Marvellous comfort (not) (3.5.226-234)

JULIET                        Speak’st thou from thy heart?

NURSE            And from my soul too, else beshrew them both.

JULIET                        Amen.

NURSE            What?

JULIET                        Well, thou hast comforted me marvellous much.

                        Go in, and tell my lady I am gone,

                        Having displeased my father, to Lawrence’s cell,

                        To make confession, and to be absolved.

NURSE            Marry, I will, and this is wisely done. [Exit] (3.5.226-234)

Speak’st thou from thy heart? do you really mean this? because I have to be sure, because I’m about to lie to you, and to cut myself off forever from the person who has been my friend and companion, counsellor and comforter, since I was a tiny child. And the Nurse condemns herself: from my soul too; she has no sense of the spiritual significance of what Juliet’s been arguing (or else she’s deliberately overlooking it); there’s therefore a whiff of blasphemy here. Even the Nurse seems startled by Juliet’s apparent capitulation – Amen. What? She was perhaps about to embark on another attempt at persuasion, praising Paris, belittling Romeo, arguing for the path of least resistance, a quiet life. There’s acid, but also real pain, in Juliet’s reply: thou hast comforted me marvellous much. There’s been no comfort at all, no comfortable words, no solace – and any unspoken gestures (a touch, an embrace) have been rendered meaningless (or at least insufficient) by the complete failure of the Nurse to recognise or respond to Juliet’s position. But Juliet has a plan, perhaps her plan all along: get rid of the Nurse, avoid seeing her parents until everyone’s calmed down, go to Romeo’s friend the Friar, using the only possible pretext that she could use that would wash with both her Nurse and her parents, a need to make amends for her filial disobedience. Clever Juliet. But also, Juliet in pain, seeking comfort and advice, and not only finding none, but having lost hope of ever being comforted by the Nurse again.

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