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Romeo and Juliet Commentary - Act IV.

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Act IV. Scene I. - Verona. Friar Laurence's Cell.

Friar Laurence: "I do spy a kind of hope...."

Paris reveals that his wedding has been moved forward to Thursday, earlier than expected. Juliet is cold to Paris. Friar Laurence tells Juliet to take a potion simulating death, allowing Romeo to take her away unopposed to Mantua since everyone will think she is dead at the Capulet's ancient vault or burial ground.

Within Friar's cell, Friar Laurence and Paris are speaking. Friar Laurence learns that the wedding between Paris and Juliet will occur earlier than planned, on Thursday (Lines 1-4). Paris explains that Juliet is very upset, presuming that this sadness is the result of Tybalt's death. The audience of course knows better; Juliet is mourning the imminent loss of her Romeo.

Juliet enters and Paris greets her warmly and enthusiastically. He believes Juliet has come to the Friar to confess her love for him (Line 23). Juliet cannot and her speech to him is hostile (Lines 22-32). Paris assumes Juliet is merely still upset by the loss of Tybalt and does not take her reluctance to be wedded nor her hostility towards him very seriously.

Paris now leaves the Friar and Juliet to talk amongst themselves (Line 40). Juliet despairs of her situation to Friar Laurence, thinking like Romeo of suicide (Lines 50-67). Friar Laurence suggests an alternative, "Hold daughter; I do spy a kind of hope, / Which craves as desperate an execution / As that is desperate which we would prevent" (I have a cunning plan as desperate as the terrible situation you wish to avoid), (Line 68).

Friar Laurence suggests that if Juliet is willing to die to avoid marriage, then she should have little objection to drinking a solution of the Friar's which will simulate death (Lines 70-88).

The Friar tells Juliet to no longer resist the marriage to Paris; tomorrow on Wednesday night, Juliet is to sleep alone and not with her maid as usual (Lines 90-93). Juliet will drink a substance provided by the Friar which will make Juliet drowsy and put her to sleep, a sleep so convincing that Juliet shall "appear like death;" (Line 103).

Then once declared dead, Juliet according to custom will be buried in the same ancient vault in which all the dead Capulet lie. By this time, Juliet will be awake, and Romeo, who will be informed of this plan by letter, will watch Juliet awake and then "Shall Romeo bear thee hence to Mantua" (take Juliet to Mantua), (Line 117).

Act IV. Scene II. - The Same. Hall in Capulet's House.

Capulet makes plans for the wedding. Learning that Juliet no longer opposes the wedding, a delighted Capulet now moves the wedding forward to the very next day, Wednesday morning not Thursday as previously planned.

Capulet discusses preparations for the wedding with two Servingmen and the Nurse (Lines 1-16).

Juliet now arrives and explains to her father that she met Paris at Friar Laurence's cell and will now no longer resist the marriage, explaining that she has repented for her sin of "disobedient opposition" (being disobediently opposed to her father), (Line 19).

Capulet now changes the wedding date again, deciding that it will be tomorrow morning on Wednesday not Thursday as earlier planned. If Friar Laurence's plan is to succeed, Juliet will have to drink the Friar's potion tonight, not Wednesday evening...

Capulet: "I'll have this knot knit up to-morrow morning" (I'll have the wedding knot tied tomorrow morning), (Line 24).

Juliet explains that she made her amorous feelings for Paris known to him within the bounds of modesty (Line 28). Delighted, Capulet tells his wife to help Juliet make the necessary preparations even though Lady Capulet believes this is not enough time whilst he will go to "County Paris, to prepare him up / Against to-morrow" (prepare Paris for the wedding), (Line 45).

Act IV. Scene III. - The Same. Juliet's Chamber.

Juliet: "Romeo, I come! this do I drink to thee."

Juliet succeeds in sleeping alone. This allows her to take the potion in privacy. Juliet worries about the Friar's intent before the potion takes effect and she falls asleep...

Juliet asks the Nurse to let her sleep alone tonight (Tuesday). Lady Capulet asks Juliet if she needs any help. Juliet politely explains that she is fine. The Nurse and Lady Capulet now leave (Line 13). Alone, Juliet now takes the vial and placing down her dagger, drinks its contents (Line 23).

Following this act, Juliet worries. Could the Friar have poisoned her to avoid the embarrassment of marrying Juliet twice? No, she thinks, the Friar is a holy man (Lines 24-28).

What if she wakes up too early, stuck in a vault of her decomposed and decomposing (like the recently deceased Tybalt) ancestors? Juliet could go mad if she awakens in such a place (Lines 24-57).

Juliet then falls asleep, thinking of Romeo, "Romeo, I come! this do I drink to thee" (Romeo I come, I drink this to you), falling asleep on her bed within its curtains (Line 58).

Act IV. Scene IV. - The Same. Hall in Capulet's House.

Lady Capulet and the Nurse are busy making preparations for the wedding. It is 3 o'clock in the morning (Wednesday) and now Capulet hearing music, tells the Nurse to awaken Juliet. Paris said he would arrive at the Capulet's house accompanied by music.

Act IV. Scene V. - The Same. Juliet's Chamber.

The Capulets learn that their daughter Juliet is dead. The wedding preparations are changed to those of a funeral.

It is now Wednesday. Early in the morning, the Nurse enters Juliet's chamber to wake her up. Failing to awaken Juliet, the Nurse realizes that Juliet must be dead. Lady Capulet is told the terrible news then Capulet. "Her blood is settled, and her joints are stiff;" Capulet says (Line 26).

Friar Laurence comforts the Capulets and Nurse, telling them that Juliet is now in heaven (Lines 65-90). Capulet orders the preparations for the wedding to be changed to those required for a funeral: "Our instruments to melancholy bells, / Our wedding cheer to a sad burial feast..." (Lines 86-87).

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