to see “Juliet married to her grave” rather than to have to handle Juliet’s disobedience. I think Tybalt is a touchy subject with her. When ever he is mentioned she acts strangely and gets very angry or tries to change the subject. In the scene after Tybalt is murdered when the prince is deciding what to do with Romeo, she spoke out the most, insisting Romeo was killed. You get the impression he was more than a nephew to her, for it wasn’t normal in those days for a women to speak out so loudly and boldly, especially on a subject like this.
This time she just ignored Juliet and told her she had nothing to do with it.
Juliet’s last hope of comfort lies with her Nurse. Both her parents had rejected her. The nurse is Juliet’s best and only friend. As we see through out the play Juliet always turned to the Nurse for advice, help and comfort. But this time she fails to give Juliet the advice and comfort she needs. She perhaps has never given her good advice but Juliet with distant parents turned to the nurse as her only female advisor. Now realising the full impact of her original advice the nurse is afraid and starts to backtrack so she doesn’t lose her job and home. Juliet wants the Nurse to say that she will help Juliet not marry Paris and get her to Romeo. The nurse gives deceitful advice to the young bride, to forget Romeo and marry Paris.
‘I think its best you married with County.
O he’s a lovely gentleman.
Romeo’s a dishclout to him; an eagle madam,’
The nurse basically tells her to go through with the marriage to Paris as he is a good match and Romeo is as good as dead anyway. This is the point of the play where the great friendship between the Nurse and Juliet ends. The Nurse says that she means this from the bottom of her heart.
Juliet realizes that she can no longer trust the Nurse’s advice and that she must think and act on her own. This must be quite frightening for a young girl of 14. Juliet is shocked at her nurse’s disloyalty and vows that she will not take her counsel again. She feels very much on her won. Juliet pretends to agree and she then tells the nurse that she is going to make confession at Friar Laurence’s cell. She uses this for time to think what to do. In her devotion to her husband, she is prepared to deceive her parents and nurse for the sake of their love.
The last speech that Juliet makes I think is the most dramatic part of this scene. You see her cunning side. When she is saying this piece you can imagine it on stage. If I were directing it I would have the lights dimmed and have Juliet kneeling down and than rising to pace the stage. When she says: ‘Ancient damnation! O most wicked fiend’ I would have her throwing something after the nurse out of anger. Because it’s obvious she’s very upset. Then I would have her trembling on her knees for she is very afraid. The tension finally drops when she finishes off her little soliloquy with:
‘ If all else fail, myself have power to die.’
So in this scene there is a lot of emotion and drama. It explores various relationships between the characters and is a foreshadowing to the end of the play. This scene sees the end of a lot of relationships; Juliet and her mother, Juliet and the nurse and Juliet and her father. Juliet’s very much on her own. This way she becomes more mature and finally realises the results of her actions. She has been forced to grow up quickly, from a young spoilt flighty girl; she has matured into a young woman whose love for Romeo has given her a purpose. She is determined to be reunited with her husband, or die.