Romeo and Juliet Act 4 Scenes 1 to 5 Summary

Antonia Blankenberg
Note by , created almost 2 years ago

Scene by scene description of Romeo and Juliet Act 4, with the key events interpreted and key quotes highlighted.

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Antonia Blankenberg
Created by Antonia Blankenberg almost 2 years ago
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Page 1

Act 4 - Scene 1

Act 4 opens with Paris and Friar Lawrence discussing Paris' engagement to Juliet. The Friar attempts to get the wedding pushed back but Paris is insistent on having the early wedding to cheer Juliet up after Tybalt's death.   Juliet enters and manages to avoid conversation with Paris. When he leaves, Juliet begs the Friar for a solution to her situation, brandishing a knife and saying that she will kill herself rather than marry Paris.   The only remedy that the Friar can offer is a sleeping potion that she can take the night before the wedding. The potion will render Juliet unconscious and she will appear to be dead for 42 hours, during which time her body will rest in the Capulet family tomb. In the meantime, the Friar will let Romeo know of this plan. Juliet immediately agrees and leaves with the potion.   Analysis: The Friar is treated as a wise character throughout Romeo and Juliet, but he is also one of the most troublesome. He is the one that marries the two teenagers and the one who sets their suicides in motion by giving Juliet the sleeping potion.    In this scene, Juliet's decision to accept the Friar's potion demonstrates her commitment to defying her father's rule, asserting her independence, and accepting her resolution to 'die' in order to be with Romeo.   There is a huge amount of tension in the Friar's cell when Juliet enters. Although her and Paris are engaged to be married, this is one of their first meetings and Juliet is determined not to talk to him.   Paris believes that marriage will cure Juliet's grief. Ironically, Juliet recently has made a series of mature, reasoned decisions, such as defying her family, marrying, and now, sacrificing her life for her forbidden love, all of which are contrary to Paris and Capulet's paternalistic view of her need for adult male guidance.    Important Quotes: "God joined my heart and Romeo’s, thou our hands. And ere this hand, by thee to Romeo sealed, Shall be the label to another deed, Or my true heart with treacherous revolt Turn to another, this shall slay them both." - Juliet   "Take thou this vial, being then in bed, And this distillèd liquor drink thou off, When presently through all thy veins shall run A cold and drowsy humor, for no pulse Shall keep his native progress, but surcease." - Friar Lawrence

Page 2

Act 4 - Scene 2

This scene opens with Juliet returning home from the Friar. She tells her parents that she has gone to confession for her disobedience and will do as they wish.    Juliet's parents are delighted at this news and decide to push her wedding forward a day to Wednesday.    Juliet heads to her chambers to prepare for her wedding and Lord Capulet heads off to tell Paris the news.   Analysis: Capulet, in his impulsive zeal, complicates the Friar's plan by moving the wedding forward a full day. Juliet must take the potion that night and go into the sleeping state 24 hours sooner than the Friar had anticipated. This development reduces the amount of time the Friar will have to notify Romeo about the plan.   The comparison between Juliet and her mother is noteworthy in this scene. Whereas Lady Capulet cannot exercise any control in her life and receives no respect from her husband, Juliet has taken control of her life and tries to exert some influence over her situation.    Important Quotes: "I met the youthful lord at Lawrence' cell, And gave him what becomèd love I might, Not stepping o'er the bounds of modesty." - Juliet

Page 3

Act 4 - Scene 3

Juliet and the Nurse make their final preparations for Juliet's marriage. Lady Capulet wants to help but Juliet soon says that she wants to be left to her prayers and asks both of them to leave.    Juliet begins to think about what will happen when she drinks the potion. She wonders if the Friar could have given her a poison in order to hide that he had married them or if she will become trapped in her family tomb upon waking up. However, incase the potion fails to work, she resolves to die rather than marry Paris, placing a dagger by her bedside.   Upon seeing Tybalt's ghost, she decides to trust the Friar and takes the potion, thinking of Romeo as she does so.   Analysis: This is one of many scenes where Juliet shows her strength and determination. By asking her family to leave her alone, she both physically separates herself from her family and proactively takes a step to further her plan to be with Romeo. The dagger she places beside her bed is a symbol of her independence and power to control her fate.   Once again, the play draws upon the themes of birth and death to emphasize the way in which Juliet must die and be placed in the tomb in order to be reborn to begin her new life with Romeo.   Important Quotes: "Oh, look! Methinks I see my cousin’s ghost Seeking out Romeo, that did spit his body Upon a rapier’s point. Stay, Tybalt, stay! Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! Here’s drink. I drink to thee." - Juliet

Page 4

Act 4 - Scene 4

There are frantic last-minute preparations for the wedding of Paris and Juliet. Upon hearing that Paris is approaching the house, he tells the Nurse to wake Juliet up and dress her.    Analysis: There is an electric atmosphere in this scene as everyone prepares for the wedding. There is a sense of foreboding for the audience as they all know that Juliet has taken the potion.    Important Quotes: "Go waken Juliet. Go and trim her up. I’ll go and chat with Paris. Hie, make haste, Make haste. The bridegroom he is come already. Make haste, I say." - Lord Capulet 

Page 5

Act 4 - Scene 5

The Nurse enters Juliet's room to see her seemingly lifeless body, she tries to wake her and when she doesn't wake, she calls for help.    Lady Capulet enters, followed by her husband, Paris and the Friar. The Friar keeps up his deception by comforting the family, reminding them all that Juliet has gone to a better place, and urges them to make ready for her funeral.    The scene concludes with a comic interlude between the wedding musicians and a servant.   Analysis: In their mourning for Juliet, the Capulets appear less as a hostile force arrayed against the lovers and more as individuals who have lost a daughter. The audience gains an understanding of their immense love for her, despite their previous actions. Similarly, Paris’ love for Juliet seems legitimate.    The moment with the musicians and the servant is a dramatic shift from tragedy to comedy and doesn't fit very well with the rest of the scene.   Important Quotes: "O son! The night before thy wedding day Hath death lain with thy wife. There she lies, Flower as she was, deflowered by him." - Lady Capulet