Trouble and strife (3.3.1-3)

[3.3] Enter FRIAR [LAWRENCE]

FRIAR              Romeo, come forth, come forth, thou fearful man:

                        Affliction is enamoured of thy parts,

                        And thou art wedded to calamity.

                                                   [Enter] ROMEO.                     (3.2.1-3)

What I didn’t appreciate until I started writing about the previous scene between Juliet and the Nurse is how long it is – and this scene, with which it forms, at least initially, a really pleasing diptych, is even longer. Together they’re some 320 lines, considerably longer than Queen Mab scene plus ball scene, for instance – but I suspect they’re often nipped and tucked in performance, especially 3.3. Some prompt-book work will eventually be called for…

We can imagine the Nurse and Juliet exiting through one door at the rear of the stage and the Friar entering through the other; Romeo would enter either through the same door as the Friar or (as is probably my preference) from the central entrance to the inner stage, if there is one, because the suggestion is that he’s there already and the Friar is returning to him, with news. Fearful man is striking: fearful is just that, full of fear, but it does also suggest that Romeo is now himself terrifying, as well as terrified. He has killed a man. And I’m particularly struck by the Friar addressing him as man. He is a married man. He is a man in the eyes of the law. And yet in his previous scenes with the Friar he has been a pupil, a boy, almost a son. Where Juliet has been in effect saying to the Nurse, I’m not your little girl any more, Friar Lawrence will say to Romeo, grow up. But where the Friar goes next is a bit weird; it’s a recapitulation of Juliet’s death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead, a few lines before the end of the previous scene. Here the Friar imagines that affliction, distress, trouble, is in love with Romeo’s parts, strictly speaking his accomplishments and qualities (as in a man of parts), but inevitably suggesting his body, not least because of the lingering enamoured. And he has married not Juliet but disaster. (The – possibly pseudo – Cockney rhyming slang trouble and strife, meaning wife, is definitely late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century in origin. Just in case you were wondering and about to call Notes and Queries…) Wedded is probably stronger even than married; it suggests indissolubly bonded. There’s the inevitable suggestion that marrying Juliet has turned out to be a disaster, that she herself is the calamity, when the Friar had given the marriage his blessing in the hope that it might end the feud. The marriage and the murder are now as tightly bound together as Romeo and Juliet have thought themselves to be.

What we perhaps don’t realise at the top of the scene is that Juliet knows that Romeo has been banished before he knows himself. So that word banishèd hangs over this scene too; it will continue to resound. It’s the hinge of the diptych that these two scenes form.

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