At the Capulet house, Lady Capulet asks Juliet’s nurse to call for Juliet. Juliet enters and asks her mother what she wants. Lady Capulet urges the nurse to leave them be, but then changes her mind and asks her to stay behind and offer advice on what she’s about to say to Juliet. Lady Capulet tells the nurse that Juliet is “of a certain age.” Juliet’s nurse says she’s aware of Juliet’s age, because her own daughter—now deceased—was born on the same day; Juliet is almost 14. The nurse recalls the day Juliet stopped nursing at her breast—it was the same day of a terrible earthquake, and Juliet had a cut on her forehead about which the nurse’s husband (now also dead) made an off-color joke. Lady Capulet tells the nurse to hush up. The nurse continues with her story until Juliet, too, asks her to stop.
The nurse provides much of the comic relief throughout the play. Her rambling stories—often tinged with embarrassing or sad details from her own past—put those around her on edge, yet her immunity to recognizing their cringe-worthy content creates a humorous tension.
The nurse says one last thing—that if she lives long enough to see Juliet married, she will die a happy woman. Lady Capulet says that marriage is actually what she’s planning on talking to Juliet about, and asks her daughter how she feels about the idea of getting married. Juliet says she hasn’t even thought about it. Lady Capulet tells Juliet that it’s time for her to start thinking about marriage, stating that she herself gave birth to Juliet when she was barely Juliet’s age. Lady Capulet announces that Paris wants to marry Juliet, and the nurse excitedly states what a perfect man Paris is.
Juliet is not even 14, and yet her parents are pushing her toward adult decisions in order to further their own social capital. She’s being told she’s old enough to get married, and yet still being treated like a child by those around her.
Lady Capulet tells Juliet that Paris is coming to the feast tonight—Juliet will get to meet the handsome, much-desired bachelor and see if she likes him. Juliet says she’ll take a look at Paris, but that she isn’t so sure about the idea of love or marriage. Before Lady Capulet can press the issue any further, Peter enters and announces that the guests have arrived. Lady Capulet bids Juliet to follow her out to the feast, and the nurse encourages Juliet to go and “seek happy nights to happy days.”
Even though Juliet is clearly uncertain about the entire concept of love, her mother and nurse urge her to put love on the backburner and focus instead on what makes a sensible match. Juliet is skeptical of this, suggesting that when she does meet someone with whom she has real chemistry, she will be quick to brush off her elders’ advice.