Romeo is coming! says the Friar (3.3.155-165)

FRIAR              Go before, Nurse, commend me to thy lady,

                        And bid her hasten all the house to bed,

                        Which heavy sorrow makes them apt unto.

                        Romeo is coming.

NURSE            O Lord, I could have stayed here all the night

                        To hear good counsel. O, what learning is!

                        My lord, I’ll tell my lady you will come.

ROMEO           Do so, and bid my sweet prepare to chide.

                        [Nurse offers to go in, and turns again.]

NURSE            Here, sir, a ring she bid me give you, sir.

                        Hie you, make haste, for it grows very late.

ROMEO           How well my comfort is revived by this.

                                                                        [Exit Nurse] (3.3.155-165)

So now, finally, there’s a plan, and nothing remains except for it to be put into action. After his long, long speech the Friar is being practical and straightforward: Juliet needs to be told that this is the plan and she needs to try to encourage everyone in the Capulet household to go to bed early – which the Friar thinks will be easy for a family in mourning; they’ll be exhausted. Romeo is coming: the short statement makes it definite (although the emphasis could be on is – he’s coming, just in case you thought he wasn’t) and, again, gives it a slightly portentous tone – Biblical again? (Juliet’s lord is coming); the Nurse is to be a herald. Bless her, though, she immediately undercuts the Friar with a response that is surely ironic and must get a laugh: I could have stayed here all the night to hear good counsel – the way the Friar’s been going on, she could well have been there all night. O, what learning is – yes, the Friar is learned, and wise, and surely wants only the best for Romeo and Juliet – but what’s needed now is practical common sense, not philosophy, as the scene has abundantly made clear. Bid my sweet prepare to chide might jar a bit? Romeo is, after all, much more than a misbehaving schoolboy – but perhaps it’s of a piece with the ring, the token that Juliet has sent, which might seem much more appropriate to a romantic comedy – it breaks the tension further – as does the Nurse’s characteristic hie you, make haste, come on, hurry up, again ironic when the scene has been so long, and when she’s just said that she could well have stayed even longer. Romeo’s comfort is revived – given new life, when only a few moments earlier he has seemed to be suicidal – both by the definite plan, and by the ring. We saw Juliet give the ring to the Nurse at the end of the previous scene, and now here it is, a little piece of Juliet, from her hand, to his. I think he kisses it.

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