The Downfall of Juliet





The Downfall of Juliet
“For never was a story of more woe/ Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” (5.3.315-316) Though many critics would argue that the woe is due only to the theme of fate, but many other factors significantly contributed to this tragedy. The theme of love does not exist only between the play’s namesakes, but it extends to the love that many other characters share for this couple. Often, personal flaws interfere with love, and ultimately cause the downfall of another person. Such is the case with Juliet. Though they had good intentions, the individual flaws of the Nurse and the Capulets lead to her downfall at the end of the play.
One of the most memorable characters in the play is the Nurse. Most prominently noted for her humor, the Nurse contributes a great deal to the play, though she appears in only twelve scenes. Once the climactic point of Mercutio’s death is reached, the humorous qualities of the Nurse quickly diminish, never to be seen in their entirety again. At this point, the Nurse’s main function as a messenger becomes apparent, which gives proof of her love and loyalty to her Lady. Her impact in the play is clear, the Nurse is the messenger of all news, good and bad, to Juliet regarding Romeo, until their tragic parting. Though the Nurse has nothing but good intentions for Juliet, her own personal flaws cause Juliet to lose full sight of situations. The Nurse has a somewhat questionable philosophy towards Juliet’s situation with Romeo. “Her interests are immediate and material. Her commitment is to eros, and therefore toward the physical union of the lovers” (Stevens). The Nurse feels that her loyalty for Juliet overrides her loyalty for Capulet and his wife, and therefore believes she is justified in her interference with the marriage of Juliet and Paris, and in her assistance in Juliet’s marriage to Romeo. Though her loyalty to Juliet strongly exists in one of the major scenes of the play, her ignorance and indistinct speech causes problems. In this scene, Juliet’s anxiety towards the forthcoming news is apparent as she anticipates the message of the Nurse. As the Nurse returns from her ‘jaunce’ to speak to Romeo regarding plans for the couple’s wedding night, her “consternation results from the delivery of her tidings” (Stevens). The Nurse is so forlorn over the death of Tybalt, that her ignorance to Juliet’s frantic pleas led Juliet to believe that her beloved Romeo is dead. The anticipation and inflated dread to the alarming news of her cousin’s death, cause her reaction to Romeo’s banishment to be even more intense. Because she is so upset over the murder of her cousin by her most beloved, she begins to curse him:
O serpent hear, hid with a flow’ring face!
Did ever dragon keep so fair a cave?
Beautiful tyrant! Fiend angelical!
Dove-feather’s raven! Wolfish ravening lamb!
Despised substance of divinest show!
Just opposite to what thou justly seem’st,
A damned saint, an honorable villain! (3.2.75-81)
Quickly, the Nurse takes Juliet’s side, explaining that all men are liars, supporting Juliet’s curse toward Romeo, but Juliet will not accept the condemnation that the Nurse places on Romeo’s character. She stands up for her husband, damning the nurse for her unjust words regarding Romeo. Though this seems to prove her loyalty to Juliet, it actually proves only her loyalty to the current situation. The Nurse is a woman that feels a need to be liked and appreciated all the time. In order to achieve this sense of belonging, she places an emphasis on saying the ‘right’ thing at the ‘right’ time. This flaw extends further in the play as the Nurse proves her allegiance to the situation as Lady Capulet speaks to Juliet once again about her marriage to Paris. Only the night before, the nurse felt that true love was the most important thing in a marriage, yet in order to keep a feeling of contentment with Capulet and his Lady, she states:
I think it best you married with the County,
O, he’s a lovely gentleman!
Romeo’s a dishclout to him. An eagle, madam,
Hath not to green, so quick, so fair in an eye
As Paris hath. Beshew my very heart,
I think you are happy with