A fool's paradise Introduction
I'm the Nurse. I'm always ready with a joke, even if no one else is laughing. I'm Juliet's only confidant and friend. And you want to know what I think? Well, allow me.
Now, afore God, I am so vexed, that every part about
me quivers. Scurvy knave! Pray you, sir, a word:
and as I told you, my young lady bade me inquire you
out; what she bade me say, I will keep to myself:
but first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her into
a fool's paradise, as they say, it were a very gross
kind of behavior, as they say: for the gentlewoman
is young; and, therefore, if you should deal double
with her, truly it were an ill thing to be offered
to any gentlewoman, and very weak dealing. (2.4.158-167)
Who Said It and Where
Even a tragedy needs some comic relief, and who better for the job than Juliet's bawdy, lower-class nurse? It's comic gold: she's not exactly high-born, so she's already funny (or at least, would be seen that way in ol' Shakey's day); and she's a nurse, which means all she can talk about are bodies—bodies having sex, bodies having babies, bodies nursing babies. All that good toilet humor stuff.
The Nurse and Juliet have a loving, teasing sort of relationship. Juliet trusts the Nurse with the news that she loves Romeo and wants to marry him. She doesn't tell anyone else, so we're thinking that's a pretty big deal. And in this scene, Juliet has entrusted the Nurse with a lover's errand. She wants her to go get some scoop from Romeo.
We should tell you that Romeo and Juliet have already met, fallen instantly in love, and decided to get hitched, all in the same whirlwind night. Juliet tells Romeo that she will send someone the next day to see if he's managed to track down a friar to perform their wedding ceremony. That's exactly what the Nurse is trying to suss out of Romeo in these lines.
And as it turns out, he has.