‘Thursday?’ said Friar Lawrence. ‘That’s short notice.’
‘It’s what my father-to-be wants,’ said Paris. ‘And I’m happy to go along with it.’
Friar Lawrence rubbed his chin. ‘ You say you don’t know what she feels about it? Hmm. That’s no good. I don’t like it.’
It was another hot morning. Friar Lawrence led the young man towards the cool of his chapel
‘She’s been grieving terribly for Tybalt so I haven’t approached her,’ said the young count.
‘Well Sir, her father’s not happy about the way she’s taken her cousin’s death and thinks her marriage will make her forget the tragedy more quickly. He thinks being by herself and dwelling on it’s bad: it’s better if she has something else to think about. And that’s the reason for having the wedding so soon.’
Friar Lawrence could see the logic of that but he knew it was essential to delay the wedding although he wished he did not know the reason for that. As they got to the door of the chapel he saw Juliet hurrying towards them. She stopped when she recognized Paris. He smiled and took her hand. He raised it to his lips.
‘How nice to see you,’ he said. ‘My love, my wife.’
‘You may call me that when I am a wife,’ she said. She and the Friar exchanged glances.
The Friar could see her impatience and he could also see that she had been crying. Paris did not seem to notice any of that.
‘I may call you my wife,’ he said. ‘Or must do so, Love, on Thursday.’
‘What must happen will happen,’ said Juliet.
‘Oh yes,’ said Friar Lawrence. ‘That’s one thing we can be sure of.’ He wished Paris would go.
‘Have you come to confess to this holy father?’ said Paris.
‘It’s none of your business.’
‘When you do make your confession, don’t say you don’t love me.’
‘I’ll confess to you that I love the holy father.’ She gave Friar Lawrence a desperate look.
‘And I know you’ll tell him you love me,’ said Paris.
‘If I do that,’ she said, ‘it will be worth more behind your back than to your face.’
‘Poor soul,’ he said. ‘Tears have spoilt your face.’
‘Then the tears haven’t achieved much,’ she said. ‘My face was bad enough before they started.’
‘Don’t say that it’s not true.’
‘I’m not ashamed of the truth,’ she said. ‘Especially as I said it to my own face.’
‘Your face is mine said Paris. ‘And you have slandered it.’
‘My face may as well be yours because its not mine,’ she said impatiently. She turned her back on him abruptly. ‘Are you free now holy Father, or shall I come back at evening mass?’
‘I’m free now, sad daughter,’ said the Friar. ‘My Lord, I must ask you to leave us now.’
‘God forbid that I should interfere with devotion!’ said the Count. ‘Juliet, I’ll come early on Thursday. Until then, goodbye.’ He bent forward and kissed her cheek before she had time to move out of his way.
Juliet stood stiff and immobile until he had gone then she dashed past the Friar. ‘Shut the door’, she said. ‘And come and cry with me – past hope, past cure, past help.’
‘Oh Juliet,’ The Friar stroked her hair. ‘I already know what’s happened. It’s taxed my brains to bursting point. I hear you have to marry the Count on Thursday.’
‘Don’t give me the whole story,’ she snapped. ‘Just tell me what to do.’ She opened her bag and took out a small knife. ‘If you can’t help me then I’ll help myself. With this.’
The Friar took the knife from her.
‘God joined my heart and Romeo’s and you joined our hands. Before this hand does anything else I’ll use it to kill myself. So you’d better either give me some advice or watch me die.’ She reached for the knife but he whisked it out of her way. ‘Don’t take so long,’ she said. ‘Speak up. I’m longing to die, and will if you don’t give me another solution.’
The Friar didn’t answer immediately. When he did, it was with reluctance. ‘I think there’s a ray of hope,’ he said. ‘It needs a desperate remedy – as desperate as the situation you’re in. If you really would sooner kill yourself than marry Paris then I think you’d be prepared to take this on. You’d have to go through something like death, though. If you dare then I’ll give you the remedy.
‘Oh you can tell me to do anything rather than marry Paris,’ she cried. ‘Tell me to jump from the battlements of any tower, or go out and steal. Tell me to go into a snakepit: chain me up with fierce bears. Make me spend every night in a charnel-house, covered in dead men’s rattling bones, with shinbones running with stinking slime, and yellow skulls with their bottom jaws missing. Or tell me to go into a new grave and snuggle up to a dead man in his shroud – things that would make anyone shudder. And I will do it without hesitation if it means I’ll be able to live a pure and faithful wife to my love.’
‘Alright then,’ said the Friar. ‘I’m convinced. Here’s the plan. Go home, put on a happy face. Agree to marry Paris. Tomorrow is Wednesday. Now look here. Make sure that when you go to bed you’re alone in your room. Don’t let your nurse in.’
The Friar went to a chest and unlocked it He took out a small bottle. ‘Here. This is it. When you’re in bed drink the liquid. In a little while your body fluids will grow cold and you will have no pulse. There’ll be no warmth and no breath to show that you’re alive. The colour in your face will go and your eyes will close as though in death. Your limbs will be stiff and cold like a corpse’s.’ He paused. Juliet held out her hand.
‘Then, when the bridegroom arrives to wake you up on your wedding day, there you’ll be: dead! After forty-two hours you’ll wake up as though from a pleasant sleep.’
Juliet smiled for the first time. ‘And then, according to custom, they’ll dress you in your best clothes and take you to the ancient tomb where all the Capulets are laid to rest. In the meantime, while I’m waiting for you to wake up, I’ll send a letter to Romeo and he’ll come here. And he and I will watch you wake up and that very night he’ll take you off to Mantua. That is the solution if you have the courage to go through with it.’
‘Give me, give me,’ said Juliet. ‘Don’t talk to me about fear.’
‘Here.’ He gave her the bottle. ‘Go now. Be strong and don’t weaken. I’ll send a friar to Mantua immediately, with a letter to Romeo.’
Juliet was almost lighthearted as she went home to carry out the plan. She couldn’t wait for night to fall.