r j act V - Eastchester High School

Romeo and Juliet
Act 5
Act V, Scene I - Summary
 Romeo muses on a pleasant dream he has had in which
Juliet brings him back to life with a kiss: ‘breathed such
life with kisses’
 Romeo mistakenly believes this dream portends good
 Romeo’s servant, Balthasar, reports incorrectly that Juliet
is dead and that ‘her body sleeps in Capel’s monument’
 Romeo is utterly distraught, determines to take ‘fate’ into
his own hands and take his life
 He offers a poor apothecary a large amount of money to
sell him poison illegally
 The poison will enable Romeo to be reunited with Juliet
in death
 Contrast: The audience expect to find Romeo wallowing
in despair due to his banishment, BUT he is in very good
 Irony: He has dreamed that he died and Juliet’s kisses
breathed life back into him, but as Mercutio says
“Dreamers often lie.”
 Foreshadowing: she will find him dead, and will
kiss him, BUT won’t revive him!
 Romeo’s soliloquy is full of dramatic irony - the dream
anticipates the final scene when Juliet awakes to find
Romeo dead and tries to kiss the poison from his lips
 Tragedy is imminent when Balthasar arrives and
delivers Romeo news that Juliet’s “body sleeps.”
 Because the Friar’s message did not reach Romeo, this
incorrect information causes Romeo’s decision to take his
 Romeo rages against the malevolent influence of fate
and in bold defiance cries: ‘Then I defy you, stars!’
 Romeo believes, absolutely, that he and Juliet have been
blighted by ‘fate’, and now determines to take his own
‘fate’ into his own hands
Romeo and Development
 This moment of defiance marks a change in Romeo’s
 From now on he is angry, cynical, and emboldened to
defy his fate
 Balthasar sees Romeo is in shock and notices a physical
change his ‘looks are pale and wild and do import/some
 His anger and frustration drive him to try to take
command over his own life - he decides that if he cannot
be with Juliet in life, he will join her in death
 His resolve to die echoes Juliet’s expression that her last
resort is her sanctuary - they have the power to die
 Once resolved he becomes calmer, more determined..
‘Tush, thou art deceived/Leave me and do the thing I bid
thee do.’
Death and Macabre
 This scene is filled wit darkness and images of death:
 Apothecary risks his life to sell dugs to Romeo:‘such
mortal drugs I have. But Mantua’s law/Is death to any he
that utters them.’
 He is starving and poor - image of him is deathly and
skeletal: he wears tattered clothes; his face is hung with
“overwhelming brows,” and “sharp misery has worn him
to his bones”
 His shop is described as dusty and tomb-like containing
deathly images – it is filled with the bodies of dead
animals, “skins,” “bladders,” and “old cakes of roses.”
 Romeo’s offers a meditation on what he feels really
poisons ‘this loathsome world’ - money, and worldly
things, do much more damage than actual poison
 He is deeply depressed, cynical and despairing – seeing
Impetuous Behaviour
 Haste drives one misfortune to collide with another
pushing the action forward toward the tragic conclusion:
 Romeo’s hasty reaction to Mercutio’s death causes his
 Capulet’s rash decision to move the wedding day
precipitates Romeo missing the message from the Friar
 Romeo’s haste to consume the poison causes him to die
just prior to Juliet’s awakening
 Haste throughout the play acts as a vehicle for fate to
draw characters through a series of unfortunate
coincidences that form the intricately intertwined plot of
the tragedy itself
Tragedy – Romeo’s Decision
He will thwart the forces that are trying to
keep them apart by choosing to die ‘I will
lie with thee tonight’ but
It is this very attempt to ‘defy’ fate that
causes the tragedy
In killing himself beside the sleeping
Juliet, he directly triggers the double
suicide of the lovers
At the end of this scene
Romeo firmly believes that Juliet is dead
and has decided that he will join her
He has procured the means of ending his
He has no way of finding out the truth
about the Friar’s plan as he is now on his
way back to Verona
Act V, Scene ii - Summary
 In his cell, the Friar speaks with Friar John, and realises
that Romeo has not received news of Juliet’s plan
 Friar John as supposed to deliver the letter to Romeo but
was quarantined because of an outbreak of the plague and
unable to leave Verona
 Friar Lawrence becomes upset, realising that Juliet will
wake alone in the tomb
 He then hurries to the Capulet tomb because it is nearly
time for Juliet to wake
 He calls for a crowbar, intending to retrieve her, keep her
safe in his cell, and send news again to Mantua
 He calls Juliet a ‘poor living corse, closed in a dead
man’s tomb!’ (foreshadowing)
 Fate has once again altered the course of events in the
 In this instance, fate thwarts the Friar’s plan by delaying
his letter
 The Friar cries, “Unhappy fortune!” echoing Romeo’s
earlier cry that he became “fortune’s fool.”
 The series of near misses in these two scenes suggest
‘fate’ at work or are they just bad luck or human error?
 These two scenes are designed to convey a sense of
unavoidable destiny descending on Romeo – who himself
feels that he has been thwarted by fate – ‘Then I defy you,
Act V, Scene iii - Summary
 Paris is the scattering flowers on Juliet’s
 He sees Romeo and is convinced that he has come to
defile the Capulet tomb
 He blames Romeo for Juliet’s death (believes she has
died of grief for Tybalt)
 Romeo breaks into the tomb claiming to retrieve his ring
 Balthasar, worried about what Romeo will do, also hides
 Paris confronts Romeo and they fight - Paris dies
 He begs Romeo to place him in the tomb next to Juliet
and Romeo grants his wish
 Romeo is dazzled by Juliet’s beauty even in death
 Without hesitation, he kisses her, drinks the poison, and
dies at her side
 The Friar arrives and discovers the dead bodies
Act V, Scene iii - Summary
 Juliet then wakens and finds Romeo and Paris dead
 The Friar flees, and Juliet is alone
 She tries to drink poison from Romeo’s vial but finding it
empty, fatally stabs herself with Romeo’s dagger
 The Prince arrives, with the Capulets and Lord Montague
 Lady Montague has died of grief at Romeo’s banishment.
 The Friar recounts the events of the past week and offers
his life in atonement
 The Prince instead lays the blame for the deaths on
Montague and Capulet for their longstanding quarrel
 The Prince also blames himself for his leniency and fines
Montague and Capulet severely
 The two families are finally reconciled
Romeo and Aggression
 As Romeo charges into the tomb he sheds much
of the compassion which had previously
dominated his character
 His plans are “savage-wild,” and he vows to tear
anyone who attempts to detract him “joint by
joint” and to “strew this hungry churchyard with
thy limbs”
 Romeo has separated himself from his family,
from the feud, from Verona, and now from his
 Paris’ challenge to Romeo parallels Tybalt’s
challenge in Act III, Scene i
 In both instances, Romeo resists the invitation to
fight, but fate conspires to leave him no choice
 Romeo says to Paris, “By heaven I love thee
better than myself” and responded similarly to
Tybalt “But love thee better than thou canst
 The Friar points out to Juliet that: ‘A greater
power than we can contradict/Hath thwarted our
intents’ – suggesting heavenly control over these
Romeo’s Kindness
 Paris challenges Romeo to fight, and Romeo
resists, saying ‘I love thee better than myself’
 He only fights when Paris pushes him towards
 Paris asks to be laid to rest with Juliet and Romeo
agrees, remembering that Paris ‘should have
married Juliet’ that day
 This reveals his compassionate and generous
Light/ Dark
 This last scene takes place in the dark of night
 Romeo and Juliet’s relationship flourished at
night, and each provided the other with light
 In this final scene they find each other in
darkness again
 Romeo once again uses light imagery to describe
Juliet as she acts as a source of light in the
darkness of the tomb: “her beauty makes / This
vault a feasting presence full of light.”
Dramatic Tension and Irony
Romeo is struck by the way Juliet’s beauty
appears to defy death—she still looks
alive: “Why art thou yet so fair? Shall I
believe / That unsubstantial Death is so
Dramatic tension is created by the
audience’s awareness that she is still alive
In bleak irony, his attraction to her even in
death emboldens him to take his own life
just as she is about to awaken
The Friar
Discovers Romeo and Paris’ dead bodies
Sees that Juliet is stirring, and urges her to
leave with him or live in a monastery!
Juliet will not leave, and the Friar, fearing
he will be caught there, flees without her
His sense of responsibility for his actions
and for Juliet is lacking
 Juliet tries to take poison from Romeo’s lips by
kissing him but is not able to get enough poison,
and so uses Romeo’s dagger
 Offering to use her body as the dagger’s ‘sheath’,
she stabs herself and dies beside him
 Rather than demonstrating weakness or a
distracted mindset, Juliet’s death indicates her
dignity and strength of character
 Juliet ignores the Friar’s warnings and
deliberately follows through with her vow to be
with Romeo in death
 Due to the strength of their love Romeo and
Juliet have consistently defied societies rules
 Their suicides are the final act of defiance – they
will choose not to live rather than live in the
world forced upon them by their parents
 Their ‘violent ends’ transform that world, with
the Prince, and their parents, recognising that
such a supreme sacrifice must be honoured
 They are fated – by ‘the stars’, by the violent
world in which they live, by the violence and
intensity of their love
 They are the archetypes of true love – they will
kill themselves to preserve their love
The Prince blames the Capulets and the
Montagues, saying ‘See what a scourge is
laid upon your hate’
He also blames himself for ‘winking at’
(ignoring) the feud for too long
The Friar also accepts blame for his actions
Fate is to blame for the control it has
asserted over the lives of the lovers
Positive Resolution
 The final scene reunites the lovers
 We also see the reconciliation of the feuding families -
Capulet and Montague shake hands, deep in sorrow over
their losses
 Montague offers to raise a statue of Juliet, in gold
 Capulet realises that Romeo and Juliet have been ‘poor
sacrifices of our enmity’ and offers his “daughter’s
 Romeo and Juliet’s lives will be immortalized in gold as
witness to their sacrifice and as a reminder to avoid
conflict for future generations
 By their deaths, Romeo and Juliet bring about the very
world that would have allowed them to love each other
and be happy - this is the central tragedy of the play
Negative Resolution
 However, the point of reconciliation seems
insubstantial since neither work out their
differences and offer material recompense instead
 Are these just empty gestures?
 The tragic waste of the young lovers’ lives is
highlighted as the older members of the feuding
families stand amidst their dead bodies
 This seems unnatural and unfair
 It is pitiful that the love and joy which Romeo
and Juliet felt could never last in this world but
was destroyed
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