Romeo and Juliet: The Nurse
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*Relationships and Motivation
About the Nurse
Juliet's Nurse is first introduced to the play in Act
I Scene 3. It is in this scene that we can gather her background
information. She is a trusted family servant to Lord Capulet in Verona
and she maintains an active voice in their family affairs. Lady Capulet
involves the Nurse in her discussion with Juliet
about her possible marriage to Paris. The Nurse has been with the
Capulet family for at least fourteen years, the entirety of Juliet's life.
The Nurse had a daughter, Susan, born on the same exact day as Juliet.
Susan died, and since her death the Nurse has taken care of Juliet and
become more like a mother to her than Lady Capulet. The Nurse was
actually Juliet's wet nurse, and it is proven that a bond between a baby
and one who feeds it is very strong. The Nurse uses many terms of
endearment; when calling on Juliet in act
1, scene 3, she says: "What, lamb? What ladybird?"
When Juliet speaks to her mother she speaks very formally, calling her
"madam." The conversation between Juliet and her mother is stilted
and proper, whereas the Nurse is very open with her opinions, advice, and
feelings with Juliet. When talking about Paris, she talks like a
schoolgirl gossiping about Paris' looks: "A man, young lady! Lady,
such a man as all the world--why, he's a man of wax." She is constantly
chattering, making bawdy comments, and putting in her two cents, casting
a light-hearted and easy spirit over the play's tragic themes.
Juliet and the Nurse share a very close bond, one that surpasses one of
a girl and her servant. Since being her wet nurse the Nurse has become
over the years Juliet's close companion, confidant, friend, mother; and
later on in the play her co-conspirator. Juliet is comfortable with
and at ease speaking to the Nurse. This allows Juliet to take her
into her confidence when she decides to defy the family feud and marry
The Nurse holds Juliet's happiness so high that she betrays her employer
and arranges Juliet's marriage and last night with Romeo. The Nurse
is an accomplice alongside Friar Laurence in bringing the lovers together.
The Nurse is immersed in Juliet's affairs and strives to help with her
plans. The Nurse's desire is simply to keep fourteen-year-old Juliet
content. Her obstacle is her sense of duty to Lord and Lady Capulet,
though this never seems to deter her actions. After Romeo is
banished the relationship between the Nurse and Juliet changes. When
the Nurse suggests that Juliet should forget about Romeo and marry Paris,
she loses Juliet's trust and confidence. Juliet decides to seek the
help of Friar Laurence, thereafter she no longer involves the Nurse in
her secret plans.
The Nurse is central to moving the action of the play along. After
her status and relationship with one of the main characters is established,
the next time she appears she creates a conflict between Romeo and Juliet.
At the Capulet's party she tells both Romeo and Juliet each the identity
and forbidden namesake of the other. The Nurse is the messenger to
Romeo to gather all the details for their secret marriage. At this
point she warns Romeo not to hurt Juliet, showing her love for her and
foreshadowing disaster. The Nurse also gives Juliet the news that
killed Tybalt and was exiled by the Prince, throwing Juliet's emotions
further into a whirl. The Nurse arranges for Romeo and Juliet's wedding
night and final farewell. Finally, when the Nurse advises Juliet
to forget Romeo and marry Paris she motivates Juliet to action and she
seeks help elsewhere.
The Nurse plays a critical role in Romeo and Juliet.
Her relationship with major characters and her part in the secretive romance
of the two lovers causes the play's action to move quickly and in a powerful
way. The Nurse acts as Shakespeare's
pawn to guide the events of the play in a dramatic manner.
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