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Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

Romeo and Juliet Navigator:

Detailed Summary of Act 4, Scene 4

Page Index:

Enter Lady Capulet and Nurse:
Imaginatively, we are now in the same room where Capulet hosted the feast at which Romeo and Juliet met, but on stage this scene is often played in front of the curtained bed on which Juliet lies. Thus we cannot forget what those on stage do not know -- that the wedding they are preparing for will turn into a funeral.

"Hold, take these keys, and fetch more spices, nurse" (4.4.1), says Lady Capulet. "Hold" means, "stop" or "wait a minute"; the Nurse is already on one errand, but Lady Capulet needs her to stop what she's doing and go get more spices, which are so valuable that they are kept in a locked cabinet. The Nurse doesn't know which way to go, because "They call for dates and quinces in the pastry" (4.4.2). The dates and quinces are needed for the pies and pastries that are being made in the room where such things are cooked, the "pastry."

In the midst of all of this bustling about, in comes Capulet. It's three in the morning, and Paris will come at dawn, which is not far off, so Capulet, who has been up all night, urges everyone to hurry up, and starts giving orders. He says to the Nurse, "Look to the baked meats [pies and pastries], good Angelica: / Spare not for the cost" (4.4.5-6). It's remarkable that he calls the Nurse by her Christian name, Angelica; the last time he spoke to her, he was calling her names such as "mumbling fool." At that time the Nurse was trying keep him from forcing Juliet into the marriage with Paris, but now she's helping prepare Juliet's wedding feast. Capulet is apparently a very jolly fellow when everyone does exactly as he says.

As a matter of fact, everyone seems to be in a jolly mood. The Nurse replies to Capulet, "Go, you cot-quean, go, / Get you to bed; faith, You'll be sick to-morrow / For this night's watching" (4.4.6-8). "Cot-quean," was slang for a man who plays the part of a housewife. The Nurse is fondly teasing her master, and he takes it in good part, saying, "No, not a whit. What! I have watch'd [stayed up] ere now / All night for lesser cause, and ne'er been sick" (4.4.9-10) . At this, Lady Capulet joins in the teasing, saying, "Ay, you have been a mouse-hunt in your time; / But I will watch you from such watching now" (4.4.11-12). A "mouse-hunt" is a woman-chaser, and Lady Capulet means that chasing women was her husband's "lesser cause." But now she's going to keep an eye on him to make sure that he doesn't do it again. Again, Capulet takes the teasing well. As his wife and the Nurse hurry off to do their errands, he says "A jealous hood, a jealous hood!" (4.4.13). Literally a "hood" is a hood, a covering for the head, but putting "jealous" and "hood" together has the same effect as putting together "mad" and "cap" to make "madcap." Capulet is saying that his wife is jealous, but it kind of tickles him.

As Lady Capulet and the Nurse are leaving, in come some servants carrying firewood, skewers, and baskets. Capulet asks one of the servants what all that is, and the servant answers, "Things for the cook, sir; but I know not what" (4.4.15). He probably means that there's stuff in the baskets that he hasn't even looked at. Someone just handed them to him and told him to get a move on, a message which Capulet now repeats: "Make haste, make haste" (4.4.16). The servants do make haste, but before the last one gets out the door, Capulet thinks of something else to make things just right for Juliet's wedding feast, and he orders the last servant to get drier logs for the fire. He tells the servant that Peter, another servant, will tell him where to find the wood, but the servant answers, "I have a head, sir, that will find out logs, / And never trouble Peter for the matter" (4.4.18-19). The servant means that he's smart enough to find logs without Peter's help, but Capulet makes a joke, saying, "Mass, and well said; a merry whoreson, ha! / Thou shalt be logger-head" (4.4.20-21). A "logger-head" is a blockhead, and a "whoreson" literally means "son of a whore," but Capulet's insults are all in good fun. He's in a very good mood.

While everyone has been rushing about, the sun has risen. Capulet suddenly realizes that it's day and that Paris will arrive any moment. Sure enough, we hear Paris' musicians playing, and Capulet yells for the Nurse and for his wife. It's the Nurse who comes, and Capulet ends the scene with a hurried order: "Go waken Juliet, go and trim her up; / I'll go and chat with Paris: hie, make haste, / Make haste; the bridegroom he is come already: / Make haste, I say" (4.4.25-28).

We hear the bridegroom's music and we've seen all the hustle and bustle of the preparations for the wedding feast. Only Juliet, comatose in her curtained bed at the back of the stage, is still.