Banishéd? (3.2.69-72)

NURSE            Tybalt is gone, and Romeo banishéd.

Romeo that killed him, he is banishéd.

JULIET                        O God, did Romeo’s hand shed Tybalt’s blood?

NURSE            It did, it did, alas the day it did! (3.2.69-72)

And the Nurse continues to clarify, finally. That word banishéd is going to resonate through the rest of the scene (including, probably, its conventional and slightly annoying extra syllable; it would be interesting to have a survey of current and recent practice in performance here). But the Nurse’s repetition is unequivocal: Romeo killed Tybalt, and Romeo is banished. The terms of Juliet’s agonised and aghast response are striking: did Romeo’s hand shed Tybalt’s blood? hand is agency here, but it also take us back to the importance of hands and touch in the play so far, and in the lovers’ relationship. (It’s metrically interesting: the line works perfectly well if Romeo is given its full three syllables – that is, hand isn’t metrically necessary. So it’s perhaps a significant addition and choice) Romeo’s hand is almost all that Juliet knows of his body, although she’s imagined more. Their hands met, palm to palm, even as they saw each other for the first time; the touch of hands preceded not only their first kiss, but their first words. Their hands reached for each other in the balcony scene.  And, most significantly, only a matter of hours before this moment, their hands have been joined in marriage, the sign of their contract and of their becoming one flesh.Romeo’s hand is Romeo, but it is also, in some senses, Juliet. Now Romeo is a murderer; again, this is something that I think can be easily overlooked – that the shock of Tybalt’s death isn’t just about what that means for Romeo and Juliet’s relationship, but what it does to Romeo. The hand of a lover, of a husband, is now the hand of a killer (which sounds like a terrible marketing campaign for a production of the play that I probably don’t want to see). And Juliet, too, just as the Nurse has promised, sees the blood.


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