David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 5

 — 4.5 —

The Nurse entered Juliet’s bedchamber to awaken her.

She said, “Juliet, wake up! I bet that you are still fast asleep, slugabed. Why aren’t you saying something? Well, you should get your rest. Count Paris will make sure that you get little rest tonight. God forgive me for making such a joke! Well, I need to wake you, but if Count Paris were to find you in bed, he would quickly wake you. Am I not right, Juliet?”

The Nurse drew back the curtains that enclosed Juliet’s bed and looked at Juliet.

“What!” the Nurse said. “You woke up, got dressed, and went back to bed to sleep some more. Well, wake up again. Juliet, wake up!”

The Nurse touched Juliet, whose body was cold like a corpse, and the Nurse screamed and shouted, “Help! Help! Juliet is dead! Curse the day that I was born! Bring me something to drink! My lord! My lady!”

Mrs. Capulet entered the room, saying, “What is the reason for this noise?”

The Nurse simply cried.

“What is the matter?”

The Nurse pointed to Juliet and said, “Look!”

Mrs. Capulet looked at Juliet, whose face was pale. She touched Juliet’s body and felt how cold it was.

Mrs. Capulet said, “My child, my life, wake up, look up, or I will die with you!”

Old Capulet entered Juliet’s bedchamber and said, “What is the reason for this delay? Bring Juliet down to meet Paris; he has come for her.”

The Nurse said, “She’s dead, deceased — she’s dead! Curse this day!”

Mrs. Capulet said, “She’s dead! She’s dead! She’s dead!”

Old Capulet said, “Let me see her!” Like the Nurse and his wife, he touched Juliet.

He said, “She is cold. Her blood has stopped moving. Her joints are stiff. Breath and her lips have long been separated. Death lies on her like an untimely frost lies upon and kills the sweetest flower of all those in the field.”

The Nurse and Mrs. Capulet cried, and Old Capulet said, “Death took her away to make me cry, but I am so shocked that I cannot cry.”

Friar Lawrence and Paris entered the room.

Friar Lawrence asked, “Is the bride ready to go to church?”

Old Capulet said to him, “She is ready to go to church, but she shall never again return home.”

He said to Paris, “The night before your wedding day, Death lay with your wife-to-be. There she lies. She was a flower, and Death has deflowered her. Death is my son-in-law. Death is my heir. Death has married my daughter. I will die, and I will leave Death all I have. Death will get my life and my property — Death will get everything.”

Paris said, “For a long time I have longed to see this morning, but now that it has arrived, I see something that I have never longed to see.”

Mrs. Capulet said, “This day is accursed, unhappy, wretched, and hateful. This hour is the most miserable hour that ever time saw in its ceaseless passage throughout eternity. I had only one child left alive, one child left to love, one child to rejoice in and take solace in, and cruel Death has taken her away from me!”

The Nurse said, “This is a day of sorrow, of lamentation — the worst day that I have ever experienced. Never was seen so black a day as this.”

Paris said, “On this day Death has cheated me, made me divorced, wronged me, spited me, slain me! Cruel Death has overthrown and conquered me. The woman I love is dead!”

Old Capulet said, “Death has treated me badly, distressed me, hated me, martyred me, killed me! Death, why did you come now to murder our wedding ceremony? Child, you were my soul and not just my child — and now you are dead! My child is dead! With my child all my joys are buried.”

“Restrain your grief,” Friar Lawrence said. “Your exclamations of grief do not help. For fourteen years, Heaven and all of you shared this beautiful maiden, but now Heaven has all of her. Juliet is better off in Heaven than she was in this world. You were not able to keep Juliet’s body from dying, but Heaven will keep Juliet’s soul forever alive. Here on Earth, you wanted Juliet to gain social prestige. You wanted her to advance in society. Well, now she has advanced to Heaven itself — she is above the clouds and now resides in Heaven! So why do you grieve for her? Do you love your child so badly that you grieve when she achieves the highest happiness that anyone can ever achieve? The best marriage is not a marriage that lasts a long time, but a marriage in which one quickly dies because one rises all the sooner to Heaven. Dry your tears, and cover Juliet’s body with rosemary and carry her dressed in her best clothing to church. Our foolish human nature makes us cry for our dear Juliet, but our reason tells us that we should rejoice because Juliet is in Heaven.”

Old Capulet ordered, “Everything that we prepared for Juliet’s wedding, we now must use for Juliet’s funeral. Our musical instruments must play melancholy tunes, our happy wedding feast must become a sad burial feast, our happy wedding hymns must become sullen dirges, our bridal flowers must serve as funeral flowers — everything that was to be used for a wedding must now be used for a funeral.”

Friar Lawrence said, “Old Capulet, Mrs. Capulet, Paris, and everyone else, prepare for the funeral. You must follow Juliet’s corpse to the church. Heaven is frowning on you because of some sin. Do not anger Heaven any further by attempting to go against the will of Heaven.”

In another part of Old Capulet’s mansion, the musicians were talking among themselves as the Nurse walked through the room.

A musician said, “Well, we might as well put away our musical instruments and go home.”

The Nurse said, “That is a good idea. As you know, Juliet is dead and this is a pitiable case.”

She left.

“She is right, you know,” the musician said. “The case of my musical instrument is in pitiable shape, but it can be mended. The case of the dead Juliet is something that can never be mended.”

Peter, the Capulet servant, entered the room and said, “Musicians, please play for me the song ‘Heart’s Ease.’ If you want me to live, play ‘Heart’s Ease.’”

“Why do you want us to play ‘Heart’s Ease’?”

Peter replied, “Because my heart is playing ‘My Heart is Full of Woe.’ Play something that will comfort me and make me feel better.”

“This is not a time for playing music,” the musician said.

“You will not play for me?” Peter asked.

“No.”

“Then I will give you something sound,” Peter punned.

“What will you give us?”

“I certainly will not give you sound money, but I will give you something. I will give you sound sarcasm — I will call you a thieving minstrel.”

“Then I will call you a lowly servant.”

Peter pulled out a dagger and said, “I really do not need this — I have my fists. I will do re miyou — I will rain blows on you from low to high. I will treat you like a percussion instrument. I will give you a sound beating. I will make you a sounding board for my fists. Take note of the notes that I will play on you.”

None of the musicians felt threatened by the dagger. One look at Peter, and people knew that he was a clown and not a fighter.

The musician said, “If you do re mius, you will be singing for us. Note those notes.”

A second musician said, “Please, put away your dagger, and either put away your wit or put your wit on display.”

“My wit is my greatest weapon,” Peter said, putting away his dagger. “I can use it to defeat you without even using my dagger. Here is a riddle for you: People often talk about ‘music with her silver sound.’ Why is sound called silver? What answer do you bring, Simon String?”

The first musician replied, “Because silver has a sweet sound.”

“It is a pretty answer, but it is wrong,” Peter said. “How do you answer my riddle, Hugh Fiddle?”

“People say ‘silver sound’ because musicians make sounds for silver coins,” the second musician said.

“It is an ingenious answer, and very close to being exactly the right answer,” Peter said. “And to what answer would take an oath, James Soundpost?”

“I can’t think of an answer,” James Soundpost said.

“Then you must be the singer,” Peter said. “Tenors have enormous cavities in their heads that enable them to sing well. I bet that you can put an egg in your mouth and close it without breaking the egg. It’s such a pity that the enormous cavities in their heads leave tenors little room for brains. But here is the answer to my riddle, hey-diddle-diddle: People refer to ‘music with her silver sound’ because musicians get no gold coins — they get only silver coins — for making sounds.”

With that, Peter departed.

The first musician said, “He was more annoying than he was witty.”

“Let him go hang himself,” the second musician said. “But let’s not go home. We can stay here and wait for the mourners to return from the funeral and eat. At least, we’ll get a meal.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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