Where is your mother?! (2.5.54-64)

NURSE            Your love says, like an honest gentleman,

                        And a courteous, and a kind, and a handsome,

                        And I warrant a virtuous—Where is your mother?

JULIET                        Where is my mother? why, she is within,

                        Where should she be? How oddly thou repliest:

                        ‘Your love says, like an honest gentleman,

                        “Where is your mother?”’

NURSE                                                            O God’s lady dear,

                        Are you so hot? Marry come up, I trow;

                        Is this the poultice for my aching bones?

                        Henceforward do your messages yourself.

JULIET                        Here’s such a coil. Come, what says Romeo? (2.5.54-64)

The where is your mother, I think, is a genuine non sequitur and a request for information – the Nurse might have been game-playing so far, but the directness of your love says, and the flattering honest, courteous, kind, handsome (Juliet purrs, impatiently) does make it sound as if the Nurse is finally giving in and coming to the point. And I warrant a virtuous is slightly distracted, though? She is perhaps still worrying about Juliet being seduced and abandoned, and perhaps even about what probably has to be called, with jarringly clinical anachronism, Romeo’s sexual history. What’s the likelihood of his having the pox, in other words. (Nil, I think we can safely say. Mercutio included, surely all of these boys are all talk.) So the swerve to Where is your mother is also a pulling back, a recognition, at some level, that this is still a terribly serious thing that the Nurse is enabling. So Juliet might be getting just slightly narky here, or it could still be a continuation of the playfulness (the non sequitur is, after all, the Nurse’s standby) – but the Nurse chooses to take offence. Temper, temper, are you so hot  (and also hot meaning lustful; throughout this scene, the Nurse is mostly thinking about the marriage’s consummation, rather than its solemnization); come up, mind your manners. And actually my feet and back do hurt rather a lot, I’m not just putting it on; you’re being a bit of an ungrateful brat; do your own dirty work. But the exchange is finally coming to the point, despite the coil, the fussing and carrying on. What says Romeo? the first time that Juliet has spoken his name aloud to anyone except Romeo himself. She is serious, and straightforward; she names and claims him.

Leave a Reply

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