Night. A graveyard. Paris, jittery. (5.3.1-11)

[5.3] Enter PARIS and his PAGE [with flowers and sweet water and a torch].

PARIS              Give me thy torch, boy. Hence, and stand aloof.

                        Yet put it out, for I would not be seen.

                        Under yond yew trees lay thee all along,

                        Holding thy ear close to the hollow ground,

                        So shall no foot upon the churchyard tread,

                        Being loose, unfirm with digging up of graves,

                        But thou shalt hear it. Whistle then to me

                        As signal that thou hear’st something approach.

                        Give me those flowers. Do as I bid thee, go.

PAGE               [Aside] I am almost afraid to stand alone

                        Here in the churchyard, yet I will adventure. [Retires.] (5.3.1-11)

There are all sorts of staging issues in this scene which I won’t address yet, but again, Shakespeare does something a bit unexpected, once more raising the stakes and increasing the tension. We didn’t expect to see Paris here, but rather Romeo. (There’s even a split-second when we might go, hang on, that’s not Romeo and Balthasar, that’s Paris and his page.) And Paris’s nerves set the mood – he’s jumpy (all those short sentences), doesn’t want to be seen. Even before he speaks, we have to register the torch: it’s dark – time has passed. How much time? Where is Romeo? Where is the Friar? Is Juliet awake yet? Next, some good creepy scene-setting. (None of these things are actually present, we can assume.) This doesn’t sound like an Italian cemetery, but rather an English churchyard, with yew trees and uneven ground, and piles of earth on newly-dug graves, even. (Being told what it’s like underfoot is brilliantly evocative.) Hard on the Page, sent to lie on the ground under the spooky yew trees, so that he can hear if anyone approaches, but it makes the scene more ominous and jittery by far, having a scared child there at the start. It’s not clear why Paris doesn’t want to be seen, why he needs his page to act as a lookout – but it’s a great start to the scene…

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