Breathless anticipation… (2.5.29-37)

NURSE            Jesu, what haste! can you not stay a while?

                        Do you not see that I am out of breath?

JULIET                        How art thou art of breath, when thou hast breath

                        To say to me that thou art out of breath?

                        The excuse that thou dost make in this delay

                        Is longer than the tale thou dost excuse.

                        Is thy news good or bad? Answer to that.

                        Say either, and I’ll stay the circumstance:

                        Let me be satisfied, is’t good or bad? (2.5.29-37)

So the joke, and the suspense, continue. The Nurse is, of course, right: what haste! can you not stay a while? would be a perfectly appropriate observation to make more generally at this point in the play. But it also emphasises Juliet’s fidgety nervous energy, if stay suggests both wait and stand still; Juliet’s all over the place. She babbles on, not letting the Nurse speak, demonstrating her nerves, her wanting to know and not wanting to know. She’s being completely non-specific: it’s all about the news, as if in this moment of truth she can’t quite bring herself to name Romeo and articulate their plans, in case it’s a jinx (in contrast to her earlier obsessive repetition of his name). All she wants is a simple yes or no, is there a plan or not; she doesn’t care about thecircumstance, the detail, everything else that the Nurse has seen and done along the way. The Nurse might be out of breath, but the breathlessness is all Juliet’s, and her repetition of breath makes the speech itself pant with her jangling nerves and anticipation.

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