Marry is the very theme (1.3.60-69)

NURSE                        Peace, I have done. God mark thee to his grace,

                                    Thou wast the prettiest babe that e’er I nursed.

                                    And I might live to see thee married once,

                                    I have my wish.

LADY CAPULET         Marry, that ‘marry’ is the very theme

                                    I came to talk of. Tell me, my daughter Juliet,

                                    How stands your dispositions to be married?

JULIET                      It is an honour that I dream not of.

NURSE                        An honour! were not I thine only nurse,

                                    I would say thou hadst sucked wisdom from thy teat. (1.3.60-69)


The Nurse ends – or not quite – on her own terms, I have done, always coming back to her love for Juliet, but Lady Capulet also seizes the initiative, her punning on marry noticeably more flat-footed than her daughter’s playfulness with I / Ay; she also reclaims the upper hand by addressing my daughter Juliet, not Jule or pretty fool. A theme is a topic, such as might be set for an essay or a debate, and although Lady Capulet immediately personalises the question, How stands your dispositions to be married?, Juliet also responds at the level of formal abstraction, it’s something I haven’t really thought about, perhaps not even in my dreams or daydreams (although she is mostly being formal and formulaic). (Interestingly, honour is the word in the first quarto; in the other quartos and the folio, Juliet says hour, that is, marriage is not an event, a time in my life, that I imagine as being imminent, because I am too young.) The Nurse’s interjection is characteristically vivid in its physicality, but Lady Capulet’s mostly the one in control now.

View 2 comments on “Marry is the very theme (1.3.60-69)

  1. Just a quick comment to say that, as an English teacher covering this play for the first time, your blog is INVALUABLE. Remarkably detailed insight and I’ve grown to love the play through your passion for it.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to say that – I really appreciate it, and I’m delighted that you’re finding it useful. I loved writing it… I’ve drawn a lot on my work here for the new introduction that I’ve written for the New Cambridge Shakespeare edition of the play – in production at the moment, should be out next summer I think! (lots of other stuff about the play in there too…) 🙂

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