Romeo and Juliet: The Nurse’s Nursery Rhyme

 

Mistress! What, mistress! Juliet!—Fast, I warrant her, she.—

Why, lamb! Why, lady! Fie, you slug-a-bed.

Why, love, I say. Madam! Sweet-heart! Why, bride!

What, not a word? You take your pennyworths now.

Sleep for a week, for the next night, I warrant,

The County Paris hath set up his rest

That you shall rest but little.—God forgive me,

Marry, and amen. How sound is she asleep!

I must needs wake her.—Madam, madam, madam!

Ay, let the county take you in your bed.

He’ll fright you up, i’ faith. Will it not be?

(opens the bed curtains)

What, dressed and in your clothes, and down again?

I must needs wake you. Lady, lady, lady!—

Alas, alas! Help, help! My lady’s dead!—

Oh, welladay, that ever I was born!—

Some aqua vitae, ho!—My lord! My lady!

 

The nurse is a wonderful comedic relief to the play’s tragedy, but the extent of her satire is hard to capture on the page. When the nurse’s lines are read aloud, the text adopts humor and it does so because the nurse has a specific rhythm to her speech. In this expert of text, the nurse discovers that Juliet is dead and her panicked language is created by repetition and alliteration. While short and simple language is an accurate reaction to devastation, the quantity of lines it takes for her to finally do something about the issue Is comedic. The repetition of “mistress” “madam” and “Lady” reaffirms Juliet’s femininity and somewhat highlights the comedic nature of a man dressed as the nurse. The “w” sound in the multiple words “what” “why” and “will” makes the text drone on and seem unnecessary lengthy. When reading this out loud, it also made me wonder if the actors got tongue tied when performing this. If the nurse did stumble in delivering the speech, it would almost heighten her grief and make the scene comedic and more realistic. Because much of Shakespearean plays have minimal stage decoration and focus on the text, the audience would have been more attuned to the sound of the nurse and picked up on the repetition. This reaction and her simple utterances and reliance on sound also paint her as a comedian.

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