Stick your rosemary…. (4.5.75-83)

FRIAR              O, in this love, you love your child so ill

                        That you run mad, seeing that she is well.

                        She’s not well married that lives married long,

                        But she’s best married that dies married young.

                        Dry up your tears, and stick your rosemary

                        On this fair corse, and as the custom is,

                        And in her best array, bear her to church;

                        For though fond nature bids us all lament,

                        Yet nature’s tears are reason’s merriment (4.5.75-83)

This is partly a recapitulation (the Friar never quite knows where to stop): if they love Juliet, then they should show it by – well, not quite rejoicing – but at least by not mourning her so extravagantly; after all, as he’s pointed out, she is now in heaven. It’s probably rather distasteful, in psychological terms, for a mostly secular modern audience, but we can still note the foreshadowing: of dying married young, and of the assertion that Juliet is well: this is the terrible wordplay that will be employed by the servant Balthasar, in the very next scene, when he breaks to Romeo the news of Juliet’s apparent death. The Friar is, after all, a philosopher, and we might be reminded here of the way in which he tries to reason with Romeo, to console him when he first hears of his banishment with adversity’s sweet milk, philosophy. Romeo, however, has been the Friar’s pupil, and he too can dispute (Thou canst not speak of that thou dost not feel) – which the Capulet parents and Paris, less obviously intellectual, show no inclination to do. (Capulet, indeed, seems to dislike this sort of thing, accusing Juliet of chopt-logic when she refuses to marry Paris. He can lose his temper and refuse to engage when his daughter tries to reason logically with him; he can’t, really, when it’s a priest, or at least he won’t – bad for his reputation. Even if he wants to tell the Friar where exactly he can stick his rosemary.) But finally the Friar turns to practicalities; he tells them what they have to do now. Dry up your tears, and stick your rosemary on this fair corse; dress her in her best array and bear her to churchRosemary was used as a favour and a decoration at both weddings and funerals, and this abrupt repurposing of the wedding preparations will subsequently be picked up by Capulet. The Friar can’t resist a final aphorism, though: it might well be natural to lament, but reason, superior to nature, tells us to rejoice. Hmmmm. At any rate, the Friar has taken charge, and the next phase of this desperate plan can be unwittingly put into action by Juliet’s grief-stricken parents: getting her, via the church, to the family tomb.



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