Romeo and Juliet contains a scene set in a tomb – namely the vault where in all Juliet’s ancestors are laid to rest and where Juliet is taken when she seems to be dead on the morning of her wedding to Paris. Shakespeare skilfully whets our appetite for this scene in Juliet’s soliloquy when she wonders if she would be afraid should she wake in the vault and find herself alone with a lot of dead bodies…
As in a vault, an ancient receptacle,
Where, for these many hundred years, the bones
Of all my buried ancestors are packed:
Where bloody Tybalt, yet but green in earth,
Lies festering in his shroud; where, as they say,
At some hours in the night spirits resort;–
Alack, alack, is it not like that I,
So early waking, what with loathsome smells,
And shrieks like mandrakes’ torn out of the earth,
That living mortals, hearing them, run mad:–
O, if I wake, shall I not be distraught,
Environed with all these hideous fears?
And madly play with my forefather’s joints?
And pluck the mangled Tybalt from his shroud?
And, in this rage, with some great kinsman’s bone,
As with a club, dash out my desperate brains?
Of course this is not what happens but still having placed this grim picture in our minds Shakespeare does take us into the vault to see Romeo and Juliet’s last moments. So how does he do this and do some kind of justice to the picture he has painted of this space?
Well this is what is suggested in Walter Hodges excellent book Enter The Whole Army.
Essentially this shows them using the discovery space dressed out as the Vault – here we see the bones of Juliet’s ancestors and the mangled Tybalt in his shroud. Shakespeare cannot give us the smells and sounds that Juliet imagines but surely our imaginations can fill in the blanks. As ever a simple but effective solution to bringing to life this great scene.