Leave me, Nurse, I need to pray (4.3.1-5)

[4.3] Enter JULIET and NURSE.

JULIET                        Ay, those attires are best, but, gentle Nurse,

                        I pray thee leave me to myself tonight:
For I have need of many orisons

                        To move the heavens to smile upon my state,

                        Which, well thou knowest, is cross and full of sin. (4.3.1-5)

Again the time jumps forward: only a few moments have passed since Juliet and the Nurse left the Capulet parents to look out attires for the wedding, and they’ve already made their choices. (Although this scene does, probably, call for a bed. We might imagine the Capulets exiting through one of the rear entrances, Juliet and the Nurse entering through the other, and the bed being thrust out of the central entrance to the inner stage, as if Juliet and the Nurse have come from the closet to which Juliet referred in the previous scene.) We might imagine that the Nurse’s arms are full (of a dress and accessories?) – reminiscent of her carrying the rope ladder? but also, perhaps, meaning that she can’t embrace Juliet. And I hadn’t noticed before that the Nurse doesn’t say a word in this scene. It’s hurrying onwards; Juliet has a task to accomplish, and first she has to get rid of the Nurse (and therefore it is crucial that the Nurse not be allowed to speak…) We know that Juliet is devout, at least in the seriousness with which she takes her marriage vows to Romeo. Here she frames asking the Nurse not to stay with her that night as a need to be alone to pray, continuing the penitential pose she adopted earlier, in order to visit the Friar. Is this sacrilegious? That Juliet has need of many orisons to move the heavens to smile upon my state is certainly true; she will pray for a happy outcome, for divine aid and protection. And she is indeed cross – obstinate, contrary – and full of sin in the sense that she is definitely carrying on disobeying her parents, even if she hasn’t lied to them (in so many words) in the previous scene. But she does not actually go on to pray – except, in a way, to Romeo.

Another what-is-Juliet-wearing question, because it determines what she’s wearing when she is found the next morning. It’s unlikely that she has changed into night attire just for this scene – that is, into just a smock or bed-gown – so it will be whatever she has worn for the previous scenes. There is then time enough, after the discovery of her ‘body’, for her to be re-dressed – even in the attires that she and the Nurse have chosen – for burial. (Or not. She might well wear the same costume throughout.)

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