Friar: who’s in the tomb? (5.3.121-129)

Enter FRIAR [LAWRENCE] with lantern, crow, and spade.

FRIAR              Saint Francis be my speed! how oft tonight

                        Have my old feet stumbled at graves! Who’s there?

BALTHASAR   Here’s one, a friend, and one that knows you well.

FRIAR              Bliss be upon you! Tell me, good my friend,

                        What torch is yond that vainly lends his light

                        To grubs and eyeless skulls? As I discern,

                        It burneth in the Capels’ monument.

BALTHASAR   It doth so, holy sir, and there’s my master,

                        One that you love.

FRIAR                                      Who is it?

BALTHASAR                                       Romeo. (5.3.121-129)

Obviously the Friar is outside the tomb, in the churchyard (as it’s been imagined; very English rather than Italian, stumbling at graves, as if he’s running across uneven grassy ground) – but Romeo and Juliet are still there, inside – the focus of the action has simply shifted, and so, for a moment, we probably don’t ‘see’ them, as the Friar begins to learn just how badly everything has gone wrong. (It’s going to get worse.) A reminder, in his old feet and stumbling, of the way in which age and speed have been so connected, with the Friar’s understanding of what the latter might mean being so very different to the lovers’. (And, in his stumbling, an ironic echo of his own injunction to Romeo: They stumble that run fast. Too late…) So Balthasar pops up – we’ve probably forgotten that he was there. A reminder that it’s dark – the torch– and that we should imagine just a glimmer of torchlight coming from inside the tomb. And we know that the torchlight is indeed apparently vain, in that it was borne into the tomb by a man who now is dead – but we also know that there is much more in the tomb than grubs and eyeless skulls, things far more terrible. Balthasar is afraid; he’s not certain what’s happened, although he suspects, but he can’t quite bring himself to name Romeo, not at first, because he knows that Romeo is one that you love. And the Friar’s characteristic verbosity cracks, on the half-line, with that sharp Who is it?and Balthasar’s full, fatal, trisyllabic response: Romeo. It hangs in the air.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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