Cut your losses, marry Paris, says the Nurse (3.5.212-217)

NURSE                                    Faith, here it is:

                        Romeo is banished, and all the world to nothing

                        That he dares ne’er come back to challenge you;

                        Or if he do, it needs must be by stealth.

                        Then since the case so stands as now it doth,

                        I think it best you married with the County. (3.5.212-217)

The versification here is interesting. (No, really.) On the page this (beginning with Juliet’s previous line) looks like a neat pair of half lines, suggesting – as it has with Romeo and Juliet themselves – intimacy and understanding. But there’s a missing foot here: Juliet’s Some comfort Nurse makes two iambs and so does the Nurse’s Faith, here it is. So there’s missing iamb, a gap, a beat: a pause, perhaps, as the Nurse (for once) chooses her words with care? Or a sign of rupture, disconnection? The Nurse begins from a different place: whereas Juliet’s first principle is that their marriage vows, made before God, are simply indissoluble, the Nurse’s (as she will go on to elaborate) is that marriage is mostly about sex (and, by extension, procreation) and if Romeo’s banished, then that’s going to be impossible – he can’t come back to challenge Juliet, claim her as his wife and lover. Unless it’s in secret, and surely that’s impossible. Better for Juliet to cut her losses and marry Paris, because a sexless marriage, an absent husband, no chance of children, is no marriage at all. (In law, because the marriage has emphatically been consummated, this is not the case: it could not be annulled, it is definitely a marriage.) This sexual emphasis is going to develop as the Nurse continues; it’s there, too, in the potential quibbles on case and County, both of which suggest female genitalia. (Metrically, it could as well be Sir Paris, although obviously he’s been referred to previously, and by others, as the County, so this could just be My Mind.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *