Who’s that boy? (1.5.127-134)

JULIET                        Come hither, Nurse. What is yond gentleman?

NURSE            The son and heir of old Tiberio.

JULIET                        What’s he that now is going out of door?

NURSE            Marry, that I think be young Petruchio.

JULIET                        What’s he that follows here, that would not dance?

NURSE            I know not.

JULIET                        Go ask his name.—If he be marrièd,

                        My grave is like to be my wedding bed. (1.5.127-134)

It’s unclear who’s left on stage: the Cambridge edition precedes this exchange with a stage direction [Exeunt all but Juliet and the Nurse] and Q1 has Exeunt; certainly such an exeunt would necessarily be gradual. It’s an interesting choice as to whether Romeo can still be seen and, if so, what he’s doing. The Nurse seems, unsurprisingly, well up on who’s who among the young men of Verona (son and heir of old Tiberio is a telling detail, i.e. he’s a good catch and you probably won’t have to wait long for him to come into his inheritance: the Nurse doesn’t miss a trick and is well up on the financial side of things). Young Petruchio might, just, be a nod back at Taming of the Shrew, if young distinguishes him from the anti-hero of the earlier play… It seems implausible, therefore, that the Nurse doesn’t recognise Romeo, but it’s a detail that allows for an unexpected moment of tension, as we realise that Romeo knows who Juliet it, but Juliet doesn’t yet know the name of the man whom she has just kissed. And it also demonstrates Juliet’s smartness in not asking about Romeo immediately – laying a false trail. It establishes that – as in the balcony scene – it’s Romeo’s name which will, initially, be the focus – that great central movement of the play begins here (not least because Juliet is thinking already in terms of marriage – not ‘simply’ love). And it has, too, a horrible irony and foreshadowing: her grave is like to be her wedding bed.

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