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to marry them secretly, blames the fickleness of his young friend, whom he left yesterday in the deepest love-grief about another, and now finds so glowing with passion for Juliet, that, despite the hatred between their two houses, he wishes to marry her clandestinely. Rosaline, said the old man, "knew well thy love did read by rote, and could not spell.” But nevertheless, though all this haste and suddenness does not please him, he is willing to grant Romeo's request, because he nourishes a hope that by means of this union the old feud between the two houses, which has caused so much unhappiness, may be healed. But while acceding to Romeo's prayer, he censures with prophetic anxiety the boundless passionate haste with which he goes about the affair, speaking the words, "Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast." And now, on the one hand, so ruled by his passion that he thinks of nothing else but obtaining as soon as possible its object, on the other, following another no less strong characteristic of his nature--determined impulse—Romeo commits the fatal blunder which is the starting point of all the misery that befalls the pair. He arranges with the nurse that Juliet shall come that next afternoon to Friar Lawrence's cell to be married, but he conceals his secret from his friends. This reserve is heavily avenged. With passionate impatience Juliet watches for the nurse and the message she is to bring from Romeo, and when she comes at last, is almost driven mad by the delay caused by the old woman's discursive garrulity. An entrancing, soul-devouring bliss speaks but few words. Juliet greets the message, when at last she hears it, with the brief but important phrase, “Hie to high fortune ! Honest nurse, farewell.” When we ask, astonished, how a girl so young, who has as yet seen nothing of the world, and has had no companionship with men, can make up her mind so suddenly, without any virgin shame or terror, to a clandestine marriage, this scene with the nurse goes far to explain it. The nurse makes a very vulgar remark when going to fetch the rope-ladder by which Romeo is to climb that night to his bliss. Such a phrase sounds unfit for the ear of an innocent young girl. In connection with her talk before the fatal ball, we conclude that the plebeian old woman has not been in the habit of bridling her tongue even in Juliet's presence. The young lady must early and often have heard improper speeches, and thus lcarned much which girls of her age and innocence and purity do not generally know. Hence she declares herself willing to take the decisive step without hesitation, without reference to her past, or to the surroundings amid which she has grown up. The lovers meet at Friar Lawence's cell. In his passionate excitement Romeo rashly defies fortune :
Amen, amen! but come what sorrow can,
Romeo and Juliet, act ii. scene 6.
Love-destroying Death waits on the threshold to take the incautious youth at his word. The old monk warns him, in tones which recall the ancient Greek Chorus, against his passionate talk:
These violent delights have violent ends
The marriage takes place. The love-drunken pair believe themselves to be on the threshold of Paradise. But already envious fortune is ready to destroy their too rapid dream of love and happiness. Already the avenging angel has bared the flaming sword that shall drive them for ever from their visioned Paradise. The unlucky results of Romeo's reserve begin to appear. The members of the two hostile houses meet again in the street, and, with the exception of the peacefully inclined Benvolio, all the Montagues rather scek than avoid the strife, knowing nothing of the possibility of any reconciliation. The furious Tybalt, who, ever since he was forced at the ball by his uncle's order to curb his anger at Romeo's intrusion, is so filled with rage against this very Romeo, that he puts off fighting with the others until Romeo himself appears. He flies at him, exclaiming, “Thou art a villain !" With a patience inexplicable to his friends, and blamed by them, Romeo answers, remembering what has just taken place, of which his friends know nothing:
Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee
Romeo and Juliet, act iii. scene 1.
Bitterly annoyed at Romeo's supposed cowardice, Mercutio taunts him for his “calm, dishonourable, vile submission," and draws his own sword against Tybalt, whom he defies with irritating phrases. In vain Romeo, who foresees the fatal influence this brawl will have upon his scarce blossomed happiness, tries to part the fighters. Mercutio falls, mortally wounded, is carried out, and Benvolio soon brings back the news that he has expired. Romeo already, before hearing the sad announcement, laments with profound grief the irreconcilable quarrel between the two families :
This gentleman, the prince's near ally,
Romeo and Juliet, act iii. sccne 1.
But now, when his friend has died for the insult Tybalt put upon Romeo, rage and thirst of vengeance seizes him. Tameless in fury, forgetting all prudence, his anger breaks forth wildly :
Away to heaven, respective lenity,
And firc-eyed fury be my conduct now ! Storming, he returns Tybalt's scorn, and after a brief combat strikes him dead at his feet. Hardly has the deed occurred than he perceives with horror that he has irrevocably destroyed his own happiness. Struck with dismay, he only says these words, “Oh, I am fortune's fool!" and at Benvolio's instance flies to escape the threatened consequences. The Prince, greatly angered by this fresh outbreak, which has cost the lives of two gentlemen, one of them his near relation, pronounces sentence of banishment upon Romeo, in spite of Benvolio's eloquent pleading, and in spite of the fact that Tybalt in his criminal attack was the person really to blame.
Meantime, Juliet, unconscious of these misfortunes, is awaiting her husband with glowing passion. As soon as the night falls he is to climb by a slender ladder to her chamber. We give the whole of the soliloquy in which she expresses her love-saturated longing, because it confirms our abovementioned belief that Juliet, although she was a child but yesterday, has heard more and knows more than a girl of her age ought to hear or to know:
Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Whiter than new snow on a raven's back.
Romeo and Juliel, act iii. scene 2. Abruptly is she precipitated out of this heaven, when her weeping nurse enters with the awful news that Romeo has slain Tybalt. Her whole being is shaken by the dreadful contrast of these bloody tidings with the passionate happiness to which she had just abandoned herself. She utters a speech which sounds strange, and yet is in keeping with her character. First she rages against Romco :
O serpent heart, hid with a lowering face !
) nature, what hadst thou to do in hell,
Romeo and Juliet, act iii. scene 2. Then she abuses the nurse because she in her vulgar way chimes in with this, saying, "Shame come to Romeo! Blister'd be thy tongue for such a wish!" she replies, ending with the passionate anger against herself, so natural in such a character:
Ah! poor my lord, what tongue shall smooth thy name,