The nurse’s in the Capulets household is the superior to that of a normal servant. Juliet seems to have taken the place of the daughter she once had and everything she does, she does for Juliet’s benefit. She is bossy with the other servants, knowing she has a special place in the family. She is a simple soul who is an easy target for Mercutio’s lewd ribbing. She is long-winded as well as rather rude and bawdy, but she seems sincere and makes the audience laugh with her rather than at her. As the story develops she becomes more and more a part of the conventional world that opposes and fails to understand the passion of Romeo and Juliet for each other.
In the play, the Nurse serves as a mother figure to Juliet. She is a confidant, advisor and helper to Juliet. It is her relationship with Juliet that gives importance to her role in the play.
The Nurse was the one who revealed to both Romeo and Juliet the identities of each other i.e. that Romeo was a Montague and Juliet a Capulet. She was also the go-between for Juliet and Romeo, delivering messages and notes from one to another. Thus, she played a key role in bringing about their marriage and its consummation.
Not only does she contribute heavily the plot, the Nurse is also vital in the area of characterization. Her vulgarity and pragmatic views of love and marriage are in stark contrast to Juliet’s purity and passion. This emphasizes the pure and sacrificial love between Romeo and Juliet. The Nurse’s advise to marry Paris and give up Romeo also showed us the change in Juliet when she held fast to her love for Romeo and called the Nurse a “wicked fiend” for her hypocritical behaviour.
The Nurse is a complex character with many sides to her personality. She displays both attractive and repulsive qualities at the same time.
Firstly, it is obvious that she is genuinely fond of Juliet. This can be seen from her loving reminisces of Juliet’s childhood and her affectionate calling of Juliet by names such as “lamb” and “child.” Also, she teasingly finds excuses to increase Juliet’s impatience for news of Romeo by talking about her various aches and pains. She acts as a go-between for Romeo and Juliet, carrying messages back and forth for the two lovers and does what they ask her to do for them. For example, she helps Juliet find out news about Romeo, and she helps Romeo procure a rope ladder. She also refuses to accept Romeo’s gift of money for these services at first, indicating her willingness to serve her mistress.
This love for her young mistress naturally leads her to become protective of Juliet. She warns Romeo not to lead Juliet into a “fool’s paradise,” for that would be “a gross kind of behaviour.” Also, she wishes that she could see Juliet marry well. [Act I Scene III] When Capulet scolds Juliet for refusing to marry Paris, the Nurse speaks up for Juliet, saying that Capulet is to blame for rating her so, and that he should not scold her so badly.
The Nurse sometimes speaks so much that even Lady Capulet has to tell her to keep quiet. This shows that she can be irritating at times and is also a gossip. She is also boastful, and claims all credit for Juliet’s upbringing.
Her views of love and marriage differ greatly from Juliet’s. She advises Juliet that “it best you married with the County” because she thinks that Juliet will be happier in her second match.
“Your first is dead, or ‘t were as good he were,
As living here, and you no use of him”
Thus revealing that she does not believe in faithful and romantic love.
She is also rather bossy with the other servants, ordering Peter around, because of her close association with Juliet and her parents.
“My fan, Peter.”
“Ah, where’s my man?
Give me some aqua-vitae.”
The Nurse is also fickle. Once she hears of Romeo’s banishment, she advises Juliet to marry Paris, comparing Romeo to him and pointing out his flaws.
“O, he’s a lovely gentleman!
Romeo’s a dishclout to him”
Although this could be viewed as practical, yet it is a violent contrast to her earlier praising of Romeo and comes across as being rather hypocritical, as Juliet observed in the lines,
“O most wicked fiend!
To dispraise my lord with that same tongue
Which she hath praised him with above compare
So many thousand times!
The Nurse does not seem to have got too carried away with the situation, but is eager for Juliet to marry. She offers no advice or caution to what Juliet should be doing, although she clearly knows that Juliet is young and inexperienced. She also makes no effort to suggest that this will be a problem. Like Friar Laurence, she goes behind her employer’s backs, acting as Romeo and Juliet’s messenger, such as when she is asked by Juliet to discover Romeo’s identity. At first the Nurse admires Romeo, “Why he’s a man of wax” (Act 1 Scene 3), but warns him not to lead Juliet into a “fools paradise” (Act 2 Scene 4), probably mostly because Juliet is still very young and naïve.
After Tybalt’s death, the nurse turns against Romeo “Will you speak well of him that killed your cousin” (Act 3 Scene 2), “Shame come to Romeo” (Act 3 Scene 2). Finally, when Juliet needs the Nurse most “Comfort me, council me” when her parents tell her that she must marry Paris, the Nurse disappoints her by simply telling her that it would be better to marry someone to support her.
Why does the Nurse fail as an advisor to Juliet?
Although the Nurse genuinely loves and cares for Juliet, yet she does not understand the love and passion Juliet has for Romeo. The Nurse, unlike Juliet, is vulgar in nature and views of love and hence cannot comprehend why Juliet prefers Romeo to Paris. The Nurse advises Juliet to marry Paris, a very eligible and wealthy bachelor, as she does not believe in loyal and faithful love. Thus, she loses Juliet’s love and trust and Juliet does not confide in her Friar Lawrence’s plan to drink the potion. Hence, the Nurse is unsuccessful in protecting and caring for Juliet due to her lack of understanding, indirectly bringing about the final tragedy of her death.
Romeo and Juliet, is a story of two young lovers whose love was destined for destruction. They did not imagine that their love would lead to the tragedies that it did. These two young people did nothing wrong except fall in love. Three aspects of their destruction included the feud between the two families, the nurse and her betrayal of Juliet and the most important aspect of all is fate.