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Seeing Abraham and Balthasar, Sampson says to Gregory, "quarrel, I will back thee" (1.1.33-34), but when they approach the Montague servants, Abraham turns out to be a cool customer. Sampson bites his thumb, and Abraham asks, "Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?" (1.1.44), which makes Sampson back off somewhat. Balthasar does not speak. -- As a matter of fact Balthasar probably does not even appear. Not until 1709 did editors start identifying Abraham's partner as "Balthasar," and Balthasar (as we see him late in the play) appears to be too sensible to get himself mixed up with Abraham, Sampson, and Gregory. [Scene Summary]
When he is telling the Nurse the plans he has made to wed Juliet, Romeo says that "Within this hour my man shall be with thee / And bring thee cords made like a tackled stair; / Which to the high top-gallant of my joy / Must be my convoy in the secret night" (2.4.188-191). The Nurse asks if Romeo's "man" can keep a secret, and Romeo replies, "I warrant thee, my man's as true as steel" (2.4.198). Balthasar's name isn't used, but there's no reason to think that Romeo is describing anyone but Balthasar. [Scene Summary]
In Mantua Romeo expects joyful news from Juliet, but Balthasar brings him the worst possible news. Seeing Balthasar, who has just arrived from Verona, Romeo asks -- without giving Balthasar a chance to answer -- if he brings letters from the friar, how Juliet is doing, and how his father is doing. Then again he asks, "How fares my Juliet? that I ask again; / For nothing can be ill, if she be well" (5.1.15-16). Balthasar swiftly delivers the blow to Romeo's happiness: "Then she is well, and nothing can be ill: / Her body sleeps in Capel's monument, / And her immortal part with angels lives" (5.1.17-19). Balthasar goes on to say that he saw Juliet laid into the tomb, and then apologizes for bringing such bad news.
Romeo instantly decides that he will go and commit suicide at Juliet's side, though he doesn't tell Balthasar of his decision. He orders Balthasar to fetch him ink and paper, and to hire horses for the return journey to Verona, which he will make that very night. Balthasar protests that Romeo's looks are "pale and wild, and do import / Some misadventure" (5.1.28-29), but Romeo brushes him off, and asks again if there aren't any letters from Friar Laurence. Balthasar says there aren't and goes to do as he is told. [Scene Summary]
Romeo and Balthasar come to Juliet's grave. Romeo says to Balthasar, "Give me that mattock and the wrenching iron" (5.3.22), then stops himself, remembering that he has something else to take care of before he opens the grave: "Hold, take this letter; early in the morning / See thou deliver it to my lord and father" (5.3.23-24). The letter is not to be delivered until "early in the morning" because Romeo wants to be sure that he is dead before his father receives the letter explaining why he died. However, Romeo doesn't let Balthasar know what is in the letter or give a hint of his intention to kill himself. As a matter of fact, Romeo wants Balthasar out of the way, so he won't interfere. To get Balthasar out of the way, Romeo says, "Whate'er thou hear'st or seest, stand all aloof [far away], / And do not interrupt me in my course" (5.3.25-27). Romeo also lies about what he's up to, saying that he has come to Juliet's grave mainly to retrieve a ring that he needs. Then Romeo threatens Balthasar, telling him that if he comes back to find out what Romeo is up to, he'll tear him apart. Suitably impressed, Balthasar says, "I will be gone, sir, and not trouble you" (5.3.40), whereupon Romeo gives him money, saying, "Take thou that: / Live, and be prosperous: and farewell, good fellow" (5.3.41-42). Romeo is saying goodbye to Balthasar as though he will never see him again (which he won't), and Balthasar, a good servant, says to himself, "For all this same, I'll hide me hereabout: / His looks I fear, and his intents I doubt" (5.3.43-44). In saying "his looks I fear" Bathasar isn't expressing a fear of Romeo, but a fear for him; Balthasar rightly guesses that Romeo is going to do much more than take a ring from Juliet's finger.
After Balthasar withdraws, Paris tries to arrest Romeo. Romeo kills him, and then thinks he remembers something that Balthasar told him about Paris: "What said my man, when my betossed soul / Did not attend him as we rode? I think / He told me Paris should have married Juliet: / Said he not so? or did I dream it so?" (5.3.76-79)
Later in the scene, a moment after Romeo dies, Friar Laurence appears in the churchyard, and is met by Balthasar, who tells him that Romeo is at Juliet's grave, and has been there for half an hour. Friar Laurence asks Balthasar to go with him to the grave, but Balthasar is afraid to disobey Romeo's command to stay away, so Friar Laurence goes on alone, but with a foreboding of "some ill unthrifty [unlucky] thing" (5.3.136). As Friar Laurence goes towards the monument of the Capulets, Balthasar says, "As I did sleep under this yew-tree here, / I dreamt my master and another fought, / And that my master slew him" (5.3.137-139). Perhaps Balthasar is lying; he might want to avoid responsibility for doing nothing when he saw the fight between Romeo and Paris. Or perhaps Balthasar actually had that dream and is reminded of it by the Friar's mention of "some ill unthifty thing." In any case, the Friar doesn't seem to be listening, and Balthasar's speech only serves to remind us of what the Friar is about to discover.
A few minutes later, just after Juliet's suicide, the watchmen detain Balthasar and Friar Laurence. Then Prince Escalus arrives on the scene. The Prince demands an explantion from Friar Laurence, and after Friar Laurence has finished, the Prince turns to Balthasar for his testimony. Very briefly, Balthasar tells his story, starting with "I brought my master news of Juliet's death" (5.3.272). As he speaks, Balthasar mentions that he still has the letter that Romeo wrote to his father. Prince Escalus takes the letter from Balthasar, reads it, and sees that it confirms what Friar Laurence and Bathasar have said. [Scene Summary]
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