‘Mistress. Wake up… Juliet?’. The Nurse stood in the middle of the room with her hands on her hips. ‘Juliet!’. The child was fast asleep behind those curtains. ‘Hello lamb. Lady. Shame on you, you lazybones.’ Still nothing. She’d try the soft approach. ‘Lo-ove. Madam. Sweetheart. Hey bride!.’ ‘Nothing to say? Ho ho ho. Get your money’s worth of sleep for a week. Because I’ll bet Paris has no intention of letting you sleep tonight.’ She giggled. ‘God forgive me, stop it now, Nurse.’
But it was strange how sound asleep Juliet was. She had to wake her, though. ‘Madam… Madam… Madam! Well, the Count will just have to take you in your bed. He’ll wake you up with a big fright, won’t he?’
She pulled one of the curtains aside. ‘What’s this? Dressed already? And gone back to bed?’ The Nurse put her hand on Juliet’s shoulder and shook her. ‘Lady. Lady… Lady.’
‘Oh no,’ she said softly. ‘Oh no.’ Then, louder: ‘Help.’ Then she turned her head and screamed. ‘Help! My lady’s dead.’ She looked at the pitiful sight on the bed and shook her head. ‘I wish I’d never been born.’
She ran to the door. ‘Some brandy here! Hurry! My Lord! My Lady!’
Lady Capulet came rushing up the stairs and ran across the hall. ‘What’s all the noise?’ she said.
The Nurse moaned and pointed at the bed.
‘What’s the matter?’ said Lady Capulet.
‘Look, look! Oh heavy day’
Lady Capulet gasped. She ran to the bed. ‘Oh… oh… my child. My only life. Wake up please, please, wake up, or I’ll die with you.’ She turned her tear stained face to the Nurse, ‘Get help. Quickly!’
Capulet came into the room. ‘What’s going on? Come on! Bring Juliet down. Her husband’s arrived.’
The two women began wailing. ‘She’s dead, she’s dead, she’s dead,’ they repeated.
‘Ha,’ said Capulet. He strode to the bed. ‘Let me look at her.’ He stared at her for a long time. Then he put his hand on her forehead. ‘She’s cold.’ His voice sounded as though it was miles away. ‘Her blood’s stopped flowing and she’s stiff. She’s been dead for hours. How pitiful to see her. So young. Death has taken her like frost takes a beautiful flower.’
The Nurse and Lady Capulet knelt beside the bed and wailed. Capulet dropped to his knees too but couldn’t say anything now. There was a knock on the open door. Friar Lawrence and Paris stood there with a troupe of musicians, waiting for the signal to serenade the Count’s bride.
‘All ready to go to church?’ said the Friar.
‘She’s ready to go and never return,’ said Capulet. He got up and went to Paris. ‘Oh son, Death has beaten you to it. He slept with her last night.’ He put his arm round the young man’s shoulders and guided him to the bed. ‘There she is,’ he said. Death is my son-in-law: Death is my heir: he has married my daughter. I will die now and leave him everything. Everything belongs to Death now.’
‘How I’ve looked forward to this morning,’ said Paris. ‘And what a sight it brings me.’
Lady Capulet’s wailing grew louder and more heartrending. The Nurse was beside herself and wailed even louder than her mistress.
Paris bent over Juliet and took her hand. ‘Tricked,’ he said. ‘Divorced, wronged, destroyed. She’s been tricked by death,’ He kissed her hand. ‘Oh life,’ he said, ‘No, not life. This is love in death.’
Capulet broke down now, and gave himself up to his grief.
Friar Lawrence’s satisfaction at the success of his plan was tempered by the grief all around him. For a moment he was sorry for what he had done but then he remembered what would have happened if he hadn’t done it. ‘Be quiet, all of you,’ he said ‘You should be ashamed of yourselves. You can’t bring her back by behaving like this.’
They all took notice of the holy man – stopped their wailing and listened.
‘She wasn’t yours entirely: you shared her with heaven. And now heaven’s got everything. But she’s better off for it. You could never have kept your share of her from Death but heaven can give her eternal life. You wanted to do well by her and now you’re crying when she ‘s gone to heaven. You don’t love your child very much if you go mad when you see how well she is. And in any case, long marriages are never happy: it’s just as well to die young.’
The Friar put his hand out to Lady Capulet and raised her up. ‘Dry your tears and put rosemary on this beautiful corpse. Dress her in her best clothes and take her to church. It’s natural to cry but not sensible since she’s gone to heaven.’
‘Everything,’ said Capulet, sobbing. ‘Everything that we’ve prepared for her wedding will mark her funeral now. Our musical instruments will be changed to mournful bells, our celebration to a wake, our hymns to funeral dirges, our bridal flowers to a wreath – everything has become its opposite.’
Friar Lawrence took his arm. ‘Come on, Sir, you must go now. And you too, Madam.’ Paris lingered and the Friar waited for him. ‘Come on, Sir Paris,’ he said. ‘All of you go and prepare to follow this corpse to her grave. The heavens are frowning on you for something you’ve done. Don’t make things worse.’
They went sadly from the room, leaving the musicians staring at Juliet. One of them stopped the Nurse. ‘I suppose we might as well put our instruments away and go home?’ he said.
‘Yes, lads,’ said the Nurse. ‘Put them away, put them away, because you can see what a sad case this is.’