Romeo! I drink to thee [Juliet falls, insensible] (4.3.55-58)

JULIET                        O look! methinks I see my cousin’s ghost

                        Seeking out Romeo that did spit his body

                        Upon a rapier’s point. Stay, Tybalt, stay!

                        Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! Here’s drink – I drink to thee.

                        [She falls upon her bed, within the curtains.] (4.3.55-58)

A final, terrified hallucination – and yes, we can easily imagine Tybalt as a vengeful ghost, stalking his killer. Juliet here doesn’t downplay the violence of Tybalt’s death, or that Romeo was responsible – Romeo that did spit Tybalt’s body upon a rapier’s point – and we might be reminded, again, of the agony that both Juliet and Romeo went through in recognising Romeo as a murderer. There are clearly gestures here – does Juliet enact Tybalt, rapier in hand, or just ward him off, stay, Tybalt, stay, with a raised hand? And then the talisman, which perhaps starts off as a cry for help (a different inflection possible on each repetition, perhaps?): Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! [brace for a pop culture reference – don’t judge me – expecto patronum!] This is what banishes the ghosts, the horror, and finally gives her the courage to to take the drug: Romeo’s name, and the act of naming and claiming him. A flashback to the balcony scene? how long ago that seems. And the hand that has been warding off horror takes control, takes the vial: here’s drink – I drink to thee.

Of course Juliet can’t exit at the end of the scene – she’s comatose on the bed. The stage direction here is from the first quarto, but doesn’t appear in the other early editions; it suggests that the bed remains on stage for the following short scene, but with Juliet not really visible, concealed within the bed’s curtains. Tricky for an actor to get right (don’t fall on the curtains and pull them down), but not impossible. In a modern staging, of course, or a film, there are other possibilities; the bed can be blacked out by lighting, for instance. (And I have rethought a bit the question of what Juliet might be wearing, and am now leaning towards shift/bedgown, after a lightning quick change out of bodice and skirt); falling down on the bed in a farthingale, let alone a ruff, would be tricky – and would imperil the ruff in particular. Ideally, she has to fall into a position in which she can comfortably remain, and which is decorous, until the end of 4.5, which is long – no wriggling.)


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