David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scene 2

 — 3.2 —

In her bedchamber, Juliet impatiently waited for night to come so that Romeo could come to her.

Juliet said to herself, “Phaëthon went to his father, the god Apollo, and asked to be allowed to drive the Sun-chariot across the sky and bring light to the world. But Phaëthon, doomed youth, was unable to control the stallions, and they ran wildly away with the Sun-chariot, wreaking havoc and destruction upon Humankind and the world. The king of the gods, Jupiter, saved Humankind and the world by throwing a thunderbolt at Phaëthon and killing him. Right now, stallions that pull the Sun-chariot, I want you to race the Sun across the sky to the West and sunset so that Romeo may quickly come to me. Gallop as if Phaëthon were once again your charioteer and make it dark night immediately. Close the curtain upon day, so that the stallions may sleep and Romeo may leap into my arms with no one to see him and raise an alarm. Lovers by the light of their own beauty can see enough to have sex in the dark, or, if love be blind, it best agrees with night. Come, night, clothed in black, and teach me to lose my virginity to Romeo, my husband. Night, cover the blood — the blood of a virgin — that rises in my cheeks until I experience sex for the first time and know that sex with a true love is right and proper. Come, night. Come, Romeo. Cum, Romeo, who is day in night. In my vision of you, I see your white body lying upon the black wings of night — you are whiter than new snow on the back of a raven. Night, give me my Romeo, and when he cums and ‘dies’ with delight, take him and cut him out in little stars. If you do that, he will make the face of the nightly Heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish Sun.”

Having expressed her strong desire to lose her virginity quickly to Romeo, her husband, Juliet said, “Romeo and I belong to each other, but neither of us has so far done anything that shows it. It is as if I have bought a mansion but have not moved into it. Romeo has married me, but he has not yet enjoyed me. My waiting now for Romeo to come to me is like an impatient child’s waiting during the eve before some festival at which the child will wear new clothing.”

Juliet saw the Nurse coming to her and said, “My Nurse is bringing me news. Anyone who says ‘Romeo’ speaks with Heavenly eloquence.”

The Nurse, carrying a rope ladder, entered Juliet’s bedchamber.

Juliet asked, “Nurse, what news do you have?” Seeing that the Nurse was carrying something, Juliet asked, “What do you have in your hands? Is that the rope ladder that Romeo sent to you?”

The Nurse threw down the rope ladder and replied, “Yes, it is.”

Juliet asked, “What is troubling you? What is the news? Why are you wringing your hands?”

The Nurse said, “This is a miserable day. He’s dead! He’s dead. He’s been murdered! We’re ruined, Juliet. We’re ruined!”

Juliet, assuming that Romeo had died, said, “Can Heaven be so cruel?”

The Nurse said, “Romeo can be that cruel, but Heaven cannot.Oh, Romeo, Romeo! Who ever would have thought it? Romeo!”

“What kind of devil are you, who torments me so?” Juliet said. “This kind of torture belongs in Hell. Has Romeo killed himself? If you say, ‘Yes, he has killed himself,’ I will die just as surely as if a basilisk had looked at me and struck me dead. If Romeo is dead, say ‘yes.’ If Romeo is not dead, say ‘no.’ Those short words will determine whether I live or die.”

“I saw the wound, I saw it with my eyes,” the Nurse said. “It was on his breast. It was a corpse to be pitied — a bloody corpse to be pitied, Pale, pale as ashes, all red with blood — I fainted at the sight.”

“Heart, cease to beat,” Juliet said. “Eyes, go to prison and never look on liberty. Dust that makes up my body, return to the dust of the Earth. Life, stop — Romeo and I shall share one grave.”

“Oh, Tybalt, Tybalt, the best friend I had!” the Nurse said. “Oh, courteous Tybalt! You were an honest gentleman! That ever I should live to see you dead!”

“What storm is this that blows so contrary?” Juliet said. “From which direction are the squall winds blowing? Is Romeo slaughtered, and is Tybalt dead? Is my dearly loved cousin dead, and also my dearer lord, my husband? Is the trumpet blowing that announces the end of time? Nurse, tell me! Who is living, and who is dead?”

“Tybalt is dead, and Romeo has been banished from Verona,” the Nurse replied. “Romeo killed Tybalt, and that is why he is banished.”

“Oh, God!” Juliet said. “Did Romeo’s hand really shed Tybalt’s blood?

“It did! It did!” the Nurse said. “Curse the day, it did!”

“Romeo is not what he seemed to be!” Juliet said. “Oh, serpent heart, hid with a flowering face! Did ever dragon keep so fair a cave? Beautiful tyrant! Angelical fiend! Dove-feathered raven! Wolvish-ravening lamb! Despised substance of divinest show! Romeo is in reality a complete opposite to what he seemed to be. He is a damned saint, an honorable villain! What laws of Nature had to be broken to put the spirit of a fiend from Hell into the sweet fleshly paradise of Romeo’s body? Was there ever a book containing such vile matter so beautifully bound? I can’t believe that deceit should dwell in such a gorgeous palace!”

“There’s no trust, no faith, no honesty in men,” the Nurse said. “All men lie and cheat, and all men are evil. Where is the servant? He needs to bring me a drink. These griefs, these woes, these sorrows make me old. Go to Hell, shameful Romeo!”

“Blistered be your tongue for such a wish!” Juliet said. “Romeo was not born to shame; upon his brow shame is ashamed to sit, for Romeo’s brow is a throne where honor may be crowned King. I should not have criticized my husband the way I did.”

“Will you speak well of the man who killed your cousin?” the Nurse asked.

“Should I speak ill of the man who is my husband?” Juliet asked. “Poor Romeo, who will speak well of you, when I, your wife of three hours, have said such bad things about you? But why, villain, did you kill my cousin? No doubt because that villain cousin would have killed you, my husband. Back, my foolish tears, return back to my eyes, your native spring. Tears belong to sorrow, and I am joyful that my husband lives, whom Tybalt would have killed. I must be joyful that Tybalt is dead because he would have killed my husband. All of this is comforting news, so why am I crying? One thing happened that is worse than Tybalt’s death. That thing is expressed in one word that murders me. I wish I could forget that word, but it is burned into my brain like damned guilty deeds are burned into the minds of sinners. Tybalt is dead, and Romeo — banished. That word ‘banished’ creates more sorrow in me than the deaths of ten thousand Tybalts. Tybalt’s death was woe enough; no more sorrow should have been added to that sorrow. But if sour woe delights in company and must be accompanied by other griefs, why was not the death of Tybalt followed by the death of my father or my mother, or both? That would have been bad enough, and I would have grieved in the ordinary way. But following the news of Tybalt’s death, I have been ambushed with the news of Romeo’s banishment. To hear ‘Romeo is banished’ is to tear my world and my life apart. It is as if my father, my mother, Tybalt, my husband, and myself were all dead. ‘Romeo is banished!’ There is no end, no limit, no measure, no bound to the grief that short sentence brings. No words can express that grief.”

Juliet then asked, “Where are my father and my mother, nurse?”

“They are weeping and wailing over Tybalt’s corpse. Will you go to them? I will lead you there.”

“They can use their tears to wash his wounds,” Juliet said. “When they have finished crying, I will still be crying because of Romeo’s banishment. Take away that rope ladder. Romeo wanted to use it to climb into my bedchamber tonight, but he is exiled from Verona. I, still a virgin, will become a virgin widow. I will go to my wedding-bed alone. The grave — not Romeo — will take my virgin body.”

“Go to your bedchamber,” the Nurse said. “I will find Romeo so he can comfort you. I know where he is. Listen to me. Romeo will come to you tonight. He is now hiding in Friar Lawrence’s cell.”

“Find Romeo, and give him — my true knight — this ring,” Juliet said. “Have him come to me to take his last farewell.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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