Romeo and Juliet's Deaths

Act 5 Scene 3 – Key Scene

In this scene Romeo finds Juliet’s body and takes the poison he has purchased, rather than live without her. His body is then found by Friar Laurence who realises what has happened and is there when Juliet wakes up. Rather than stay with her, the Friar leaves the tomb and Juliet is left alone. She then kills herself with Romeo’s dagger.

You can take a look at the whole scene here. Using the following steps, remember to look at it line by line and if you’re looking at the scene for the first time, don’t worry if you don’t understand everything at once.

  • Look
    Take a look at the scene. Are they using prose or verse? Are there shared lines or couplets? Actors at the RSC often put the language into their own words to help them understand what they are saying. We’ve added some definitions (in green), questions (in red) and paraphrased some sections (in blue) to help with this. You can click on the text that is highlighted for extra guidance.
    For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes
    This vault a feasting presence full of light.

    O my love, my wife!
    Death that hath sucked the honey of thy breath,
    Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:
    Thou art not conquered, beauty’s ensign yet
    Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
    And death’s pale flag is not advancèd 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 thy enemy?
    Forgive me, cousin.— Ah, dear Juliet,
    Why art thou yet so fair? I will stay with thee,
    And never from this palace of dim night
    Depart again. Here, here will I remain
    With worms that are thy chambermaids:
    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. O true apothecary,
    Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

    Here’s Juliet’s body and she’s so beautiful that it makes this dark place a positive one, full of light.

    Despite the fact that Juliet is dead and her breath has stopped, she is still beautiful and her skin is not pale. Romeo’s language suggests that Juliet does not look dead. What effect would this have on the audience? Why would Shakespeare do this?

    Why do you still look so beautiful?

    Romeo describes the tomb as 'palace of dim night' and a vault with a 'feasting presence full of light'. How many descriptions of the tomb can you find? What do they tell you about the place they are in? Who else and what else is there?

    Honest apothecary, or person who prepares and sells medicines and drugs.

    Enter FRIAR LAURENCE with lantern, crow and spade.
    Friar Laurence
    Saint Francis be my speed! How oft tonight
    Have my old feet stumbled at graves! Who’s there?
    Here’s one, a friend, and one that knows you well.
    Friar Laurence
    Bliss be upon you! Tell me, good my friend,
    What torch is yon that vainly lends his light
    To grubs and eyeless skulls? As I discern,
    It burneth in the Capels’ monument.

    The tomb belonging to the Capulet family.

    It doth so, holy sir, and there’s my master,
    One that you love.
    Friar Laurence
    Who is it?
    Friar Laurence
    How long hath he been there?
    Full half an hour.
    Friar Laurence
    Go with me to the vault.
    I dare not, sir.
    My master knows not but I am gone hence,
    And fearfully did menace me with death
    If I did stay to look on his intents.
    Friar Laurence
    Stay then, I’ll go alone. Fear comes upon me:
    O, much I fear some ill unlucky thing.
    Alack, alack, what blood is this which stains
    The stony entrance of this sepulchre?
    Romeo! O, pale! Who else? What, Paris too?
    And steeped in blood? Ah, what an unkind hour
    Is guilty of this lamentable chance!

    The lady stirs.

    A tomb.

    Is Paris dead as well? And covered in blood? What a horrific coincidence that they should come here at the same time!

    O, comfortable friar, where’s my lord? (Waking)
    I do remember well where I should be,
    And there I am. Where is my Romeo?
    Friar Laurence
    I hear some noise. Lady, come from that nest
    Of death, contagion, and unnatural sleep:
    A greater power than we can contradict
    Hath thwarted our intents. Come, come away.
    Thy husband in thy bosom there lies dead,
    And Paris too.
    Come, go, good Juliet, I dare no longer stay.

    Forces outside of our control have stopped our plan. Come on, come away. Your husband, lying in your arms, is dead. And Paris as well.

     Friar Laurence leaves Juliet behind in the tomb. Why would he do that? What drives him?

    Go, get thee hence, for I will not away.
    What’s here? A cup closed in my true love’s hand?
    Poison I see hath been his timeless end.
    O churl, drink all and left no friendly drop
    To help me after? I will kiss thy lips,
    Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,

    Hopefully there is still poison on them.

    Kisses him.
    Thy lips are warm.

    Why do you think Shakespeare tells us Romeo’s lips are still warm? What impact does this have on an audience watching Juliet?

    Enter Boy and Watch (Constable and other Watchmen) at a distance.
    Cousin Capulet
    Lead, boy, which way?
    Yea, noise? Then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger,
    This is thy sheath: there rust, and let me die.

    Juliet refers to her body as a 'sheath' for the dagger.

    (Text edited for rehearsals by Erica Whyman)
  • Listen
    Read the scene aloud. Are there any words or lines that really stand out? How do the characters come across?
  • Watch
    Take a look at the actors performing this scene. How do the characters come across in this version?
  • Imagine
    Explore some images from past versions of Romeo and Juliet at the RSC. Which sets and staging choices for the death scene feel right to you?