Good night, good night – and Juliet left alone (4.3.6-13)

Enter Mother [LADY CAPULET]

LADY CAPULET         What, are you busy, ho? need you my help?

JULIET                                    No, madam, we have culled such necessaries

                                    As are behoveful for our state tomorrow.

                                    So please you, let me now be left alone,

                                    And let the Nurse this night sit up with you,

                                    For I am sure you have your hands full all,

                                    In this so sudden business.

LADY CAPULET                                                         Good night.

                                    Get thee to bed and rest, for thou has need.

                                                            Exeunt [Lady Capulet and Nurse] (4.3.6-13)

More speeding up – we assume that Lady Capulet has come straight from the conversation with her husband, but she’s already too late to help. Not that she could help much, anyway, judging by her previous interactions with her daughter. I think Juliet’s dignified formality here is touching, as well as sharply intelligent: the use of the plural, we have, our state, as well as the ponderous behoveful suggests that she is being mindful of the high status of her family, the need to put on a good show at the wedding, and also demonstrates that she knows that this is her mother’s main anxiety, not being ready – and we know that her parents are keenly aware of keeping up appearances, not losing face. Madam is polite, within the bounds of filial formality, but also quite frosty; Juliet must still be wounded by her mother’s complete lack of support and interest in the earlier scene with her parents when, on her knees, she begged o sweet my mother to cast me not away, to intervene with Capulet in his angry rejection. I don’t want to hang around and chat, Juliet is saying; she needs to be left alone to get on with her desperate plan. So, setting up her mother and the Nurse to go off together gets them both out of the way, gives the Nurse something to do (and someone to talk to) and Lady Capulet company and help. A slightly needling note in I am sure you have your hands full all, in this so sudden business – I didn’t ask for this wedding at all, let alone for it to be tomorrow. There are probably two ways of playing get thee to bed and rest, for thou hast need: either genuine concern, you’re looking exhausted, big circles under your eyes, and you’ve got a big day tomorrow, or a bawdier, more prurient, get some sleep while you can, because you won’t get much on your wedding night tomorrow (this is the line that the Nurse will take on her next appearance). Juliet knows that this may be the last time that she will see her mother and her Nurse, as she will shortly make explicit – but they cannot know, and she cannot do, anything that would make them suspicious. Thou and my bosom henceforth shall be twain, Juliet said of her relationship with the Nurse, and nothing that we’ve seen has suggested a close relationship with her mother. So she is left alone on stage – a slightly different way to frame a soliloquy than being discovered solus? We want the plot to advance – we know that Juliet has to take the potion, and soon – we know that this is the only chance that they have – but her isolation and her composure here are heart-breaking.


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