Depiction Of Nurse in Romeo and Juliet
The Nurse, despite being a servant in the Capulet household, has a role equivalent to that of Juliet’s mother and is very maternal to Juliet, regarding Juliet as her own daughter, and is a foil to Juliet who is considered to be the protagonist in the play. The Nurse, like Mercutio, is very loquacious. She often repeats herself (which is ironic due to her age), and her bawdy references to the sexual aspect of love set the idealistic love of Romeo and Juliet apart from the love described by other characters in the play. The Nurse doesn’t share Juliet’s idea of love; for her, love is a temporary and physical relationship, so she can’t understand the intense and spiritual love Romeo and Juliet share. When the Nurse brings Juliet news of Romeo’s wedding arrangements, she focuses on the pleasures of Juliet’s wedding night, “I am the drudge, and toil in your delight, / But you shall bear the burden soon at night”. From this quote, the nurse appears to know that she is stopping Juliet from being happy by calling herself a ‘drudge’, but knows that Juliet’s true love will make her choose Romeo, and the Nurses’ comic function here is with her highlighted bawdiness and crude sense of humour (which relieves dramatic tension), ‘you shall bear the burden soon at night’, suggesting that Juliet will enjoy her marriage with Romeo, not only because of their love for each other, but for sex.
Furthermore, The Nurse’s relationship with Juliet focuses attention on Juliet’s age. In Juliet’s first scene, the Nurse repeatedly asserts that Juliet has not yet had her 14th birthday, and in this way, acts a foil, as she attempts to restrict Juliet at doing things such as marry Romeo instead of Paris. In contrast to Juliet’s youth, the Nurse is old and enjoys complaining about her aches and pains. Juliet’s frustration at having to rely upon the Nurse as her messenger is used to comic effect in Act II, Scene 5, when Juliet is forced to listen to the Nurse’s ailments while trying to coax from her the news of her wedding plans: ‘Here’s such a coil. Come, what says Romeo?’. The way in which the Nurse prolongs her response to Romeo’s acceptance is very comical as it highlights Juliet’s impatience and how demanding she is, ‘Beshrew your heart for sending me about’. This quote shows that Juliet is sending the Nurse around the entire town for her answer of whether Romeo will marry her or not, which shows the Nurse’s loyalty and her amiable nature.
To conclude, the nurse as a character in the novel is very exuberant and has Juliets’ interests at heart. She acts as a confidant and intermediary between Romeo and Juliet and is out-going and unreserved when it comes to expressing her feelings about whether Romeo is the right man to marry Juliet which is her comic function in my opinion, seeing as Juliet is so innocent but in contrast, the nurse is so abrupt and stern. ‘You know not how to choose a man. Romeo!’, however, although this quote implicitly seems as though the Nurse wants Juliet to marry Paris, Shakespeare shows how easily her mind can be manipulated and changed, ‘she looks as pale as any clout in the versal world’. Although from this simile, she feels that Paris is the ‘properer’ man, her maternal instinct is revealed as she wishes Juliet not to be ‘pale as any clout’. The language used by Shakespeare in ‘pale’, highlights how Juliet becomes sick at even imagining a life without Romeo, and will do anything to be with him.
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