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Explore the Role of the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet

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The Nurse’s key purpose is to act as a messenger between Romeo and Juliet, as she is the only character besides Friar Laurence to know of their affair. Since Juliet does not seem to have any other friends, the Nurse is the closest person she has. Her support and love for Juliet help move the tragic story of the two star-crossed lover.

Although being a tragedy, there is much comic relief in Romeo and Juliet. Most humor is banal and sexual. Characters such as the bawdy Nurse add to these kind of humor. The Nurse has her way with very dirty jokes: “I must another way, / To fetch a ladder, by the which your love. / Must climb a bird's nest soon when it’s dark” (2.5.77-79). In this quote, she literally means to take a ladder for Romeo, so that he can spend the night in Juliet’s room. The Nurse refers to having sex as “to climb a bird’s nest” (2.5.79).

Despite being only a servant, the Nurse has a role equivalent to that of a mother. Juliet and the Nurse have a very close relationship. Due to the fact that the Nurse breastfed Juliet until the day that Juliet “taste[d] the wormwood on the nipple” and “felt it bitter” (1.3. 32). When a woman breastfeeds a baby, they develop a very strong bond not only physically but also emotionally. The Nurse and Juliet, have a stronger relationship than Lady Capulet and Juliet. When talking to Lady Capulet, Juliet speaks to her formally while calling her names such as “madam” (1.3.382). Yet, with the Nurse, Juliet seems to be more open about her feelings and more at ease. The Nurse is one of the people who most desires to keep a fourteen-year old Juliet content. To keep Juliet “joyful”, the Nurse goes to extremities, that she even goes behind her master’s back (2.4.75). When Juliet is feeling down when Tybalt dies, the Nurse offers to “find Romeo to comfort” Juliet ( 3.2.56).

At the end the Nurse in a way, betrays Juliet by suggesting that “it be best” if she “married the county” (3.5.5). When Juliet loses trust in the Nurse, she only relies on Friar Laurence. If the Nurse would have been there to guide her and help her communicate with Romeo, maybe the tragedy would not have occurred, and they would have lived happily ever after. Perhaps, the Nurse did not understand. Or she just knew how unlimited Juliet’s choices were, as later on she “blame[s]” Lord Capulet for her death.

The Nurse plays a critical role in Romeo and Juliet. Due to her very close relationship with one of the major characters and her part in moving the secretive romance. The Nurse is the messenger between Romeo and Juliet; she is the one who moves the story between the two. Without her support, the relationship between Romeo and Juliet, would not have gone farther than a slight flirtation.




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