These opening lines provide a sub-scene that juxtapose nicely with what has just gone before and what follows (a rather long-winded expression). Romeo and Juliet enter “aloft” which reminds us of the earlier balcony scene and their encounter then when both were full of all kinds of romantic hopes. (It also shows that Shakespeare was rather intent on using the physical resources of his theatre to the fullest, best effect). Now it is clear that they have spent a night of connubial bliss together (the Zefferelli movie is more graphic and shows the couple in bed together, with mild nudity). This contrasts with the conservative formality we’ve just seen from Paris in 3.4, a formality in the context of Juliet’s two parents (who, by implication, are somewhere close to Juliet’s bedroom and the nocturnal happenings).
The sub-scene is full of suggestive images. On the one hand there is nightingale, lark, herald sings, songs, notes, tune, discords, sharps, division [i.e. melody]. Then there are words associated with light–day, morn, candles, burnt, meteor, sun, night, torch, and so forth. In each set there is a paradoxical tension between “happiness” and “sorrow,” or ideas/notions related to those concepts. In one sense, the sub-scene simply reflects what two lovers say to each other when they are loath to part from one another, especially in the circumstances in which Romeo and Juliet find themselves. However (and repeating an ongoing impression of him) some of Romeo’s thoughts are excessive and silly–“Let me be ta’en, let me be put to death. / I am content, so thou wilt have it so” (17-18; but there’s also a very faint bawdy innuendo here). Indeed, Romeo’s line (36) epitomizes much about him “More light and light–more dark and dark our woes.” He is ever-ready to fall back into a mindless fatalism, although their predicament is real enough as the brief intrusion by the Nurse announcing “your lady mother is coming to your chamber” (38) serves to remind the audience. Structurally, the Nurse’s intrusion helps to break up the duologue between Romeo and Juliet; it also signals a physical change or movement because (after her exit) Romeo descends from the balcony (see the bult-in stage direction, “One kiss, and I’ll descend” (42). Again this serves to remind us of the earlier balcony scene, with here events being physically reversed. It is also interesting to compare editorial decisions on this stage direction. The “old” Pelican complete edition merely gives “He goeth down.” However, the Norton edition, recalling the rope ladder mentioned in the text, specifies “He lets down the ladder of cords and goes down.” Indeed, Norton goes even further by adding a direction for Juliet at line 59: “pulling up the ladder and weeping” (Pelican provides nothing). The Norton addition is logical of course, since Juliet would not want her parents to see the ladder, and it is just the sort of addition that would be made in a production; nevertheless, this indicates that the text is, from one viewpoint, just a working script subject (in Shakespeare’s time) to suitable amendment according to production necessities.
Back to the parting of the lovers. Noteworthy is Juliet taking up Romeo’s woe-laden pessimism expressed in her prophecy:
“O God, I have an ill-diving soul!
Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low,
As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.
Either my eyesight fails, or thou lookest pale” (54-57)
This is a piece of ironic foreshadowing in that it reverses what actually transpires. It is interesting too that, for whatever reason, audiences tend to “enjoy” hearing a prophecy and then seeing whether it turns out to be true. It’s all theatrical sleight of hand since the audience both then and now actually knows what will happen (even if someone has never seen or read the play before, the Act 1 Prologue has laid out events). Juliet’s apostrophe to Fortune (60-64) reemphasises the element of fate in the tragedy, and causes us to think about the extent to which events rule character–are Romeo and Juliet interesting in and of themselves; are they responsible for what happens to them; or are they mere puppets of fate? The more the verdict falls on the latter element the less moving and effective is their tragedy.