Romeo? Tybalt? Who’s dead? (3.2.61-68)

NURSE            O Tybalt, Tybalt, the best friend I had!

                        O courteous Tybalt, honest gentleman,

                        That ever I should live to see thee dead!

JULIET                        What storm is this that blows so contrary?

                        Is Romeo slaughtered? and is Tybalt dead?

                        My dearest cousin, and my dearer lord?

                        Then, dreadful trumpet, sound the general doom,

                        For who is living, if those two are gone? (3.2.61-68)

Finally. The Nurse hasn’t been listening at all; she’s just going on and on, in shock and disbelief. It’s an anticipation of the way in which the intimate, loving connection between Juliet and her nurse will soon be ruptured. Depending on the staging of the earlier scenes, the Nurse’s account of Tybalt as a courteous, honest gentleman may not accord particularly with what we’ve seen of him – it might be more an indication of the Nurse’s sentimentality and loyalty – but it’s certainly true that Tybalt has been an honest gentleman in the sense of being honourable, invested in his honour, and his status as a gentleman. And now Juliet can’t believe it either: wondering if both her cousin and her new husband are dead, she moves from imagining her own physical collapse to envisaging chaos in the world itself, a storm that suddenly changes direction, that assaults from all sides and, finally, doomsday, the general doom, announced by the dreadful trumpet, the last trumpet. If Romeo and Tybalt are dead, it’s the end of the world. (Meanly: still a bit of an adolescent note. My life is totally over. It’s not the end of the world, it just feels like it.) There’s the horror of thinking they’re both dead and, even if – as with the Nurse – there’s been no performance of a particularly close or affectionate relationship between Juliet and her cousin, there’s still perhaps a sense that this is the first time that Juliet has been touched by death in her family circle, and in her own generation. (Both her parents are living, which is unusual in Shakespeare.) For all sorts of reasons – and even before she knows what’s really going on – this is one of many moments in which Juliet has to grow up a bit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *