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How does Shakespeare portray pride and honour in male characters of Romeo and Juliet?

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hello654 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 15, 2012 at 4:34 AM via web

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How does Shakespeare portray pride and honour in male characters of Romeo and Juliet?

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tamarakh | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 26, 2013 at 5:27 AM (Answer #1)

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One male character who can be described as having pride is Lord Capulet. The word pride means to have a high opinion of one's self, especially "one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority" (Random House Dictionary). We especially see Capulet's pride in himself displayed in the very second scene of the play, especially in his lines addressed to Paris:

But Montague is bound as well as I,
In penalty alike; and 'tis not hard, I think,
For men so old as we to keep the peace. (I.ii.1-3)

What is interesting about these lines is that he first refers to Montague and then to himself as being "bound" with Prince Escalus's same penalty of death. The reason why that's interesting is because it places more emphasis on Montague and his wrongdoings rather than on himself and his own wrongdoings, even though Prince Escalus has just held him as responsible for civil unrest as Montague. Capulet's emphasis on Montague serves to place blame on Montague rather than on himself. In other words, Capulet sees Montague as being more guilty than himself, which is especially interesting considering that Capulet was actually the first to join in with the fighting servants in the first scene, rather than Montague. By blaming Montague, he is also judging himself to be morally superior to Montague, which is a perfect example of pride. Prideful people see themselves as being higher in station or worth, such as moral worth.

One example of a man who portrays honor in Romeo and Juliet is Prince Escalus. Honor can be defined as "honesty, fairness," or being morally consistent with respect to "beliefs or actions"; therefore, an honorable person is a person who is honest, fair, morally upright, and morally consistent (Random House Dictionary). To be honorable is also to be highly respectable or to have a high rank or merit, all of which perfectly portray Prince Escalus (Random House Dictionary). We especially see Prince Escalus acting honorably in the very first scene. Not only as a prince is he a person of high rank, he also has very morally sound and fair judgement. For instance, he is very quick to judge the behavior of the Capulets and Montagues as being immoral, as well as the behavior they are inciting in the rest of Verona's citizens. We clearly sees his moral judgement when he refers to the Capulets and Montagues as "[p]rofaners of this neighbour-stained steel," meaning people who are misusing their swords to stain them with their neighbor's blood (I.i.77). In addition, since Prince Escalus rightly sees how much damage the two families' longstanding feud is causing, he is also perfectly right and just to decree that if they ever again disturb the streets of Verona by causing another riot or fight, then their "lives shall pay the forfeit of peace," meaning that they shall be punished by death (93). Since this decree is a very just punishment, it further proves that Prince Escalus is a very honorable man.

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