JULIET O God! – O Nurse, how shall this be prevented?
My husband is on earth, my faith in heaven;
How shall that faith return again to earth,
Unless that husband send it me from heaven
By leaving earth? Comfort me, counsel me.
Alack, alack, that heaven should practise stratagems
Upon so soft a subject as myself!
What sayst thou? hast thou not a word of joy?
Some comfort, Nurse. (3.5.204-212)
Although Juliet does, eventually, say (in a very roundabout way) that it’s not fair! (alack, that heaven should practise stratagems upon so soft a subject as myself – why is fate singling me out for such tortuous experiences, when I’m so gentle and weak) her first thought here is for the indissolubility of her marriage vows. Not – but Paris is awful! or even – but I love Romeo! (in so many words). Romeo is her husband: they are bound together by the vows that they have made before God – this is why her faith is in heaven, because those vows are sacred. Their marriage can be ended only by death; only if Romeo were dead (if he had left earth) would she be able to marry someone else. So she cannot marry anyone else, let alone Paris, tomorrow; it’s simply impossible. This is her starting point: it’s nothing personal against Paris (and often it’s very successful in production if Paris is inoffensive, even attractive); rather it’s a point of principle. But – as will shortly be apparent – the Nurse thinks very differently. And she is uncharacteristically silent here – is she thinking? or is she really lost for words? Juliet has to ask her repeatedly, increasingly desperately, for her opinion and advice, which have never been in short supply before: how shall this be prevented? comfort me, counsel me. What sayst thou? hast thou not a word of joy? Some comfort, Nurse. Tell me what to do, and make it better…