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Romeo and Juliet – a different kind of ending

April 4, 2013

This alternate ending for Romeo and Juliet picks up just after Friar Lawrence has sent the desperate Juliet home with a drug that will make her appear to be dead, so that she will be interred in the Capulet crypt immediately (as was the custom in hot Mediterranean countries before the advent of refrigeration) and avoid being married to the County Paris while he, the Friar, sends word to Romeo.

Act IV, scene 2a

Juliet wakes. It is early morning on Thursday. The distilléd liquor has not worked.

Juliet:

Oh God, to-day is Thursday. The house awakes!
And I awaken with it, where I should not be.
The friar’s distilléd liquor has not served
Except to make me sleep as one not dead,
And wake, not on a bier in stony vault
But in my own enshrouded bed.
In the grievéd house of the living!
O Death, thou wert more welcome than awaking here!
What shall I do? There’s no escape
But past the nurse who waits without,
Or throw myself in haste from off the balcony
And if I live, to scale the orchard wall
Which is, alas! both high and hard to climb—
But he did so, with love’s light wings!
Can I escape the house which is my tomb,
and save my honor with a lesser shame?
The County Paris waits to marry me,
Twice-wedded and consigned to hell
What shrift can ever serve to make me whole?

The Nurse bustles in, along with Juliet’s mother. The moment for escape has passed.

 Nurse:

Wake up, wake up, It’s time to get you dressed!
A pretty sleep you’ve had, and glad I am to see!
You’ll get no sleep tonight, if I know love—

Juliet’s mother;
Nurse, hold your tongue. We’re starting late
To make our Juliet fit to be a bride
Now bring the combs, and we shall have her ‘tired
As fits our family status and our pride.
Stand up now, girl, and quit you of that garb
And put this on, ‘twill have to do,
So rushed and harried, it is hard
To make arrange to sew you something new.

Juliet, to herself:

Now I see there can be no escape,
No flight, excuses, or respite
No pity, nor yet mercy on my stainéd soul
For having told my father I consent,
I cannot change this course — it is too late!

Scene 3a

Friar Lawrence: (to himself)

There comes no wail, no news of Juliet dead,
And I cannot inquire, but must prepare
A wedding, not a funeral rite as planned.
Dear God in heaven, shrive me of this thing.
Thou knowest my full intent; I meant no harm,
But only good, to heal a bloody rent
That time and time again hath torn this town,
And laid good men to crumble in their graves.
And now for all my best designs
And plans, it all comes tumbling down!
Now I must needs put on a willing face
And God forgive my sins and grant me grace.
And so to Juliet as well, on whom this falls!
O, that I had helped her make escape
And hid her ‘hind a convent’s veiling walls.
Too late, too late! The County Paris calls!

 

Balthasar hears the bells ringing and inquires. Romeo hears news of the wedding, rages at the faithlessness of the Capulets

 Romeo enters (direct from the original)

 

Romeo:

If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep,
My dreams presage some joyful news at hand.
My bosom’s lord sits lightly on his throne,
And all this day an unaccustomed spirit
Lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts.
I dreamed my lady came and found me dead—
Strange dream, that gives a dead man leave to think—
And breathed such life with kisses in my lips
That I revived and was an emperor.
Ah me! How sweet is love itself possessed
When but love’s shadows are so rich in joy!

Enter Balthasar, Romeo’s man          

News from Verona!—How now, Balthasar?
Dost thou not bring me letters from the friar?
How doth my lady? Is my father well?
How fares my Juliet? That I ask again,
For nothing can be ill if she be well.

 Balthasar

Then she is well, but I bring solemn news
That I have heard the wedding bells to-day
The banns were read upon the chapel’s steps
Unchallengéd. I knew not what to say
For fear to break the peace and riot cause.
I thought the friar bore a haunted mien
And then relief that no one spake him nay.
Then she went in, with tearful reddened eyes
Her mother and her father at her gilded sides
The County Paris, cousin to the Prince
Wedded her this morning in some sudden haste,
And she is just as lost as had she died
Now she’s been made the County’s public bride.

Romeo

How? This cannot be – it cannot be!
She has exchanged her faithful vow for mine
Within the church, before the holy friar!
Oh faithless Capulet! Jove laughs in mocking joy
To see this Montague in love cast down!
O loss! O grief! O anger wrought beyond belief!

Balthasar

My lord, I beg you, listen yet again
She went forsooth against her will
Her father on her one side held her arm
Her mother on the other just the same
What choice had she? She beareth not the blame.

Romeo

Then she is lost! O, lost! And so am I
Bereft of home and family, wife and love,
What purpose have I left except to die?
What shall my death proroguéd prove?

Balthasar

I beg you Lord to wait a little while
Til I may bear a letter to the priest
And come again perhaps with sage advice
My Lord, would an annulment bring thee peace?
Begin a life anew in Mantua’s walls
Annul the past, forget this brief affair
And seek in prayer and penance some surcease?

Romeo

Annulment? In the eyes of man perhaps
To say a thing that happened now has not?
In law, in love, in faith, in oath, in truth
And in the eyes of our most holy God
To wipe it all away! A stroke of pen!
To make a lie of all that I hold dear?
By Jésu! I would do it all again!
I cannot bear it! (grabs for his dagger, to do himself harm)

Balthasar (wrestling with him)

No, my Lord! You shall not act so!
Will you deal your own mother such a blow?
And your own father, will you take his son?
Some things cannot ever be undone! (taking knife away)
I beg you wait until I see the priest,
And carry word from you to him at least.

Romeo

Then I shall write, and ye shall bear the letter hence.
And if you love me, come back whensoe’er you may (he writes).
Now carry this, and to my parents, too
O! would I were a letter! I would go with you!

Exeunt Balthasar

Romeo

There is no time more brutal than the waiting
The hours file past like mourners in a row
All dressed in black, disconsolate
With teary faces, each one like the last
As if the sunny day were turned to night!
I have no purpose here, no family or friends
Except to drown my sorrows in the cup;
To take those empty hours like flagons
And with wine’s blood to fill them up.

Act IV

County Paris

Dear Juliet, my new and precious bride
Venus smiles not on a house of tears,
Please, beloved, let me draw you to delight
And to begin in joy our marriage years.
Come thou to my arms, my lover and my wife
And I shall my utmost devotion prove.

Juliet

Touch me not! I may perforce be yours
Your wife in name, but ne’er yours in deed
My father may have given you my hand
But you must count my heart and body dead.

County Paris

But love, I cannot comprehend this mood,
Are we not man and wife, by holy rood?
How do you say you will ne’er be mine?

Juliet

If love is fate, if fate condemns to love,
And we choose not, but Cupid draws his bow
His golden arrows striking from above
How shall I love e’en should I will it so?
My heart is broken, cold as death with loss
Love may be gold, but this, my Lord, is dross.

County Paris

I have loved a hundred times as my eyes have led
But only once a virtuous wife to wed
I thought that this my gift would ease your pain.
Rest you easy, love. I will return again.

Balthasar

Most holy friar, from Mantua I come
In haste to bring a letter from my Lord
I feared to leave him ‘lone, he was so wild
With grief over his lady’s broken word.
I did explain she went not by her will,
But weeping, at her father’s forcéd hand,
I beg you father, send him something back
To give him hope or let him understand.

Friar Lawrence

My time ran short, my plans went all awry
I grieve with him that he has lost a wife
But I will write and offer this one balm:
If Romeo might choose monastic life.

Balthasar

He’d rather die—

Friar Lawrence

And so said she, to leap from any tow’r
Or hide her with a dead man in his shroud
And yet our holy faith does not discern
Divorce or suicide, neither are allowed
And yet each one would fain cut out his life
Than one give up—the other be—a wife.
The fault is mine, that ever I conspired
To join the two, and end the city’s strife.
I’ll write to him, for what good it may serve.
Perhaps in tonsure he can start anew.

Act V

Juliet’s Mother

Now Peter, send for one who may
To Mantua go, and find that run-a-gate,
That Romeo who hath wrought our family pain
To send him such an unaccustomed dram
That he will soon join Tybalt in death
It may not give our Juliet back her joy
Nor bring our cousin back from Heaven’s gate
Yet by the holy rood I will not cease
Until this bitter physic I employ.

Peter

My lady, I obey.

Juliet’s Mother

But mark you, find someone who loves him not
Who will not balk or carry tales
Or cry a loud alarum in the streets,
Or give himself away by some chance word
But with a wine well-mulled with venom sweet
So ply him, ‘til he sleeps eternal sleep.
Find me such a man and bring him here,
I will with gold his pockets gladly fill
When news of Romeo’s timeless death I hear.

Peter

I know just such a man, ask not the whys.
He will make certain that this Romeo dies.

(exeunt)

Mantua

Romeo

When one lies down with dogs, he wakes with fleas
And so I fear in this accursed town
How many friends I have, when I have wine!
An hundred such, with sorrows all to drown!
Where can that Balthasar be?
Perhaps he cannot find where I have come.
That seems unlike the cause, when all these may
Clustered thick as flies upon the dung.

Stranger

Pray you, good sir, do you have wine?

Romeo

Aye, and some to spare.

Stranger

I’m much obliged. I’ve come full twenty mile today
And drunk such dust I fain must wash it down.

Romeo

So far? What city is your home?

Stranger

Verona, sir, and better is there none.

Romeo

So too am I, but never now again.

Stranger

How so? I thank you for the wine.
Verona’s drink is best, but this is fine.

Romeo

Hast then not heard events of late?
The Prince’s ban on riots in the streets,
How good Mercutio, cousin to the Prince
Did meet a bitter fate at Tybalt’s hand,
Who then was slain by Romeo to avenge his friend
And so was banished—!

Stranger

You speak as you were there, I wot.

Romeo

Alas! I would that I were not!

Stranger

Are you that self-same Romeo then? A Montague?

Romeo

Alas, I am. I would it were not true.

Stranger

How dost thee here? How liv’st then, so cut off
From home and family, all that thou dost love?

Romeo

You might well ask.
Give me more wine, and have some for thyself
We’ll lift a cup to things that may not be,
I have defied the stars, now all arrayed against me. (They drink – Stranger puts in slow-acting poison)

 Stranger

How feelst thou now?

Romeo

Not dead enough! Oh sweet oblivion,
Come wine, come sleep, erase a little while
The losses that are mine!
How sharp and cruel. A living death, a death in very life
Cut off from both my parents and my wife.

Stranger

How so? I have not heard your marriage in the town.

Romeo (Slurring, poison beginning to work)

So secret.

Stranger

But friend, tell me her name. Come, let us hence from here
And say in secret whom you hold so dear.

Romeo

I feel not well.

Stranger

I’ll help you. Will you not tell?

Romeo (sighing)

Dear Capulet.

 Stranger (aside)

He names the very one who sentest me.
I do not understand how this can be.
Come, Romeo. Awake and tell me now,
Which Capulet calls you husband, and how?

Romeo (mumbling, fading.)

Juliet. (dies)

Stranger

How passing strange is this? Can it be true?
That one of Capulet wed one of Montague?
I’ll hide the corse and hie me with his ring
As proof that I have truly done this thing
To seek from lady Capulet my recompense.
Haps she will pay the more for my silence.

 Verona

 Juliet’s Mother

 So here you are. Is Tybalt blood avenged
Which was so foully spilt, his death repaid?

 Stranger

Aye, lady madame. Here is proof indeed.

Juliet’s Mother

It is well done. Thy payment then is earned
In meting out the justice he had spurned. (pays him large jinging bag of coins, turns to go)

Stranger

Yet there is more you ought perhaps to know.

Juliet’s Mother (pausing)

Ist so?

Stranger

Before he died, he spake a secret thing:
That one of Capulet wears his wedding ring.

Juliet’s Mother

Then he lied!

Stranger

He gave a name the moment that he died.
His secret love and wife – Juliet, his bride.

Juliet’s Mother (more money, thrust quickly)

It isn’t true!
No Capulet would marry Montague.
Nor has my daughter ever ‘scaped our sight,
That she could such an ending consummate.
The Montague do lie, and lying live, and lying die.
But this your future silence ought to buy.
Is it enough?

Stranger

For now. It fills my hand.

Juliet’s Mother

By Jésu’s blood, I think I understand. Good bye.

Stranger (exeunts, coins jingling)

Juliet’s Mother

What horror tale is this, my daughter secret-wed
Didst she not come a virgin to the wedding bed?
Now to my husband, close in secret to speak
To prevent what this disclosure could wreak.

 Juliet’s Father

What shame has our young baggage brought us now?
I thought her safely bounded by her wedding vow!

Juliet’s Mother

I would the fool were married to her grave!
I said it once before, I say it now again.
Such impropriety makes a bitter stain
Upon the honor of our family
If he spoke true who brought this word to me!

Juliet’s father.

If this be true, and she in mortal sin.
We wrong the County Paris, long our friend,
In convent we must bury her, as in the grave
His friendship and our honor thus to save.
Yet how to breach the subject – fail my heart!
I fear no man on earth has such an art.

Juliet’s Mother

Before we destroy the joy of our good friend,
And the dishonor such a blow portends,
I’ll speak to Juliet, haps she will deny.
A man who kills for gold may also lie.

Verona, House of County Paris

Juliet

Mother? What brings you to this house?

Juliet’s Mother

I needs must speak to you in private.

Juliet

Then come in here.
We shall be safe from any list’ning ear.
What news? What brings this haste,
To speak in such a closéd space?

Juliet’s Mother

I have had word – from where it matters not
That on your marriage you were not a maid
But wife already, that in mortal sin
Thou liv’st now, and the County Paris hast betrayed!

Juliet

Tis true. At last you ask, who never asked before
But marched me all perforce through the church door
And listened not my cries, nor stopped, nor cared.

Juliet’s Mother

But how can this thing be? How have you dared?
And is it also true
That thou wert wedded to one of Montague?

Juliet

Am wedded, since you ask.
Or were those holy vows, by Jesu blessed
Erased by those you deemed more useful in your quest?

Juliet’s Mother

Wert wedded, thou ungrateful wretch
Art widowed now. My sole regret
Is that thy cousin Tybalt had not struck him down
When they fought o’er Mercutio’s blood in town.

Juliet (stricken)

Can it be true?
But why, and how?
Not seven days have passed since he and I
Did in the holy friar’s chamber seal our vows!

Juliet’s Mother

What? Friar Lawrence?
Is he involved in this great sin?

Juliet

I had no choice; no more did he.
Nor could excuse himself, excusing me.
But acted all perforce at father’s will,
And wed me, knowing all, to the County.

Juliet’s Mother

God pardon sin! And does the County know?

Juliet

He knoweth not, and I would keep it so.
He waits with patience for my heart to turn his way
Excusing as my grief my every nay,
and has not importuned me for his due.
O! Romeo! I have been a faithful wife to you! (breaks down)

Juliet’s Mother

Thou wretched child, to think that I should mourn
That thou, my sole survivor, ere were born.
I’ll to thy father go and see what he will say.
Perhaps into a convent thou shouldst go away. (leaves her weeping)

Paris comforts Juliet

Verona, house of Capulet

Juliet’s Father

What says our errant child? These hours seem long,
To learn if we have done the County wrong.

(this is as far as I’ve gotten in 8 months)

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