David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 3 (Conclusion)

 — 5.3 —

In the churchyard where the tomb of the Capulets was located, Paris and his servant arrived that night. They were carrying flowers and a torch.

“Give me the torch,” Paris said to his servant. “Go over there and stand. Wait there. Put out the torch because I don’t want to be seen. Under the yew trees, lie on the ground so that you are hidden. Keep your ear to the ground so that you can hear anyone who comes here. The ground is loose because of the digging of dirt. The loose dirt will cause people to stumble, and you will hear them. If someone comes, let me know — whistle. Give me those flowers. Go, and do what I have ordered you to do.”

Paris’ servant thought, I am afraid to be here in the graveyard, yet I will stay.

Paris said, “Juliet, sweet flower, with flowers I decorate your bridal bed, which is also your tomb — the canopy of your bridal bed is dust and stones. Each night, I will bedew your tomb with perfume or with my tears purified by my moans of sorrow. Each night, I will decorate your tomb with flowers and I will grieve.”

Paris’ servant heard someone coming. The servant whistled.

Paris said, “The boy gives warning that something is approaching. Whose cursed foot wanders this way tonight to interrupt my mourning and true love’s rite? It is someone with a torch! Night, hide me for a while!”

Romeo and Balthasar entered the courtyard. They did not see Paris or his servant. Balthasar carried a torch, mattock (a tool shaped like a pickax; the two differently shaped ends of its head are often used for digging), and iron crowbar.

Romeo said to Balthasar, “Give me that mattock and the iron crowbar.”

Then he handed him a letter and said, “Take this letter that I have written, and early in the morning deliver it to my father. Now give me the torch. I order you that no matter what you hear or see, you do not interfere with what I do. I will enter this tomb partly because I want to see Juliet’s face.”

Thinking that Balthasar might still be suspicious, Romeo then lied, “But the main reason I need to enter this tomb is to take from Juliet’s dead finger a precious ring, a ring that I must use in some important business.”

He added, “Now, go. But if you are suspicious and return here to spy on me and see what I do, by Heaven, I will tear you into pieces and strew this hungry churchyard with your limbs. I mean it: I can be both savage and wild. I can be more fierce and more determined than hungry tigers or the roaring and dangerous sea.”

Balthasar said, “I will be gone, sir, and not trouble you.”

“That is the way to show me friendship,” Romeo said.

He handed Balthasar some money and said, “Take this. Live, and be prosperous. Farewell, fine fellow.”

Balthasar walked away a short distance but thought, Despite what I said, I will stay here and hide and see what Romeo does. His looks frighten me, and I am afraid of what he may attempt to do.

Romeo, thinking himself alone and unwatched, said to himself, “Tomb, you detestable mouth, you belly of death, you have swallowed Juliet. I will force your rotten jaws to open, and to spite you, I will fill you with more food.”

Romeo used his tools to open the tomb.

Watching, Paris recognized Romeo: “This is that banished haughty Montague, who murdered my Juliet’s cousin Tybalt. It is said that Juliet died from the shock and grief of Tybalt’s death. Now Romeo has come here to do some villainous shame to the bodies of Juliet and Tybalt. I will stop him.”

Paris stepped out of the shadows that had hid him and said to Romeo, “Stop, vile Montague! Tybalt and Juliet are dead. Can you wreak vengeance even past their deaths? Condemned and exiled villain, I arrest you. Go with me, for you must die.”

“I know that I must die,” Romeo said. “That is why I came here. Good gentle young man, leave me, a desperate man, alone. Go. Leave me. Think of the dead bodies in this tomb, and let them frighten you so that you dare not stay here. I beg you, don’t make me kill you so that I am guilty of another sin. Don’t make me angry! Go. By Heaven, I swear that I love you better than I love myself. I have come here bearing a weapon that I will use against myself. Do not stay here. Go, and live, so that you may say, ‘A merciful madman begged me to run away.’”

“I defy you and your threats, and I arrest you. You are a felon here in Verona.”

“Do you defy me? Then let us fight, boy!”

Romeo and Paris fought.

Paris’ servant saw them and thought, I will go and call the guards.

He ran out of the courtyard.

Romeo stabbed Paris, who said, “I am dying!”

Paris fell and said to Romeo, “If you are merciful, carry me into the tomb and lay me near Juliet.”

Paris died, and Romeo said, “I will do as you ask and place you in the tomb of the Capulets. But I wonder who you are.”

Romeo looked at him carefully and said, “So you are Mercutio’s cousin, Count Paris. I think Balthasar mentioned you as we rode back to Verona, although I paid little attention to him. I think he said that you were going to marry Juliet. I think Balthasar said that, or perhaps I dreamed it. Or have I become insane and invented the tale because you mentioned Juliet? You are misfortunate like me. I will bury you in this magnificent tomb. A tomb? No, I will bury you in a lantern. Juliet’s body lies here, and her beauty makes this tomb a chamber that is full of light.”

Romeo carried Paris’ body into the tomb and put it down, saying, “Lie there. You are a dead man who has been interred in a tomb by a soon-to-be dead man.”

Romeo paused, and then he looked at Juliet and said, “How often are men merry when they are soon to die! Their doctors call such merriment the lightening before death. But how can I call what I am feeling now a lightening? Juliet! My love! My wife! Death had the power to suck away the honey of your breath, but Death does not yet have the power to take away your beauty. Death has not conquered your beauty. Your lips and your cheeks are still red, and Death has not yet planted his pale flag there — the banner of your beauty still flies.”

Romeo looked at another body in the tomb and said, “Tybalt, are you lying there in your bloody shroud? What better thing can I do for you than to use the hand that killed you in your youth to kill myself, who was your enemy? Forgive me for killing you, Tybalt!”

Looking again at Juliet, Romeo said, “Why are you yet so beautiful? Should I believe that Death, which has no body, falls in love? Should I believe that Death, that lean, abhorred monster, keeps you here in the dark tomb to be his lover? Because I am jealous of Death, I will always stay with you, and I will never depart from this palace of dim night. Here I will remain with the worms that are your chambermaids. Here I will set up my everlasting rest and end the ill fate that unfavorable stars have brought to my world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last at Juliet! Arms, take your last embrace of Juliet! Lips — the gates of breath — seal with a rightful kiss an everlasting contract with brutish Death!”

Romeo kissed Juliet, and then he took out of a pocket the poison that he had mixed with water.

Romeo said, “Poison, you shall be my bitter and unpleasant guide to death! Now I — a desperate pilot — will wreck on rocks that sea-weary ship that is my body! Here’s to my love!”

Romeo drank the poison and said, “Apothecary, you spoke the truth: Your poison is quick.”

He died.

A little later, Friar Lawrence entered the courtyard, carrying a lantern, a crowbar, and a spade. He walked toward the tomb and said, “Saint Francis, help me! All too often tonight, I have stumbled over graves — a bad omen!”

He heard someone and said, “Who’s there?”

Balthasar answered, “A friend — I know you very well.”

“May God make you happy!” Friar Lawrence said. “Tell me, friend, whose torch is it that burns dimly among grubs and eyeless skulls. It seems to be burning in the tomb of the Capulets.”

“That is correct,” Balthasar said. “The torch belongs to a person you know and love.”

“Who is it?”


“How long has he been there?”

“At least half an hour.”

“Go with me to the tomb,” Friar Lawrence said.

“I dare not, sir. Romeo does not know that I am here. He thinks that I have departed, and he threatened to kill me if I stayed here and spied on him.”

“Stay here, then,” Friar Lawrence said. “I will go into the tomb alone. Fear comes upon me; I am afraid that some ill, unlucky thing has happened. I am much afraid.”

“I think I fell asleep under this yew tree,” Balthasar said. “I think I dreamed that Romeo and another man fought and that Romeo killed him.”

As he walked to the tomb, Friar Lawrence called, “Romeo!”

Holding his torch, he looked around and said, “Whose blood is this that stains the stony entrance of this tomb? To whom belong these gory swords that lie discolored with red by this place of peace?”

He walked into the tomb and called, “Romeo!”

He looked around, saw Romeo’s corpse, and said, “Romeo, you are pale and dead as you lie by Juliet! Who else is here? Paris! You are dead and steeped in blood, Paris! An unkind hour has witnessed this cruel turn of the wheel of fortune.”

Juliet moved and Friar Lawrence said, “She awakes.”

Juliet sat up, recognized Friar Lawrence, and said, “Comforting friar, where is Romeo? I remember well our plan, and I am in the tomb and awake, as we planned. Where is my Romeo?”

A noise sounded from outside the tomb. Paris’ servant had gotten the city guards and was leading them to the tomb of the Capulets.

“I hear some noise,” Friar Lawrence said. “Juliet, come from this nest of death, contagion, and unnatural sleep. A greater power than we can resist has thwarted our plan. Come, come away from here. Your husband lies — dead — beside you. Near you, Paris also lies dead. Come with me. I will arrange for you to join a sisterhood of holy nuns. Don’t ask me questions now, but leave at once because the city guards are coming. Come with me, Juliet. Let us flee!”

More noise was heard.

Panicked, Friar Lawrence said, “I dare no longer stay!”

Juliet said, “Leave, if you must, but I will not flee from here.”

Friar Lawrence ran out of the tomb.

Juliet turned toward Romeo and said, “What is this? A vial enclosed in my true love’s hand? It is poison that has caused his death. Romeo, have you drunk it all and left me no friendly drop to drink so I can follow you in death? I will kiss your lips and hope that some poison — a restorative that will restore me to you — is on them to make me die.”

She kissed Romeo and said, “Your lips are warm.”

A guard outside shouted at Paris’ servant, “Lead on, boy! Which way do we go?”

“The noise grows closer,” Juliet said. “Therefore, I will die quickly.”

She took a dagger from Romeo’s belt, “Oh, opportune dagger, my body is your sheath!”

She stabbed herself and said, “Rust there, and let me die.”

She fell across Romeo’s body and died.

Some city guards and Paris’ servant stood outside the tomb.

“This is the place,” Paris’ servant said. “Look there, where the torch is burning.”

The head guard said, “The ground here is bloody. Some of you guards search the courtyard and arrest anyone you find.”

He entered the tomb and said, “Here lies Count Paris dead. Here also lies Juliet, bloody, warm, and newly dead, although she has been lying in this tomb for two days.”

The head guard looked at the corpse of Romeo and then ordered, “Guards, some of you run and inform Prince Escalus, the Capulets, and the Montagues. Others, search the tomb. We see the ground where all these woes lie, but we cannot know the true ground or cause of all these woes until we know more details.”

The head guard went outside the tomb, and some guards arrived with Balthasar in their custody. A guard said, “Here is Romeo’s servant. We found him in the churchyard.”

“Keep him in your custody until Prince Escalus arrives and investigates what has happened.”

Other guards arrived with Friar Lawrence in their custody.

A guard said, “Here is a friar who trembles, sighs, and weeps. We took this mattock and this spade from him as he was leaving this churchyard.”

“That is suspicious,” the head guard said. “Keep him in your custody.”

Prince Escalus and his bodyguards arrived.

“What outrage has occurred that calls me out of bed?” Prince Escalus said.

Old Capulet, Mrs. Capulet, and other people arrived.

Old Capulet asked, “What has happened that causes such noise in the streets?”

Mrs. Capulet said, “Some people in the street cry ‘Romeo,’ other people cry ‘Juliet,’ and some other people cry ‘Paris.’ But all run, shouting, to the tomb of us Capulets.”

“Why is everyone shouting?” Prince Escalus asked.

The head guard said, “Sir, here lies Count Paris dead. Here lies Romeo dead. And here lies Juliet, who we had thought was dead two days ago, warm and newly dead.”

“Let us find out how all this happened,” Prince Escalus said.

The head guard said, “Here are a friar and Romeo’s servant. With them are tools that can be used to open a closed tomb.”

Old Capulet had entered the tomb and looked at his daughter’s body. He returned and told his wife, “Juliet has bled much recently. The dagger in her body is in the wrong place — it should have been found in the back of Romeo.”

Mrs. Capulet said, “As a parent, I should have died before my daughter. Older people should die before younger people. Before Juliet died, a funeral bell should have tolled for me.”

Old Montague and others arrived.

Prince Escalus said to Old Montague, “Come here. You are up early, and now you will see your son and heir down early this night and early in his all-too-short life.”

Old Montague replied, “My liege, my wife died earlier tonight from grief caused by the exile of our son, Romeo. What further grief has now come to harass me in my old age?”

“Look and you shall see.”

Old Montague looked into the tomb and saw Romeo, his son, dead.

He cried, “Romeo, what foul manners are these! To die and go into a tomb before your aged father dies!”

“Restrain your cries of grief,” Prince Escalus said, “until we find out truly what has happened and why it happened. Then you and I shall both grieve. Two of my relatives — Mercutio and Paris — are dead, and perhaps you and I will both die of grief. I may even die of grief first. In the meantime, restrain your cries of grief and let your head control your heart.”

Prince Escalus then ordered, “Bring forth the people you have arrested.”

The guards brought forth Friar Lawrence and Balthasar.

Friar Lawrence said, “I am the man who is under the greatest suspicion, and I am the one who is least able to exonerate myself because of the time when and the place where I was arrested. Those place me here at the time of this tragedy. I will both accuse myself and exonerate myself. I will tell you what I have done, and I will tell you my motives in doing what I have done.”

“Tell us at once everything you know,” Prince Escalus ordered.

“I will be brief,” Friar Lawrence said. “The brief time that I may have left to live will not permit a long story. Romeo, who lies here dead, was married to Juliet, who also is lying here dead. I married them. The day of their marriage was also the day of death for Tybalt, whose premature death resulted in banishment for the newly married Romeo from Verona. Juliet mourned, but she mourned for Romeo, not for Tybalt. You, Old Capulet, wanted to stop Juliet’s mourning, and so you decided — against her will — to marry Juliet to Count Paris. Wild and distraught, Juliet then came to me and begged me to form a plan that would stop her marriage to Count Paris — or else she would kill herself immediately in my cell. Therefore, I gave her a sleeping potion, which had the effect I intended, for it made her appear to be dead. In the meantime, I wrote a letter to Romeo to tell him to come to Verona this awful night to help me to take Juliet from this tomb at the time she woke up. But the man who was supposed to carry my letter to Romeo in Mantua was forced by circumstances to stay here in Verona and so yesterday he returned to me my letter. All alone this night, I came to take Juliet from the tomb, intending to keep her hidden in my cell until I could find a good time to send news to Romeo. But when I came here tonight, a few minutes before Juliet woke up, here I saw lying dead the noble Paris and faithful Romeo. Juliet awoke, and I begged her to leave the tomb and bear this work of Heaven with patience, but I heard a noise and was frightened and so I left, but Juliet — a desperate woman — would not go with me, and, it appears, she committed suicide. This is what I know. The Nurse can vouch that Romeo and Juliet were married. If any of these cruel events were caused by me, then let my old life end before my time of natural death in accordance with the letter of your law.”

“You have a good reputation,” Prince Escalus said. “I have always known you to be a righteous man.”

He asked the head guard, “Where is Romeo’s servant? Let’s hear what he has to say.”

Balthasar said, “I brought Romeo news of Juliet’s death, and he rode a horse here from Mantua to this tomb. I am holding in my hand a letter that he earlier told me to give to his father. He threatened me with death if I did not depart and if I interfered with him, and then he went into the tomb. I decided to stay here, but I did not go into the tomb.”

“Give me the letter,” Prince Escalus said. “I will read it.”

He then asked, “Where is Count Paris’ servant — the one who alerted the guards?”

Count Paris’ servant was brought before the Prince, who asked him, “What was Count Paris doing here?”

“He came with flowers with which to strew Juliet’s resting place,” the servant said. “He ordered me to stay at a distance, and I obeyed. Soon someone came with a torch and began to open the tomb. Count Paris drew his sword and they fought, and I ran away to get the guards.”

Count Escalus, who had been reading Romeo’s letter to his father by the light of torches, said, “This letter provides evidence that shows that Friar Lawrence spoke the truth. Romeo tells of his and Juliet’s love for each other. Romeo states that he thought that Juliet was truly dead. And Romeo writes that he bought poison from an impoverished apothecary and came to the tomb of the Capulets to die, and to lie beside Juliet.”

Prince Escalus then asked, “Where are these enemies? Capulet! Montague! See what a scourge is laid upon your hate — Heaven has found a way to kill your joys, your children, with love. I have treated your quarrels and battles too softly, and because of my lenience, I have lost two kinsmen: Mercutio and Paris.”

He shouted, “All of us are punished!”

Old Capulet said to Old Montague, “Brother, give me your hand. Now that our children, who were married to each other, are dead, we ought to make peace. That is the least that we can do.”

“I can do something more for you,” Old Montague said. “I will have made a statue of Juliet in solid gold. As long as Verona is called by the name Verona, no one shall be valued more than true and faithful Juliet.”

“As rich a statue shall I have made of Romeo, and he will be by Juliet’s side. Those two gave their lives because of our former hatred of each other.”

Prince Escalus said, “Peace has come to us on this cloudy and grey morning. The Sun, for sorrow, will not show his head. Let us leave here and talk more about these sad events. Some people shall be pardoned, and some people shall be punished, for never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved





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