To pardon or not to pardon
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is a tragedy about two young lovers, whose passionate love is ended by the fated death of both parties. The sad conclusion of their young love is also caused by many others besides the protagonists Romeo and Juliet; some shall be pardoned; while some shall be punished. Juliet’s beloved mother-figure- the Nurse, does not deserve the audience’s scorn. Friar John, the Franciscan monk who plays a part in the death of Romeo, should also, be forgiven. Friar Laurence and Capulet, on the other hand, have many faults that contribute to the end results, of which I will discuss further. From the very beginning in Act 1 scene 3, the Nurse of Juliet Capulet is introduced to us. Lady Capulet is asking to see her daughter. Instead of looking for Juliet herself, she goes to the Nurse for her whereabouts. “Lady Capulet: Nurse, where’s my daughter? Call her forth to me.” (1.3.1) From this first glance we can boldly assume that growing up in a grand family like the Capulets, Juliet is more acquainted with her Nurse rather than her mother. Another example is when the Nurse recalls Juliet’s childhood and how she breastfed her. It was very rare during the Elizabethan time for someone else to breastfeed one’s daughter instead of the biological mother. This is also part of the reason why there is such a gap between the older generation – Lady Capulet, and the younger generation- Juliet later on in the play. ‘Tis since the earthquake now eleven years;
and she was wean’d-I shall never forget it-
of all the days of the year, upon that day.
For I had then laid wormwood to my dug,
Sitting in the sun under the dove-house wall. (1.3.24-28)
Juliet refers to her mother as “Madam” instead of “mother” or “mum” is another sign of their unfamiliarity. However, the Nurse is very dear to Juliet; from later scenes we will learn more about the relationship between mistress and servant. In Act 2 scene 4, the Nurse meets Romeo personally for the first time. Mercutio and Benvolio jest and make fun of her. Romeo then explains that his friends are people who enjoy taunts and laughter, so the Nurse should forgive them for their insults. The Nurse is relieved that Romeo is a gentleman; Juliet’s taste for men is not too obscene indeed. She likes Romeo and respects her mistress’ choice. “Nurse: I will tell her, sir, that you do protest; which, as I take it, is a gentlemanlike offer.” (2.4.170) We now know that the Nurse’s liking for Romeo is sincere. She is the only other adult who knows about Romeo and Juliet’s secret affair besides Friar Laurence. As a good keeper of secrets, she relayed the message of their wedding time to Juliet without rousing anyone else. In Act 3 scene 2, when Juliet learns of Romeo’s slaying of Tybalt and his banishment, she breaks into tears and would not be comforted. The thoughtful and caring Nurse offered herself up to take on the dangerous course of retrieving the banished Romeo from Friar Laurence’s cell. Hie to your chamber. I’ll find Romeo
To comfort you; I wot well where he is.
Hark ye, your Romeo will be here at night.
I’ll to him; he is hid at Laurence’ cell. (3.2.138-41) When the Nurse arrives at the Friar’s cell, Romeo is lying on the floor curled up like a coward; he is lamenting over his banishment. The Friar scolds him with a speech about womanish fears and misbehaviour. Upon hearing Romeo’s godfather’s harsh words, the Nurse exclaims her admiration for an educated man: “O Lord, I could have stay’d here all the night to hear good counsel. O, what learning is!” (3.3.159) This shows a want of education and wit in the Nurse, who is of a low birth. This will relate to her biased judgement and realistic views of life. The next scene when the Nurse appears again, dramatic climax ensues. Lord Capulet is storming with rage at Juliet’s disobedience; daughters were objects possessed by their fathers back in the Elizabethan time; Juliet is a very...
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