At the beginning of Act Three, Scene Five of Romeo and Juliet, we find the newlyweds following their first night of marriage, readying for their goodbyes as Romeo heads to Mantua while the friar attempts to come up with a plan to reconcile the families and bring the lovers together again.
Romeo is about to leave, but Juliet stops him, telling him the bird he heard was a nightingale and not the lark, but Romeo argues that it was the lark, “the herald of the morn” (III.v.6), and thus, he needs to leave. When she continues to argue, Romeo relents:
I have more care to stay than will to go:
Come, death, and welcome! Juliet wills it so.
How is't, my soul? Let's talk; it is not day.
kinda makes me think of the line from Springsteen’s “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”: “Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny”
Immediately Juliet recants, says it IS day, and begins to send Romeo away. They try to make the best of their parting, with Romeo saying that “all these woes shall serve // For sweet discourses in our times to come” (III.v.52-53).
To that, Juliet can only respond,
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.
Either my eyesight fails, or thou lookest pale.
The next time she will see him will be in a tomb… and dead.
Romeo leaves, and Lady Capulet comes in to find Juliet weeping. Lady Capulet naturally assumes that she is crying over Tybalt. And in as un-motherly a statement of non-sympathy as Gertrude’s advice to Hamlet to “cast (his) nighted color off” (Hamlet, I.i.68), Lady Capulet tells Juliet to stop her sobbing, as “some grief shows much of love; // But much of grief shows still some want of wit” (III.v.73-74). Besides, her mother says, they have plans for revenge on Romeo: they will have him assassinated in Mantua (“where that same banished runagate doth live” [III.v.90]).
whoa… how does she know he’s going to Mantua??? we’ll be discussing that, ladies and germs, in a few weeks… be ready for a shocking — shocking, I tell ya — supposition…
But even better, Lady Capulet says, is the decision her “careful” (III.v.108) — full of care for Juliet — father has made: Thursday’s wedding to Paris.
Needless to say, Juliet does not take this well, refusing, saying,
I will not marry yet; and, when I do, I swear,
It shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate,
Rather than Paris.
Lady Capulet notes the entrance of Capulet, and tells Juliet to relay her refusal herself. She does, and Capulet explodes, ordering her to marry Paris. He even wants to (possibly actually does) hit Juliet — his “fingers itch” (III.v.165). Both the Nurse and Lady Capulet attempt to either step in between father and daughter, or ease the old man’s temper, but to no avail:
Thursday is near; lay hand on heart, advise:
An you be mine, I'll give you to my friend;
And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets,
For, by my soul, I'll ne'er acknowledge thee,
Nor what is mine shall never do thee good.
Trust to't. Bethink you. I'll not be forsworn.
one has to wonder? why is Capulet THIS upset? is the clue in the word “forsworn”? is he afraid to back out on a promise made to a kinsman of the Prince? a member of his family killed the Prince’s other kinsman, Mercutio; does the old man see this wedding as a way of setting things right?
Juliet begs her mother to delay the wedding, but her mother refuses; Lady Capulet is “done with” (III.v.205) Juliet. When she exits, Juliet asks her confidante, the woman who helped set up the marriage, the Nurse what she thinks; and what the Nurse thinks is for Juliet the unthinkable: marry Paris. Juliet dismisses the Nurse, saying that she is going to confession with the friar; alone, Juliet tells us that she is going to find his “remedy” (III.v.243), and if he doesn’t have one, she “(has) power to die” (III.v.244).
Act Four, Scene One opens in mid-conversation between Friar Laurence and Paris. Paris has told the friar of the wedding on Thursday, the day after tomorrow. The friar “like(s) it not” (IV.i.5), but there is not much he can do to delay the marriage. Juliet enters and says that she needs to confess to the friar. Paris attempts to speak to Juliet (and this is their only conversation, unless there was one at the party that is beyond the scope of the text of the play), but she has no use for him. Once Paris is gone, Juliet bemoans her fate, even telling the friar, “I long to die” (IV.i.66).
But the friar has a plan, “a kind of hope” (IV.i.68). The friar–remember his botanical and potion-making experience from Act Two, Scene Three–has a drug that will make her appear dead for “two-and-forty hours” (IV.i.105), during which time Laurence will get word to Romeo, Romeo will return to Verona and enter the tomb to be there when she awakes, and the two of them will live happily ever after in Mantua. She agrees. He tells her to take the potion tomorrow night, the night before the wedding; in the meantime, Laurence will “send a friar with speed // To Mantua” (IV.i.123-124).
Act Four, Scene Two takes us back to the Capulet household, where Capulet is discussing wedding plans. Juliet arrives, and begs pardon of her father. Capulet is pleased, so pleased in fact that he says that he’ll “have this knot knit up tomorrow morning” (IV.ii.24), pushing the wedding up a day. If he was testing Juliet, she doesn’t take the bait, doesn’t argue; her mother, on the other hand, still wants to wait until Thursday. Capulet overrules her, and sends Juliet off to bed.
Act Four, Scene Three takes place in Juliet’s chamber, as she picks out garments for the morning. She then asks the Nurse to leave her alone this night, so that she may pray that “the heavens … smile upon (her) state” (IV.iii.4). Lady Capulet arrives, and Juliet re-iterates her desire to be alone.
In that solitude, she soliloquizes on her situation. She fears that the potion may not work, but she has a dagger that “shall forbid it” (IV.iii.23). She fears that the potion may be a poison from the friar “Lest in this marriage he should be dishonored, // Because he married her before to Romeo” (IV.iii.26-27). She fears that she will awake before Romeo comes to take her. It is a fearful night, her speech like a nightmare in which she is alone in the tomb
madly play(ing) with (her) forefathers' joints,
And pluck(ing) the mangled Tybalt from his shroud,
And, in this rage, with some great kinsman's bone,
As with a club, dash(ing) out (her own) desperate brains
It is a scary vision, but obviously one less scary than a life without Romeo, and she drinks the potion and falls.