This week we’ll look at Romeo & Juliet‘s The Nurse, who is Juliet’s servant, guardian and former wet nurse. In the play, Juliet is supposed to be 13 years old. The action takes place shortly before Juliet’s upcoming birthday.
Imagine being 13 years old and still having to hang out with your old wet nurse.
The Nurse first appears in the poem Romeus and Juliet from 1562, which Shakespeare stole from served as Shakespeare’s basis for his play.
The Nurse acts as a kind of go-between between the two leads. She helps set them up. She also provides a counterpoint to Juliet and Romeo’s idealized spiritual whatever thing they have. For her, love seems to be more about physical pleasure:
“I am the drudge, and toil in your delight, / But you shall bear the burden soon at night” (II.5.75-76)
She’s telling this to a 13 year old.
For an in-depth analysis of The Nurse’s character, there is this video:
And here is the monologue itself:
NURSE: Even or odd, of all days in the year, Come Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen. Susan and she (God rest all Christian souls!) Were of an age. Well, Susan is with God; She was too good for me. But, as I said, On Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen; That shall she, marry; I remember it well. ‘Tis since the earthquake now eleven years; And she was weaned (I never shall forget it), Of all the days of the year, upon that day; For I had then laid wormwood to my dug, Sitting in the sun under the dovehouse wall. My lord and you were then at Mantua. Nay, I do bear a brain. But, as I said, When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool, To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug! Shake, quoth the dovehouse! ‘Twas no need, I trow, To bid me trudge. And since that time it is eleven years, For then she could stand high-lone; nay, by th’ rood, She could have run and waddled all about; For even the day before, she broke her brow; And then my husband (God be with his soul! ‘A was a merry man) took up the child. ‘Yea,’ quoth he, ‘dost thou fall upon thy face? Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit; Wilt thou not, Jule?’ and, by my holidam, The pretty wretch left crying and said ‘Ay.’ To see now how a jest shall come about! I warrant, an I should live a thousand years I never should forget it. ‘Wilt thou not, Jule?’ quoth he, And, pretty fool, it stinted and said ‘Ay.’
As the curtain rises, a poor, dusty shop with its dirty window obscuring the dark hos-tile night, with its mean little counter, and with its juke box glaring vulgarly from the side, the storekeeper is taking inventory. The door is flung open, letting in a lithe young black man, weirdly gotten up in a soft, high-crowned hat, sunglasses, a cape, short slacks and sneakers. Mr. Hanley calls this act Pas de Deux. In this dance for two, the characters make hesitant approaches, circle, feint, threaten each other with gun and ice pick but scarcely make contact. The young man is obviously a hunted man. Through the circumlocutions of his odd mixture of jive talk and fancy literary allusions, there pants a sense of terror. The storekeeper is a non-Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, is close-mouthed, suspicious, anxious to avoid self-involvement. In the second act, the Pas de Deux becomes Pas de Trois. The third dancer is Rosie, an eigh-teen-year old from Riverdale, has wandered into the shop after losing her way while looking for the address of an abortionist. Rosie has no illusions about her homeliness or about the encounter that has led to her troubles. The laconic German and the flowery young man react to her with a sensitivity and concern that seem to diminish the furies within them. But not for long. Finally the German is driven to revealing the truth about himself as the young man, at last, in the third act, faces his inexorable fate out there on the killing ground.
It looks like they haven’t updated the synopsis since ’64, either. Hehe.
Rosie: If you knew me better, you’d see that this is exactly the kind of thing that’s likely to happen to me. Getting knocked up, I mean. The point is it was my first time, I was a virgin before that. Wouldn’t you know it, I’d get caught? Aside from everything else, I’m not lucky, either. You see, if I was lucky, Harold and I could’ve succumbed to our silly little passion and that would’ve been that, the end of it. And New Rochelle, of all places. At least if it’d been in some nice apartment in the Village, say, with the sound coming through the window of traffic and people, the breeze blowing the curtain over the bed, like in the movies. But no. I lost my virginity in the attic of an old house in New Rochelle. Harold’s grandmother’s house. On a rainy day in spring on the floor of the attic in his grandmothers house, listening to the rain on the roof, breathing the dust of old things…And what comes next but his grandmother who was supposed to be in the city for the day. But instead, she’s suddenly standing there, screaming: “Stop that! Stop that this instant!” Needless to say, it was out of the question. Stopping. At that particular moment. I mean, sex is like a flight over the sea, one reaches the point of no return…I guess it sounds funny now, but you know, at the time…it was pretty rotten. Sordid, I mean…it wasn’t at all the way it’s supposed to be. And Harold, of all people. A girl finds herself in this predicament, this condition, she’d at least like to think the cause of it was some clever, handsome guy with charm and experience, just returned from spending a year in Rome, say, on a Guggenheim fellowship. But Harold. Harold is six foot two, about a hundred and twenty five pounds, tops, and an Economics major at CCNY…That’s about the best I’ll ever be able to do, I know it. Ever since I found out I was pregnant I’ve been walking around with a face down to here and my mother kept saying, “What’s the matter with you, anyway? I just don’t know what’s gotten into you lately.” So, finally, I told her: a kid named Harold, as a matter of fact.
Glas: But I had a wife…
There is a male monologue in the play. And it might be a decent one for an older actor. Glas’ character survived the Holocaust.
He talks about those days, being a Gentile married to a Jew.
And there we have Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.
The show is written for one actor and one actress. The woman’s character is emotional and unstable, and talks about hitting someone in the supermarket who wouldn’t get out of the way of the tuna fish she wanted to buy. The man’s character is giving a speech about positive thinking, but keeps spiraling into negativity. He also, it turns out, is the man the woman hit in the supermarket. The show consists of two 30-minute monologues (and then a 30 minute second act, some of it monologue, some of it scenes between the two characters). The characters do not have official names.
And of course the monologue is the one where The Woman talks about attacking someone blocking a can of tuna. The monologue can be found here. Or below.
WOMAN: I want to talk to you about life. It’s just too difficult to be alive, isn’t it, and try to function? There are all these people to deal with. I tried to buy a can of tuna fish in the supermarket, and there was this person standing right in front of where I wanted to reach out to get the tuna fish, and I waited a while, to see if they’d move, and they didn’t—they were looking at tuna fish too, but they were taking a real long time on it, reading the ingredients on each can like they were a book, a pretty boring book if you ask me, but nobody has; so I waited a long while, and they didn’t move, and I couldn’t get to the tuna fish cans; and I thought about asking them to move, but then they seemed so stupid not to have sensed that I needed to get by them that I had this awful fear that it would do no good, no good at all, to ask them, they’d probably say something like, “We’ll move when we’re goddam ready you nagging bitch” and then what would I do? And so then I started to cry out of frustration, quietly, so as not to disturb anyone, and still, even though I was softly sobbing, this stupid person didn’t grasp that I needed to get by them, and so I reached over with my fist, and I brought it down real hard on his head and screamed: “Would you kindly move asshole!!!”
And the person fell to the ground, and looked totally startled, and some child nearby started to cry, and I was still crying, and I couldn’t imagine making use of the tuna fish now anyway, and so I shouted at the child to stop crying—I mean, it was drawing too much attention to me—and I ran out of the supermarket, and I thought, I’ll take a taxi to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I need to be surrounded with culture right now, not tuna fish.
Let’s see how YouTubers did on this one:
Wow, we made it from the A to Z of Tuna Fish Monologue but we’re not through yet. Oh, no, kiddos. For some reason the monologue is also popular amongst German YouTubers so you get to see the same thing, except in German. The German is here. Some of the German versions start with the tuna mention instead of “Let’s talk about life” stuff.
Ich möchte mit Ihnen über das Leben sprechen. ’s einfach viel zu kompliziert, am Leben zu sein, finden Sie nicht auch? Dieses dauernde Sich-bemühen- Müssen, lebenstüchtig zu sein… All diese Leute, mit denen man’s zu tun bekommt! Ich hab versucht, mir eine Dose Thunfisch zu kaufen, im Supermarkt, da stand dieser Mensch genau da, wo ich hingreifen wollte, um mir die Thunfischdose zu nehmen, also wartete ich einen Moment, wollte sehn, ob die Leute zur Seite gehn würden, aber keine Spur – die glotzten, wie ich, auf die Thunfischdosen… nahmen sich allerdings endlos viel Zeit, lasen die genaue Zusammensetzung der Zutaten auf jeder einzelnen Dose, als wär’s ein Buch, ein ganz schön langweiliges Buch, wenn Sie mich fragen, aber mich fragt ja keiner; jedenfalls wartete ich ziemlich lange, und kein Mensch ging weiter, ich kam an diese Thunfischdosen einfach nicht ran, wollte die schon bitten, etwas zur Seite zu gehn, aber die schienen mir derartig verblödet zu sein, wenn sie schon nicht s p ü r t e n, daß ich an ihnen vorbei wollte, daß ich diese gräßliche Angst bekam, daß das auch nichts bringen würde, überhaupt nichts bringen würde, die zu bitten, die würden wahrscheinlich so was rauslassen wie: “Wir gehen weiter, wann’s uns paßt, verdammt noch mal, du Miststück!“ und was würde ich dann tun. Also hab ich vor lauter Frust zu weinen angefangen, still vor mich hin, um nur ja keinen zu stören, und trotzdem: Obwohl ich leise schluchzte, b e g r i f f dieser idiotische Mensch immer noch nicht, daß ich an denen vorbei mußte, um an den gottverdammten Thunfisch ranzukommen, die Leute sind ja derartig unsensibel, ich hasse sie einfach, also langte ich mit meiner Faust rüber und schlug sie dem einen Kerl mit aller Wucht auf seinen Schädel und brüllte: “Wären Sie so nett, beiseite zu gehen, Sie Arschloch!!!“ Und der Mensch fiel zu Boden und sah total verblüfft aus, und irgendein Kind fing in der Nähe zu weinen an, und ich weinte immer noch und konnte mir überhaupt nicht vorstellen, jetzt noch das Geringste mit diesem Thunfisch anzufangen,
In German theatre, the director is king. I’ve noticed German monologists will modify the words and settings much more than their Anglophone counterparts.
Thanks again for checking out Monologue Monday on Unknown Playwrights!
Hello and welcome back to Monologue Monday. This week’s monologue is perhaps the most unique monologue featured on the site so far.
It is simply, yet strongly, the word “no” repeated. This is an incredibly powerful monologue that forces the actor to, well, act. It isn’t merely saying “no” with different tones. The writer/performer Palesa Molefe runs the gamut of human emotions as she expresses various iterations of the word “no.”
As a produced monologist myself, Molefe has achieved with one word anything greater than I have (I know it’s not a competition). Let’s take a look:
On the flip side of things, there are people who say “no” to everything, but they tend to exist in Jim Carrey movies.
As for the performance aspect, I asked actor, dancer, director and intimacy choreographer Nicole Perry for her take on this monologue:
This monologue is great for actors working on developing emotional nuance or range. Similar to the Meisner game that requires partners to repeat, the monologue is simply the word “no”. Memorization made easy!
This monologue is a great showcase of “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”! Each repetition is different. She covers great emotional range throughout the performance, and a variety of commitment levels and/or intentions. From adamant denial to a meek admittance, from scoffing to delight.
Because the words are easy to remember, this could also be a great monologue to work on movement. As a movement analyst, I’m interested in when our movement supports what we are saying, and when our movement belies our true intentions. This would be a great piece to play with not just saying “no” with a variety of emotions and intentions, but also adding a layer of movement that either supports or denies what you are saying! What characters/situations come up for you as you experience this?
I love that this monologue allows us to say “no”. Frankly, in 2019, it’s a skill we need to practice. As actors, we are conditioned to say “yes”. But, as the Broadway Intimacy Director Claire Warden likes to say “No is a full sentence”. If, as a performer or an acting student, you are put in a position that is unsafe, triggering, or questionable, you have the right to ask questions, or to just say “no”. The difficulty in this is that the power dynamic of actor/director, particularly if it’s student actor/adult director, makes us very fearful of the consequences of saying “no”. So, practice saying “no”. I hope you always get to train and work in situations that honor your agency and personhood, and allow you have and hold your boundaries. But, in case you don’t, know how to say “no”.
Ms Molefe was kind enough to give us her introduction:
My name is Palesa Molefe a 20-year-old self-taught actor and scriptwriter from Botswana. I have always had a love for the arts, specifically film and stage performance, however my acting career truly began after the short film ‘Lacuna’ which I wrote, produced and featured was amongst the official selection in the Botswana National Film Festival 2018. I’ve gained recognition for my creative and unorthodox style of storytelling. Currently I am working under my mentor Mr. Tefo Paya – an internationally recognized performer and director from Botswana, to help develop and sculpt my career.
Beyond introductions, Ms Molefe went out of her way to answer some questions for us.
Where did the idea come from to write/perform this monologue?
–I wanted to give light to the abuse women in Botswana go through. For reasons only known to us, most of us stay silent after having gone through such a traumatic experience. This piece to validate every woman’s ‘NO’, whether she’s saying it drunk or nervously laughing because she might be afraid. Her no is valid and she’s worth being listened to and taken seriously.
How did your prepare/rehearse this monologue?
– I did not rehearse this monologue because I know that women who have gone through this weren’t given the luxury. The day I decided to shoot the monologue, I grabbed my camera, set it up in my room, gave myself time to find my center and remembered all the stories I had heard prior to that moment. I then allowed myself to feel every emotion that needed to be felt in each moment as I started to record.
What has the response been?
–I come from a very conservative country, so it was a bit of a culture shock. The delivery of the message was different from what a lot of people had seen but overall viewers were warm and appreciative of the message.
Have you done much other writing, dramatic or otherwise?
–I continue to write to this day. I have plans for these scripts, whether it’s to share them on stage, film or just to keep them to myself. I recently returned from a tour around Botswana called ‘Madi Majwana’, it focused on using theatre as a tool to educate people from all walks of life on financial literacy. Right now I am focused on being a good student and learning from the ones who came before me in the creative industry.
What was the hardest thing about this monologue?
–Being honest. Being honest about how I truly felt in telling the story of many women.
What are your influences?
–What I feel, hear, think and see every day plays a big part in what influences me. If I was to move to a different country, my story and my truth would be different from the one I have now. I would experience life differently, I would hear different stories, I’d think differently because new environment adjustments and I’d see different scenery, different people, different ways of life.
What advice do you have for other performers/writers who want to use their voice for activism?
–Only you can tell your story best. When you’re convicted to write a script or perform a piece, do it in a way you know only you can. That means trusting in your capabilities, trusting in your own voice, in your own truth and owning it. You have to admit that it’s kind of hard to write a story about the life of a 50-year old man in Africa whilst you’re a 25-year old young man from America because well that’s not your story, it’s not your truth.
What do you have coming up next? How can we find out more about you?
–Currently I am working on a script for another short Film. It’s still in its early stages but it will be out and up on my YouTube channel before this year comes to an end. Email –firstname.lastname@example.org.
YouTube channel – Palesa Molefe
(is where my content can viewed, including Lacuna the short film.)
Facebook Page – Palesa Molefe
Ms Molefe is truly one of the most impressive theatre people I’ve interacted with. Please subscribe, follow or contact her. Folks like Ms Molefe are the future of theatre.
Situation: Gretchen has been convicted of the pre-planned murder of her uncle, who raped her repeatedly when she was a child. Now that she’s in prison, she wants revenge on all men for the terror that she went through. The security guard is her most immediate target.
Here is a sample from the monologue:
Yeah I shot him. What’cha gonna do about it, huh? Fucking pig. Fucking woman-hating, vaginaphobic son of a bitch! That shithead had it coming. Don’t look at me with those sad eyes! Those puppy dogs! Those droopy goopy cellophanes! What’cha gonna do about it huh? Feel sorry for me punk? Fuck you! You goddamn pansy! Momma’s boy! Sad sack loony tunes, probably can’t even please a woman, can ya?!? (She leans in seductively) Probably don’t even know what a pussy looks like. Do you?If I showed you my mine, would you even know what to do with it? (She chuckles) Yeah, I didn’t think so. These bars can’t hold me in. These walls can’t shackle me. I am transcendental. I am existential! I am anti-matter, ectoplasm, plant destroying phytoplasm. I will melt into the floorboards, delve into the ether, I will eat the ground beneath my feet, and swallow up asbestos. I will rise up on the other side, a thousand times larger than I am right now, and I will cut you while you’re sleeping. I will fuck your family, and I will eat your goddamn dog for dinner! That is – assuming that you have one. Do you have a dog there, Mr. Guard? Mr. Doggy Guard? Or are you just a pussy man like I think you are? (Small pause) Don’t even look at me. Don’t even breathe near me. Every particle of air you spew is like a toxin. Every sound you make is … (She spits at him) Just get away from me. (She turns away) Why don’t you leave me alone? (Small pause) I did what I had to do. What someone had to do. What my father should have done a million years ago – I put that fucker down. Like the rabid bitch he was. (She sits) Why are you still looking at me? Shit. (She wipes a tear from her eye) Do you want a blow job? Is that…? (She shrugs) Fine. Whatever. Bring it in here, buddy, I’ll suck you off. Just like every other guy in the universe. ‘Just blow me and I’ll let you live.’ (Pause) Well, what the fuck are you waiting for? I gave you an invitation, didn’t I?