This was but the beginning of the tragedy of this pair of star- crossed lovers. Romeo had not been gone many days before the old Lord Capulet proposed a match for Juliet. The husband he had chosen for her, not dreaming that she was married already, was Count Paris, a gallant, young, and noble gentleman, no unworthy suitor to the young Juliet if she had never seen Romeo.
The terrified Juliet was in a sad perplexity at her father’s offer. She pleaded her youth unsuitable to marriage, the recent death of Tybalt, which had left her spirits too weak to meet a husband with any face of joy, and how indecorous it would show for the family of the Capulets to be celebrating a nuptial feast when his funeral solemnities were hardly over. She pleaded every reason against the match but the true one, namely, that she was married already. But Lord Capulet was deaf to all her excuses, and in a peremptory manner ordered her to get ready, for by the following Thursday she should be married to Paris. And having found her a husband, rich, young, and noble, such as the proudest maid in Verona might joyfully accept, he could not bear that out of an affected coyness, as he construed her denial, she should oppose obstacles to her own good fortune.
In this extremity Juliet applied to the friendly friar, always a counselor in distress, and he asking her if she had resolution to undertake a desperate remedy, and she answering that she would go into the grave alive rather than marry Paris, her own dear husband living, he directed her to go home, and appear merry, and give her consent to marry Paris, according to her father’s desire, and on the next night, which was the night before the marriage, to drink off the contents of a vial which he then gave her, the effect of which would be that for two-and-forty hours after drinking it she should appear cold and lifeless, and when the bridegroom came to fetch her in the morning he would find her to appearance dead; that then she would be borne, as the manner in that country was, uncovered on a bier, to be buried in the family vault; that if she could put off womanish fear, and consent to this terrible trial, in forty-two hours after swallowing the liquid (such was its certain operation) she would be sure to awake, as from a dream; and before she should awake he would let her husband know their drift, and he should come in the night and bear her thence to Mantua. Love, and the dread of marrying Paris, gave young Juliet strength to undertake this horrible adventure; and she took the vial of the friar, promising to observe his directions.
Going from the monastery, she met the young Count Paris, and, modestly dissembling, promised to become his bride. This was joyful news to the Lord Capulet and his wife. It seemed to put youth into the old man; and Juliet, who had displeased him exceedingly by her refusal of the count, was his darling again, now she promised to be obedient. All things in the house were in a bustle against the approaching nuptials. No cost was spared to prepare such festival rejoicings as Verona had never before witnessed.
On the Wednesday night Juliet drank off the potion. She had many misgivings lest the friar, to avoid the blame which might be imputed to him for marrying her to Romeo, had given her poison; but then he was always known for a holy man. Then lest she should awake before the time that Romeo was to come for her; whether the terror of the place, a vault full of dead Capulets’ bones, and where Tybalt, all bloody, lay festering in his shroud, would not be enough to drive her distracted. Again she thought of all the stories she had heard of spirits haunting the places where their bodies were bestowed. But then her love for Romeo and her aversion for Paris returned, and she desperately swallowed the draught and became insensible.
When young Paris came early in the morning with music to awaken his bride, instead of a living Juliet her chamber presented the dreary spectacle of a lifeless corse. What death to his hopes! What confusion then reigned through the whole house! Poor Paris lamenting his bride, whom most detestable death had beguiled him of, had divorced from him even before their hands were joined. But still more piteous it was to hear the mournings of the old Lord and Lady Capulet, who having but this one, one poor loving child to rejoice and solace in, cruel death had snatched her from their sight, just as these careful parents were on the point of seeing her advanced (as they thought) by a promising and advantageous match. Now all things that were ordained for the festival were turned from their properties to do the office of a black funeral. The wedding cheer served for a sad burial feast, the bridal hymns were changed for sullen dirges, the sprightly instruments to melancholy.bells, and the flowers that should have been strewed in the bride’s path now served but to strew her corse. Now, instead of a priest to marry her, a priest was needed to bury her, and she was borne to church indeed, not to augment the cheerful hopes of the living, but to swell the dreary numbers of the dead.