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LINES 1-73

Finally it's night, and we find ourselves in the graveyard by Capulet's tomb. Someone comes, but again we're caught off guard: we expect Romeo, but it's Paris.

This is final proof that Paris really did love Juliet. He's brought flowers and perfumed water to sprinkle on her body; he vows to come secretly every night to mourn for her. No sooner has he vowed this then he hears a signal from his servant that someone's coming.

Paris hides, and Romeo enters the cemetery with Balthasar. Romeo is very upset, but has the presence to ask Balthasar three things:

1) to give him the crowbar they've brought;
2) to give his father, Lord Montague, a letter; and
3) not to disturb him when he enters the tomb. As rationally as possible, Romeo is putting his affairs in order. But he warns Balthasar:

But if thou, jealous, does return to pry In what I farther shall intend to do, By heaven, I will tear thee joint by joint, And strew this hungry churchyard with thy limbs. (V, iii, 33-36)

Balthasar is shocked and worried to hear Romeo talk like this, and he promises he won't disturb him. Once he's satisfied that no one will bother him, Romeo takes time to be kind and considerate to Balthasar. He tells him to "live, and be prosperous," gives him money, and calls him "friend" instead of "servant."

Balthasar sees that Romeo is still desperate. He decides to stay and hide in the churchyard. Romeo takes the crowbar and goes to force open the door to the Capulets' tomb. By this time, Paris has recognized him. This is Romeo, he thinks, who killed Tybalt, and it was grief for Tybalt that killed Juliet. Paris is furious: he assumes that the criminal who caused Juliet's death has returned to defile the Capulets' tomb. Boldly, Paris rushes out of hiding to arrest Romeo for returning to Verona.

Paris is determined that Romeo won't enter the tomb; Romeo is more determined that he will. But he doesn't want to hurt Paris, and he begs him to leave. But these two "gentle youths" have been forced into a position where they are mortal enemies. Paris is so enraged that he demands a fight; Romeo is so determined to carry out his plan that he lets nothing stand in his way. They draw swords, and Romeo kills Paris. Paris' last words are simple and moving:

O, I am slain! If thou be merciful Open the tomb, lay me with Juliet. (V, iii, 72-73)


Again we feel time closing in: as soon as the fight started, Paris' servant ran off to call the watchmen.

LINES 75-120

It's so dark that Romeo didn't know who he was fighting. Now, by torchlight, he sees that it was Paris-Mercutio's relative. Romeo thinks he remembers Balthasar telling him that Paris was supposed to marry Juliet, but he's so overwrought he's no longer sure. Even now, Romeo isn't selfish. He gives his rival due honor: he buries Paris near Juliet, and curses Fate that frowned on Paris as well as on the lovers. He calls Paris, "one writ with me in sour misfortune's book," and promises, "I'll bury thee in a triumphant grave."

Then Romeo sees Juliet, and forgets everything else. As he looks at her he speaks the final irony:

O, my love, my wife! Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath, Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty.

Thou art not conquered. (V, iii, 92-94)

You're right! we want to tell him, Death hasn't conquered her!

Another sad thing about these tender words is that they're so beautiful. Romeo is inspired in Juliet's presence, but he's about to remove himself from her forever.

Before he starts his final farewell, he sees Tybalt, also buried in the family vault. A gentleman until the end, Romeo begs forgiveness of Tybalt, and promises that he'll kill himself to avenge Tybalt's death.

But Romeo can't keep his eyes off Juliet. Other characters in the play have treated Death like a real person, and suddenly Romeo wonders if Death is in love with Juliet, and keeping her beautiful for himself. He makes his final farewell-a last look, a last hug, a last kiss. He raises the poison and cries, "Here's to my love!" This echoes Juliet when she drank the Friar's potion. Neither is able to do it for him or herself, but they have courage to do it for the other.

The poison is strong, and he dies instantly. Time has finally closed in on them. If he had waited only a few minutes, they could have lived.

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