Enter the Watch: a pitiful sight! (5.3.171-178)

Enter[Paris’s] Boy and WATCH.

PAGE               This is the place, there where the torch doth burn.

CAPTAIN OF THE WATCH    The ground is bloody, search about the churchyard.

                        Go, some of you, whoe’er you find attach.

                                                            [Exeunt some of the Watch.]

                        [The Captain enters the tomb and returns.]

                        Pitiful sight! here lies the County slain,

                        And Juliet bleeding, warm and newly dead,

                        Who hath lain here this two days burièd.

                        Go tell the Prince, run to the Capulets,

                        Raise up the Montagues; some others search.

                                                            [Exeunt others of the Watch.] (5.3.171-178)


Paris’s Page left before Paris’s death – he ran when the fight with Romeo started. So he doesn’t know about Paris’s death, or Romeo’s, or the visit of the Friar, or Juliet’s death. The audience, therefore, know more than any of the characters, and we have to watch as the heartbreaking things that have happened in the last few moments are revealed, first to these anonymous men of the watch, and then to the Prince, and the families. Most of the stage directions through here are editorial, although obviously drawing on early editions, and I think they get rather confused (both here and in the next part of the scene) in striving to maintain this distinction between in the tomb and in the churchyard. The bodies and the tomb are going to remain visible and an audience really isn’t going to notice, or care about, the collapse of the stage’s imagined spaces. Much of what’s happening in the Captain’s speech is a hurrying along of the plot, expediting the final revelations of everything that’s happened, the tragedy of the play. But there are a couple of things to note. It’s not clear how many watchmen there are, but the Captain’s instructions suggest a decent-sized squad: someto search the churchyard, at least one to go to the Prince, the Capulets, and the Montagues (and potentially more), some others to search (although those could be the first ones). So – at least 4, with the Captain? Whatever, with the Page as well, the stage has just got a lot more crowded, and with anonymous characters, characters from the everyday world of Verona. The intensely focused intimacy of the lovers, and the kind of attentiveness it’s asked of the audience, has been interrupted. (Shakespeare does something similar, and even more terrible, perhaps, in the final scene of Othello.) The arrival of all these other people makes us aware of what we’ve seen, what we’re looking at, and what we know, because they are seeing it for the first time. (The Captain doesn’t mention Romeo’s body. I don’t think that’s significant. I still don’t think that the ground’s bloody, either.) Mostly confining himself to the facts, the Captain still describes it as a pitiful sight: not pathetic, in the sense we might use it now, let alone pitifulmeaning poor or contemptible, but rather giving rise to pity in those who see it, pitiable, affecting.

Leave a Reply

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