Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet Act 4, Scene 5 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Summary
Analysis
The nurse enters Juliet’s bedroom to find her sleeping soundly. She chides the girl for being lazy and tries to wake her by announcing that Paris has arrived, but is surprised when Juliet doesn’t even stir. As she notices that Juliet is still dressed in her clothes from the day before, she begins to chide her further—but then sees that Juliet is, apparently, dead. The nurse calls out for help, and Lady Capulet hurries into the bedroom. Seeing that her daughter is dead, she laments the loss of her “only life” and says she herself may as well die, too. Capulet runs in, asking what is taking so long—when the nurse and Lady Capulet tell him that Juliet is dead, he, too laments his daughter’s “untimely” death. The three of them loudly mourn Juliet, screaming and crying out until Friar Laurence and Paris come to the door.
The Capulets’ melodramatic mourning of Juliet is overzealous to the point of farce. Shakespeare contrasts her parents’ overdramatic reactions to her death, suggesting their falsity, against the melodrama that Romeo and Juliet themselves have exhibited throughout the play. While young love and the difficulty in expressing it can justify outsized and even violent responses, the Capulets’ facsimile of these genuinely overwhelming emotions is false and offensive.
Themes
Love and Violence Theme Icon
Family and Duty Theme Icon
As the friar, Paris, and a group of musicians enter Juliet’s chambers asking if Juliet is ready to head to church, Capulet tells them that “death [has] lain” with Juliet, deflowering her on her wedding day. Death, now, is his son-in-law. Paris is shattered, and joins Capulet, Lady Capulet, and the nurse in loudly and dramatically lamenting Juliet’s horrible death. Friar Laurence tries to mitigate their mourning by telling them that Juliet is in a better place. All her parents wanted for her after all, he points out, was her "promotion”—now, she has climbed to the highest heights of all. He urges them to dress her in finery, adorn her with herbs, and bring her to church.
As Capulet, Lady Capulet, and Paris dramatically mourn Juliet’s “death,” Friar Laurence points out their melodrama and hypocrisy. When Juliet was alive, her parents plotted to use her for their own social advancement. Now that she is dead, he suggests, what they’re really mourning is the death of their ability to use her for their own gains, as they never really knew—or cared about knowing—the person their daughter truly was in life.
Themes
Love and Violence Theme Icon
Family and Duty Theme Icon
Capulet laments that all of the marriage preparations were in vain—the wedding feast will become a funerary one, and Juliet’s bridal flowers will now cover her corpse. Friar Laurence again urges the family to focus now on preparing for the funeral and trusting in the fact that Juliet is in a better place. They all exit, leaving the musicians alone to lament that they’re out of a job. Peter, however, enters the chamber and urges the musicians to play something comforting. They insist now is not the time for music, and comically exchange verbal barbs with Peter as he tries to get them to play a dirge instead. Eventually, Peter gives up his crusade and leaves. The musicians remark upon how annoying he is, then decide to stay and eat their fill at the funeral feast.
As occurs often in the play, this scene shows a moment of great tragedy being punctuated by comic relief offered by the servant characters. While the Capulets farcically—and, the friar suggests, falsely—mourn their daughter’s loss, the action shifts over to the servants—whom Shakespeare often renders as the only sane and relatable characters in the play, presenting them as real people struggling with everyday problems, like where to get their next meal when their planned gig falls through.
Themes
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Family and Duty Theme Icon