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Romeo and Juliet - Act 5

A step by step guide to the final act, to be completed by students. Special thanks to Mrs Shiels for providing some of the scene summaries.

Matthew McDonald

on 30 March 2016

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Transcript of Romeo and Juliet - Act 5

Act Five, Scenes One to Three
Romeo and Juliet
Balthasar (telling Romeo about Juliet's supposed death), lines 17-23:
Then she is well, and nothing can be ill:
Her body sleeps in Capel's monument,
And her immortal part with angels lives.
I saw her laid low in her kindred's vault,
And presently took post to tell it you:
O, pardon me for bringing these ill news,
Since you did leave it for my office, sir.
Scene One
18 monument: tomb
19 immortal part: soul
20 kindred's: family's
21 presenty took post: rode here straightaway
23 office: job/responsibility/duty
24 Is it e'en so?: Is that how things are?
Look here for translations to help guide your reading
Act 5, Scene 1.
From a 1978 BBC production.
(Be warned - a section of dialogue is skipped at 0:24)
1. What news does Balthasar bring Romeo?
Romeo, line 24:
Is it even so? then I defy you, stars!
2. What does Romeo mean when he says, “Then I defy you, stars!”?
Romeo is alone in Mantua, in exile outside Verona. He is allowed to live anywhere except where he wants to: with Juliet. Just as he sensed a problem before going in to the Capulet ball earlier in the play, he now has a dream he thinks points to “joyful news” (V i 5): “ I dreamt my lady came and found me dead/ And breathed such life with kisses…/ That I revived and was an emperor”.
Balthasar, Romeo's servant, arrives from Verona to tell him that Juliet’s “body sleeps in Capels’ monument” (line 18). Romeo, broken-hearted and with nothing to lose, defies his fate: “I defy you, stars!” (line 24) and returns to Verona. He thinks of her, saying “Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight.” (line 33). He means that he, too, will face Death and join her in her tomb, on her funeral bier.
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Where the Friar gave Juliet the death-mimicking drug, Romeo gets his from an impoverished apothecary (similar to a modern pharmacist). Where Juliet listed what she’d find in the tomb when she awake from the drug, Romeo describes the frightening contents of the apothecary’s chamber, with “tortoise…alligator…ill shaped fish…” (35-56) and this, together with the apothecary’s reluctance to supply the illegal poison (“My poverty, but not my will, assents” (76)) builds the audience’s awe and fears for Romeo.
Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee to-night.
Let's see for means: O mischief, thou art swift
To enter in the thoughts of desperate men!
I do remember an apothecary,--
And hereabouts he dwells,--which late I noted
In tatter'd weeds, with overwhelming brows,
Culling of simples; meagre were his looks,
Sharp misery had worn him to the bones:
And in his needy shop a tortoise hung,
An alligator stuff'd, and other skins
Of ill-shaped fishes; and about his shelves
A beggarly account of empty boxes,
Green earthen pots, bladders and musty seeds,
Remnants of packthread and old cakes of roses,
Were thinly scatter'd, to make up a show.
Romeo, lines 34 - 48
34 lie with: (1) sleep beside; (2) sexually, as a lover
35 Let's see for means: How am I going to accomplish this?
38 hereabouts 'a dwells: he lives somewhere around here
38 which late...: who I recently spotted
39 In tattered weeds...: in ragged clothes and with overhanging eyebrows
40 Culling of simples: gathering herbs
45 beggarly account: wretchedly small number
47 cakes of roses: compressed rose petals used as a perfume
Come hither, man. I see that thou art poor:
Hold, there is forty ducats: let me have
A dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear
As will disperse itself through all the veins
That the life-weary taker may fall dead
And that the trunk may be discharged of breath
As violently as hasty powder fired
Doth hurry from the fatal cannon's womb.
Romeo, lines 58-65
59 forty ducats: a very large sum of money
60 soon-speeding gear: fast acting stuff
63 the trunk...: the body will stop breathing
64 hasty powder: explosive gunpowder
65 womb: belly
3. What actions does Balthasar’s news prompt Romeo to do?
Scene Two
The scene takes place in Friar Lawrence’s cell. It is very short, as the play cuts quickly from one scene to the next to increase the pace and speed up the action, heightening the dramatic tension.
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Friar Lawrence now learns that Friar John had run into ‘pestilence’: the plague was a problem at this time. He did not travel to Mantua to tell Romeo that Juliet was only drugged, not dead. Friar Lawrence is very worried and demands “an iron crow[bar]” (line 21) to get Juliet from the tomb, keep her in his cell and write to fetch Romeo from Mantua.
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But all of this is already too late. Romeo thinks that Juliet has died and is already hurrying to the tomb, and does not think to visit Friar Lawrence’s cell.
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Act 5, Scene 2
(lines 5-12)
Going to find a bare-foot brother out
One of our order, to associate me,
Here in this city visiting the sick,
And finding him, the searchers of the town,
Suspecting that we both were in a house
Where the infectious pestilence did reign,
Seal'd up the doors, and would not let us forth;
So that my speed to Mantua there was stay'd.


(line 13)
Who bare my letter, then, to Romeo?

(lines 14-16)
I could not send it,--here it is again,--
Nor get a messenger to bring it thee,
So fearful were they of infection.
5 bare-foot brother: another Franciscan friar
6 order: religious order/commuity
6 associate: accompany
8 searchers: city health inspectors/coroners
10 pestilence: plague (common in Shakespeare's times)
11 forth: out
12 my speed...stayed: so that I could not get to Mantua
13 bare: delivered
14 here it is again: you can have it back
4. What does Friar John tell Friar Laurence?
Now must I to the monument alone;
Within three hours will fair Juliet wake:
She will beshrew me much that Romeo
Hath had no notice of these accidents;
But I will write again to Mantua,
And keep her at my cell till Romeo come;
Poor living corse, closed in a dead man's tomb
Friar Lawrence, lines 24-30
26 beshrew me much: curse me severely
27 Hath had...accidents: has received no report
about what has happened
5. After hearing this news from Friar John, what does Friar Laurence intend to do?
Scene Three
Act 5, Scene 3 (Part 1)
Act 5, Scene 3 (Part 2)
The final scene of the 1986 BBC version is in two parts.
Note: it is quite long (approx. 17 minutes total)
The final scene opens with Paris arriving at the Capulet tomb. He has his servant wait and listen for other visitors as he wants to take his flowers to Juliet on his own. He speaks sadly (“O woe, thy canopy is dust and stones!/ Which with sweet water nightly I will dew”) but is this as powerful as Romeo and Juliet’s love speeches at the ball, when she says “Gallop apace, ye fiery steeds”, and so on? He speaks well but it is clear his rather conventional images and words are not the love poetry of a true soul-mate. He hardly knows her, after all.
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Romeo arrives with Balthasar his servant, who quickly leaves. Romeo begins to open the tomb, attracting Paris’ attention. Paris is determined to arrest Romeo and see him executed. He still believes that Juliet killed herself because of her grief for Tybalt, whom Romeo himself killed, and he thus sees him as being responsible for Juliet’s death. Romeo does not recognise him at first, and will not allow anyone to stop him from seeing Juliet. They fight, and Paris is killed (70).
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Romeo finally recognises Paris, and carries out his dying wish to lay his body next to Juliet’s. Now free to enter the tomb, Romeo sees Juliet’s body and gives a long monologue (74-120), reiterating his love for her and admiring her beauty, even in ‘death’. He drinks his poison and, kissing her lips, dies.
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Meanwhile, Friar Lawrence arrives, and Balthasar informs him that Romeo is inside. Lawrence enters but he is too late: he finds Romeo and Paris dead, and Juliet beginning to awaken. He hurriedly informs Juliet of what has happened, and urges her to flee (Paris’ servant has informed the city watch of what has happened), but when she realises Romeo is dead she refuses to leave. Left alone, Juliet kisses Romeo one last time, and taking his dagger, kills herself too.
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Paris’ page leads the city watch to the tomb. They have captured Balthasar and the Friar, and discover the bodies of Paris, Romeo and Juliet. The Prince, Capulets and Monague arrive soon after, and discover what has happened. We learn that Montague’s wife died that night too out of “grief of [her] son’s exile” (211). The play ends with the Prince confronting the fathers with the terrible results of their hatred. Shattered and distraught, both Capulet and Montague agree to finally end this violent feud, making peace and promising to raise a statue to each other’s child.
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Why I descend into this bed of death,
Is partly to behold my lady's face;
But chiefly to take thence from her dead finger
A precious ring, a ring that I must use
In dear employment: therefore hence, be gone:
But if thou, jealous, dost return to pry
In what I further shall intend to do,
By heaven, I will tear thee joint by joint
And strew this hungry churchyard with thy limbs:
The time and my intents are savage-wild,
More fierce and more inexorable far
Than empty tigers or the roaring sea.
Romeo to Balthasar (lines 28-39)
28 Why: The reason why
32 In dear employment: for a very special purpose
33 jealous: suspicious
36 hungry: because death has a hungry
28 inexorable: relentless
39 empty: hungry
6. Romeo gives Balthasar two reasons for entering the Capulet’s tomb. What are those two reasons?
This is that banish'd haughty Montague,
That murder'd my love's cousin, with which grief,
It is supposed, the fair creature died;
And here is come to do some villanous shame
To the dead bodies: I will apprehend him.

[Paris Comes forward]

Stop thy unhallow'd toil, vile Montague!
Can vengeance be pursued further than death?
Condemned villain, I do apprehend thee:
Obey, and go with me; for thou must die.
Paris, speaking to Romeo, lines 49-57
53 apprehend: arrest
54 unhallowed: unholy/sacrilegious
7. Why does Paris think that Romeo has come to the tomb?
How oft when men are at the point of death
Have they been merry! which their keepers call
A lightning before death: O, how may I
Call this a lightning? O my love! my wife!
Death, that hath suck'd the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:
Thou art not conquer'd; beauty's ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
And death's pale flag is not advanced there.
Tybalt, liest thou there in thy bloody sheet?
O, what more favour can I do to thee,
Than with that hand that cut thy youth in twain
To sunder his that was thine enemy?
Forgive me, cousin! Ah, dear Juliet,
Why art thou yet so fair? shall I believe
That unsubstantial death is amorous,
And that the lean abhorred monster keeps
Thee here in dark to be his paramour?
For fear of that, I still will stay with thee;
And never from this palace of dim night
Depart again: here, here will I remain
With worms that are thy chamber-maids; O, here
Will I set up my everlasting rest,
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death!
Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide!
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark!
Here's to my love!
Romeo's final monologue, lines 88-100 (part 1)
Romeo's final monologue, lines 101-120 (part 2)
89 keepers: gaolers

90 lightening: sudden light-heartedness

92 honey: sweetness

94 ensign: flag

96 is not advanced…: has not yet reached it

99 cut thy youth in twain: killed you when you were young

100 To sunder…: to cut in two the youth of the person who was your enemy
103 unsubstantial: without a physical body

104 abhorred: revolting, repulsive

105 paramour: mistress

106 still: for ever

107 pallet: bed

111 And shake the yoke…: and shake off the oppressive weight of my unlucky fortune

115 A dateless bargain: a contract which will never expire

115 engrossing Death: death that consumes everything

116 conduct: guide (the poison, which will guide him to another world)

117 pilot: navigator

117 run on: run aground on

118 bark: ship
Romeo's final monologue, lines 88-120
9. What is it about Juliet that should have told Romeo that she was not dead?
8. What does Romeo discuss in this monologue?
What's here? a cup, closed in my true love's hand?
Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end:
O churl! drunk all, and left no friendly drop
To help me after? I will kiss thy lips;
Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,
To make die with a restorative.
[Juliet kisses Romeo]
Thy lips are warm.
Juliet, lines 161-167
162 timeless: (1) everlasting; (2) untimely
163 churl: ill-mannered person
165 Haply: perhaps
166 restorative: cure
10. Why does Juliet kiss Romeo after he is dead?
In lines 229-285, Friar Lawrence, Balthasar, and Paris' Page recount the events that led to Romeo and Juliet's deaths.
Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague!
See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.
And I for winking at your discords too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish'd.
Prince, lines 291 - 295
292 scourge: punishment
293 your joys: your children
294 winking at your discords: turning a blind eye to your quarrels
295 brace: pair (Mercutio and Paris)
Prince, the final lines of the play (305-310)
A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
305 glooming: gloomy, sad
11. What is emphasised in the Prince's final speeches?
Work through the activity by pressing the left and right arrow keys.
Each scene has three parts:
1. A video of the scene being performed.
2. A summary of the main events.
3. Key passages, including translations, and associated questions.
Watch the performance of the scene
Take dot-point notes from the scene summaries.
Find at least one quote to record for each extract, and answer each question in your exercise book in as much detail as possible.
Work through the activity at your own pace. It can also be accessed outside of class through the STL Link.
Congratulations! You have reached the end of your first Shakespearean play!
As a reward, enjoy watching the Bard rap against Dr Seuss:
Full transcript