David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scenes 3-4

 — 3.3 —

Entering his cell, Friar Lawrence said loudly, “Come out, fearful Romeo. Figuratively speaking, affliction is in love with you, and you are married to calamity.”

Romeo came out from behind a curtain where he had been hiding in case the city guards had come for him, and he said, “Friar Lawrence, what is the news? What is the Prince’s ruling about me? What sorrow is in store for me that I am still unaware of?”

“Romeo, you are too much afflicted with suffering. I bring you news of the punishment that Prince Escalus has set for you.”

“Is the Prince’s sentence upon me anything less than my death?”

“He has given you a gentler punishment than that,” Friar Lawrence said. “Your punishment is not your body’s death but instead your body’s banishment.”

“Banishment!” Romeo said, throwing himself upon the floor and lying there in despair. “If you want to be merciful to me, say instead that my punishment is death. To me, exile from Juliet is more terrifying than death. Do not say that I am banished.”

“You are banished from Verona,” Friar Lawrence said, “Bear this punishment patiently, for the world is broad and wide.”

“For me, no world exists outside Verona,” Romeo said. “Outside the walls of Verona lie Purgatory and torture — in fact, Hell itself. To be banished from Verona is to be banished from the world — and to be banished from the world is to be dead. Banishment is another, nicer, word for death. By telling me that I am banished, you are cutting off my head with a golden axe, and you are smiling while you make the swing of the ax that kills me.”

“You have the wrong attitude,” Friar Lawrence said. “You are guilty of the sin of ingratitude. Your lack of appreciation is shocking! The penalty for what you did is death, but merciful Prince Escalus has softened your punishment. He turned the black word ‘death’ into the merciful word ‘banishment.’ You have received much mercy, but you don’t see or appreciate that.”

“Banishment is torture, not mercy,” Romeo said. “Heaven is here, where Juliet lives. Every cat and dog and little mouse, every unworthy thing, may live here in Heaven and look at Juliet, but I may not. Even the flies of Verona have it better than I do. They may touch Juliet’s hand or her virgin lips, which grow red when they touch each other, thinking such self-kisses a sin. But I cannot touch Juliet’s hand or her lips. Flies may do this, but I must fly from Verona and Juliet. Flies are free, but I am banished. And yet you tell me that banishment is not death? Haven’t you got a better way to kill me than through banishment? Haven’t you got any poison or a sharp knife or some other disgraceful way of killing me? The damned in Hell use the word ‘banishment’ — they are banished from Heaven and they howl when they say the word ‘banishment.’ You are a priest to whom I confess my sins. You absolve my sins, and you profess to be my friend. How then can you torment me with the word ‘banishment’?”

“You foolish madman, listen to me.”

“Why? You will speak again of banishment.”

“I can give you armor against that word,” Friar Lawrence said. “Philosophy can lessen adversity. Philosophy can comfort you even though you are banished.”

“Again you say the word ‘banished’! Philosophy is worthless unless it can make a Juliet, or bring Verona — and Juliet! — to my place of exile, or change Prince Escalus’ mind about my punishment! Philosophy does not help. Philosophy is unable to provide comfort when I am banished. Talk to me no more.”

“I see that madmen have no ears.”

“Why would they, when wise men have no eyes?”

“Let me talk to you about the situation you are in.”

“You cannot speak about what you cannot feel,” Romeo said. “If you were as young as I am, if you loved Juliet the way I do, if you had been married for only an hour when you killed Tybalt, and if you were banished from the one you love, then you could speak, then you could tear your hair, and then you could fall upon the ground as if you were falling into your grave. If all that has happened to me had happened to you, then you would act exactly the way I am acting.”

Someone knocked at the door of Friar Lawrence’s cell.

“Get up, Romeo,” Friar Lawrence said. “Hide yourself.”

“No,” Romeo said. “I will not be hidden unless the mist from my heartsick groans hides me.”

More knocking.

Friar Lawrence said to Romeo, “Listen to the knocking!”

Friar Lawrence shouted, “Who’s there? Just a moment!”

To Romeo, he said, “Get up! You will be captured!”

He shouted, “Just a moment!”

To Romeo, he said again, “Get up!”

More knocking.

“Romeo, you are acting like a fool!”

Friar Lawrence shouted, “I’m coming! I’m coming!”

More knocking.

He shouted, “Who is knocking so loudly? From where did you come? What do you want?”

The Nurse, who had been knocking, replied, “Let me come in, and you shall know my errand. Juliet sent me.”

Friar Lawrence recognized her voice; she was not a danger to Romeo. He opened the door and said, “Welcome.”

The Nurse asked, “Holy friar, tell me: Where is Juliet’s husband? Where is Romeo?”

Friar Lawrence replied, “Come in. There he is, lying on the floor, crying. His tears have made him drunk and unable to think well.”

“He is acting just like Juliet,” the Nurse said. “Their cases of mourning are exactly the same. Both share the same sorrow. Both are in a piteous predicament. Like Romeo, she lies down, blubbering and weeping, weeping and blubbering.”

To Romeo, the Nurse said, “Stand up! Stand up! Stand up, if you be a man. For Juliet’s sake, rise and stand. Why should you fall into so deep a moan?”

If the ghost of Mercutio had been around, he would have thought,I wish that I were still alive — the puns I could make! The Nurse talked about a case. A case is a container for holding something. So is a sheath, or vagina. I would make jokes about Romeo being in Juliet’s case. The Nurse has talked about rising and standing up for Juliet’s sake. I know what part of Romeo should do the rising and standing up. The Nurse talked about Romeo falling into so deep a moan. When people moan, they make an O with their mouths. If I were still alive, I would talk about a different O — Juliet’s O between her legs.

Romeo said, “Nurse!” and stood up.

The Nurse said, “Things could be worse — you could be dead.”

 “You mentioned Juliet,” Romeo said. “How is she? Does she think of me as a hardened murderer now that I have at the beginning of our marriage killed a close relative of hers? Where is she? How is she? What does my secret wife say about our ruined marriage?”

“She does not say anything,” the Nurse replied. “All she does is cry and cry. She falls on her bed. She gets up and cries out first the name ‘Tybalt’ and then the name ‘Romeo,’ and then she falls on her bed again.”

“It is as if my name had been shot from a deadly gun and had murdered her, just as it murdered Tybalt,” Romeo said.

He drew his sword and said, “Tell me, Friar Lawrence, in what vile part of my body does my name live? Tell me so that I can cut my name out of myself.”

Friar Lawrence said, “Put away your sword. Are you not a man? You look like a man, but your tears make you appear to be womanish. The wildness and lack of thought of your actions make you appear to be an angry beast. You are a shameful woman in the body of a man! Or you are an ugly beast that is half-man, half-woman. You amaze me.

“By my holy order, I thought that you had more sense. You have killed Tybalt. Will you now kill yourself? Don’t you know that by killing yourself you would also kill Juliet, your wife, who is now part of you? Why treat yourself with such damnable hatred? Why do you hate your family origin, your soul, and your body? All three of those make up you, and by killing yourself you would lose all three. You are shaming your body, your love, and your mind. Like a usurer who hoards money, you could have good things in abundance, but you do not use your body, your love, and your mind well. Your body should be noble and full of the valor of a man, but you make it seem as if it were made of wax — a sculpture, not a real man. You have sworn to love Juliet, but that must be a lie since by killing yourself you would also kill the person whom you have vowed to cherish. Your intelligence, which should control and manage your body and your love, leads both astray. Your intelligence acts as if it were a stupid soldier who puts gunpowder in a flask and ignorantly sets it on fire. Your intelligence should be used to protect yourself, but instead you are using it to blow yourself up and kill yourself.

“Wise up, Romeo! Your Juliet is alive. To love and marry her, you have risked death! Be happy that Juliet is alive! Tybalt wanted to kill you, but you were able to kill Tybalt. Be happy that you are alive! The law stated that anyone who fought in the streets of Verona would be executed, but instead you are merely exiled. Be happy that Prince Escalus is merciful! You are greatly blessed and happiness has befriended you, but you are acting like a misbehaved and sullen girl — you are pouting despite your good luck and your great love. Be careful because those who are ungrateful die miserable.

“But now, go to Juliet, as was arranged earlier. Climb up to her bedchamber and comfort her. But be careful. Leave before the new set of city guards take up their places in the morning because if you are captured in the morning or afterward you will be killed. Leave earlier so that you can leave Verona and live in Mantua until the time when it is OK to announce publicly your marriage to Juliet, to reconcile the Capulets and the Montagues, and to beg Prince Escalus to pardon you and allow you to live again in Verona. When you return to Verona, you will have twenty hundred thousand times more joy than the lamentation you will endure when you depart from Verona.

“Nurse, go to Juliet first. Give my compliments to her, and tell her to encourage everyone in her father’s mansion to go to bed early because of their heavy sorrow. Let her know that Romeo is coming.”

The Nurse said to Friar Lawrence, “I could stay here all night and listen to you give advice. To be educated is wonderful!”

She said to Romeo, “I will tell Juliet that you are coming to see her.”

“Please do,” Romeo said, “and tell her to be ready to speak to me frankly and honestly. I think she will want to know how Tybalt died.”

“Romeo, this is a ring that Juliet gave me to give to you,” the Nurse said. “Come quickly to Juliet because it is beginning to be very late.”

The Nurse departed.

“I feel so much better now!” Romeo said.

“Before you go to Juliet, let me remind you that you need to be gone from Verona before the new set of city guards relieves the guards on duty now,” Friar Lawrence said. “The guards on duty now will allow you to leave Verona, but the new guards will arrest you. If you get a late start and the new guards are on duty, you will have to disguise yourself to pass through the gates. Go to Mantua and live there. I will send your servant to you occasionally with news that relates to your situation here — I expect the news to be good. Shake hands with me. It’s late. Go to Juliet, and good night.”

“A joy that surpasses all joy awaits me,” Romeo said, “or else I would be sad at parting from you. Farewell, Friar Lawrence.”

 — 3.4 —

Old Capulet, Mrs. Capulet, and Paris spoke together in a room in Old Capulet’s mansion. Paris loved and greatly desired to marry Juliet.

Old Capulet said to Paris, “Events have occurred that have made it impossible for me to have time to convince Juliet to marry you. As you know, she loved her kinsman Tybalt dearly, as did I. Unfortunately, death is not optional, and anyone who is born will also die. It is very late now, and Juliet will not come down to see you. In fact, I myself should have been in bed an hour ago.”

“These times of woe afford no time to woo,” Paris said.

To Mrs. Capulet, he said, “Madam, good night. Give my compliments to Juliet.”

“I will,” Mrs. Capulet said. “And tomorrow morning, I will see how she feels about marrying you. Tonight, she is mourning heavily in her bedchamber.”

Old Capulet said, “Sir Paris, I will make a bold offer of my child’s love for you. I think that she will do as I advise her to do. In fact, I have no doubt that she will accept my advice.”

He said to Mrs. Capulet, “Wife, before you go to bed, go to Juliet and tell her of Paris’ love for her. Also tell her that this coming Wednesday — wait, what day is today?”

“Today is Monday, sir,” Paris said.

Old Capulet said, “Monday! Well, Wednesday is too soon. So, wife, tell Juliet that she shall marry Paris, my almost son-in-law, on Thursday.”

To both Paris and his wife, Old Capulet said, “Will everyone and everything be ready? This leaves little time for preparations, but we should not have too big an affair. Tybalt is very recently dead, and we don’t want people to think that we little mourn him. If we have a big affair, they may think that. Therefore, we will have around a half-dozen guests, and that will be enough. But, Paris, what do you think about being married on Thursday?”

Paris replied, “I wish that Thursday were tomorrow.”

“Well, go home now,” Old Capulet said. “Thursday will be your wedding day, then.”

To his wife, he said, “See Juliet before you go to bed, and tell her to prepare for her wedding day.”

He then said to Paris, “Good night. I am going to bed. Actually, it is so late that I could almost call it morning. Good night.”

Old Capulet knew that Paris loved Juliet and that most young women would be happy to have Paris for a husband. He also knew that Paris, who was related to Prince Escalus, would make a good political ally — especially now that Mercutio and Tybalt had perished because of the feud with the Montagues.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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