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SCENE SUMMARY AND NOTES
Act IV, Scene 2
Preparations for the wedding are in progress. Capulet knows about Julietís consent and is in good humor. A happy Juliet comes in and says that she has been advised by the Friar to repent for her sin of disobedience, to promise future obedience, and to ask for his pardon. She falls on her knees. Capulet is delighted over her change of heart. He orders the wedding to be advanced to Wednesday morning, which is the next day. Lady Capulet objects to this change of schedule, as invitations have been already sent for Thursday but Capulet ignores her. He orders the servants to hurry up with the wedding preparations and hurries to inform Paris. Juliet, following the Friarís advice, bravely forces herself to appear cheerful and submissive.
In this scene the Capulets are preparing for the wedding while Juliet prepares herself for her Ďdeathí. Capulet is in good spirits because Juliet begs his pardon for having been disobedient to him. He bears no resentment now that he has gotten his own way. She says that she has been to Friar Lawrenceís cell where she taught herself to repent for the sin of dishonoring her father. The changed Juliet is very much in control of her emotions and behavior, and her duplicity is remarkable. Her joy comes from her love for Romeo and her knowledge of the plan that will enable for them to be rejoined. Her father mistakes this happiness for her excitement about the wedding. The impulsive Capulet hurries forward the marriage by a day, from Thursday to Wednesday. When his wife protests, he ignores her. Thus, fate works against the young lovers once again. Juliet will be Ďburied aliveí twenty-four hours before the Friarís scheduled time, which complicates his plans.
Act IV, Scene 3
On Tuesday night, Juliet dismisses the Nurse, pretending she wants to pray. She also refuses Lady Capuletís help. Juliet, now alone for the night, is filled with misgivings. She picks up the vial containing the drink and worries about the possibility of its failing. Then, she takes up the dagger and puts it down. She thinks over all the possibilities connected with the use of the potion. For a moment, she doubts the integrity of the Friar, but then sets those thoughts aside. Next, she wonders about other horrible possibilities, like her being smothered, or being terrified by darkness, or being surrounded by dead ancestors. She imagines Tybaltís ghost crying for revenge on Romeo. This brings her back to reality. Addressing Romeo, she tells him that she is coming to his rescue. Then, she drinks the potion and falls on her bed without changing her dress.
It is bedtime on Tuesday night. Juliet dismisses the Nurse from her chamber with the pretext that she wants to be alone to pray. Ironically, she does not pray in this scene, in spite of the task at hand. She is resolved to take the vial of potion, but doubts and fears assail her mind. Suppose the potion does not act and she is forced to be married to Paris the next day. What if the Friar has really given her poison in order to escape from the possibility of marrying her twice. Next, the horrors of the tomb terrify her. She is afraid that the darkness of the vault, the sight of dead bodies, and the horrible smell of the corpses will all drive her mad and make her dash out her brains with the bone of some ancestor. Finally, she imagines that she may encounter Tybaltís ghost crying for revenge on Romeo. At the end of the scene, Juliet tells Romeo that she is coming to his rescue, drinks the potion, and falls down on her bed.
This scene foreshadows the actual experiences of the tomb. Julietís state of anxiety allows her imagination to run wild, and her language matches her images with verbal excess. It is only her concern for Romeo and their being together that forces her to take the potion.
It is important to note Julietís continued maturity in this scene. For the first time in the play, she does not take the Nurse into her confidence. She is now brave enough to act totally alone and out of love for Romeo when she drinks the potion.