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Stories from within
   

Letter from the nurse to a friend


Dear Cordelia,

Oh my dear friend, I am a broken woman, a sad embittered lonely old woman. I am sitting at my dressing table writing this letter to you. The hour has struck midnight and yet I cannot sleep, afraid of the ghosts, afraid of the nightmares. The tragedy, the memories haunt me day and night. I am rent apart by guilt, my grief is profound, my soul troubled. Death is calling me and yet I cannot embrace it. I need to unburden my torture mind and you, my dear friend, are my chosen confidant.

The fire has died in the grate, I shiver, the air is chilled, reminding me of a cold stone tomb where my dear Juliet and her beloved Romeo drew their last breath. Star crossed lovers meeting their fate. Let me tell you, dear friend, of the events that led to such a tragedy.

The feud between the Capulets and the Montagues was as strong as ever, there was fighting in the streets, Verona was a city of hate. The Prince, a man of the law, struggled to keep the peace.

Amidst all this trouble, my master and mistress, Lord and Lady Capulet, held a grand masked ball. My dear Juliet, now a beautiful young woman of near fourteen years, was to meet Paris – a prospective suitor for her hand in marriage – for the first time.

‘Oh such a man of wax’ he would have made a fine husband.

My heart leapt with pride when I helped my beautiful Juliet into her gown. How she had blossomed from the babe I had nursed (my own dear Susan having sadly died, as you know and brought up as my own). Knew her mind did my Juliet, when asked by her mother:

“Speak briefly, can you like of Paris’ love?”

She had replied;

“I’ll look to like, if looking liking move. But no more will I endart mine eye. Than your consent gives strength to make it fly.”

It was not Paris; however that Juliet spent time with at the ball, but young Romeo, son of Montague, enemy of Capulet!

Their young minds were swimming with the taste of true love and she begged me, dear friend, to help them marry! I was to meet with young Romeo, to inquire as to the arrangements he had made with the good Friar Lawrence and to return to Juliet with the news.

Oh, my dear friend, how my heart did beat, as I walked among the crowd of young men seeking out young Romeo Montague. I was harried and mocked by that loud Mercutio, ‘A bawd, a bawd!’ he called me! Upon finding young Romeo, he told me that Friar Lawrence would be marrying them that very same afternoon!

Oh, such love! Such passion! I was torn my dear friend, my loyalty to my master and mistress but my deep affection for my Juliet stronger. Romeo was a wild and impetuous young man who won my heart. I myself had known such love, such passion. Leaving him with a warning not to lead my Juliet into a fool’s paradise, I hastened to impart the news to Juliet. Barely had I got my breath back than she was upon me!

I wept tears, my dear friend, when the hour came and they were married.

Then, came the shattering news that was to rent all our lives apart. Mercutio dead, by Tybalt’s hand, Tybalt slain in revenge by Romeo, Romeo himself banished to Mantua.

I could offer Juliet no solace, she was distraught, her dear cousin, my good friend Tybalt dead. Her new husband banished.

I had to put my own grief aside, dear friend, to seek out young Romeo from Friar Lawrence’s cell. He rose from his weeping asking of me:

“Spakest thou of Juliet? How is it with her?”

I told him, dear friend, how she just weeps and weeps and falls upon her bed. That she wished him come to her bedchamber that very night, so they could spend one night, their wedding night, together. Romeo would have to be away on the sound of a lark.

My Juliet stayed low in spirit, grieving for Tybalt, her Romeo gone. Her father, Lord Capulet, having had enough of this moping, hastily arranged a marriage for Juliet to the man Paris. She cried to me, dear friend:

“Oh, God! – O nurse, how shall this be prevented?”

She asked for comfort. I could offer her none. With Romeo in exile, I told her, I thought it best she married the County Paris. She appeased me, my dear friend; I did not know how much I betrayed her, hurt her, how so her mind was set. As the wedding plans progressed I was unaware of the tragic consequences about to befall us.

The night before the wedding, the entire house was busy. Paris, the bridegroom arrived and Juliet still abed. I was sent to rouse her.

Oh! The shock! She lay not in sleep, but in death. The light went from my world. She was taken to lie in the tomb, cold and alone, my dear Juliet.

I can only recount to you what happened; as I heard it tell; on that fateful day, the day that Juliet joined her Romeo in death. I thank the Lord; I was spared that final scene.

Romeo had come from Mantua on hearing of Juliet’s death. Overcome by rage and grief he had killed Paris – who had been paying his respects at the tomb – and threw himself prostrate on the body of Juliet. In his despair he drank poison and lay down beside her. Declaring his love for her, Romeo died.

I pause now in my writing with the need to compose myself. Oh, my dear Cordelia, sweet, innocent Juliet was only feigning death! Alone in her plight Juliet had turned to Friar Lawrence. In his poor misguided way he had hatched a plan to reunite the lovers, giving her a potion that would give the appearance of death. Romeo never got the message with details of the plan, he like us believed Juliet truly dead. When she awoke from her stupor, instead of a joyous reunion, there lay Romeo dead at her side. Friar Lawrence could not sway the girl from her fate; Juliet took up a dagger and stabbed herself.

All Verona was in mourning, the feud forgotten, hands were shook. Peace settled on the city, but there was no peace in my heart. We were all fated, my dear friend, now death is my fate. I shall not here the lark on the morn.

Goodnight and goodbye, my dear Cordelia,

Yours with affection,

Nurse.


Jan Hedger


FootNote: This was one of my pieces of work for my Shakespeare assignment, English GCSE. Shakespeare scared me rigid! Still does! However with this piece we were allowed to empathise with a character and take the story further – that made it easier for me and I love my letter!
I posted it because, although it won’t suit everybody, I do feel this story could be related to any time including the world we live in today – the infighting, unrequited love and the realisation that killing is not the answer!
Give it a go! You might be surprised!
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare