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ACT I, SCENE III
Now we go from the men on the street to the women in the Capulets' house. It's almost party time, and Lady Capulet is looking for her daughter. The tension is building. A lot has happened and we haven't even seen Juliet yet. What does she look like? How does she talk? Why does everyone fall in love with her? We finally get to meet Juliet-but not all of our questions are answered. She doesn't say much in this scene. She's an obedient child, literally, "seen but not heard." Later, when she isn't surrounded by grown-ups, we'll really get to know Juliet.
The person we do get to know is the Nurse. Lady Capulet has something important to tell Juliet, but it's the Nurse who talks through the entire scene. At the beginning, Lady Capulet asks her where Juliet is, and she replies:
Now, by my maidenhead at twelve year old, I bade her come. (I, iii, 2)
That's roughly equivalent to "By my virginity when I was twelve, I swear I've called her!" We see right away that the Nurse likes to make funny sexual remarks, but who would say such a thing to the Lady of the house? The Nurse gets away with it, and she's going to get away with a lot more.
Lady Capulet wants to talk to Juliet privately, and she sends everyone away. But she soon remembers that the Nurse is Juliet's second mother (she even nursed Juliet when she was a baby) and Lady Capulet calls her back.
The Nurse is a funny old woman. She talks incessantly, uses words that she doesn't understand, and repeats herself constantly. But she is devoted to Juliet.
When she does finally get a word in, Lady Capulet comes right to the point and asks Juliet, "How stands your dispositions to be married?" Juliet demurely replies, "it is an honor I dream not of," before the Nurse starts talking again. But now Lady Capulet takes over. She has two good reasons that Juliet should consider marriage: she herself was married at Juliet's age, and Paris is a good catch. Lady Capulet reminds Juliet that Paris is young, handsome, well thought of, and rich.
The Nurse agrees completely, but her reasons for marriage have to do with sex. She tells Juliet
Go, girl, seek happy nights to happy days. (I, iii, 106)
Imagine how you would feel if you had to marry someone your parents picked for you. For Juliet, however, this was the custom of her times. She wasn't expected to marry for love.