In Romeo and Juliet, Paris asks Capulet for Juliet's hand in marriage. Comment upon Capulet's reply.
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It is interesting that in Act I scene 2, in his conversation with Paris, Lord Capulet shows himself to be a very compassionate father. In response to Paris's urgent desire to marry as soon as possible, Capulet shows that he loves his daughter greatly, saying that she is too young and asking Paris to wait for two more years. When Paris protests that women are married much younger, note how Capulet responds:
And too soon marred are those so early made.
Earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she;
She is the hopeful lady of my earth.
But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart;
My will to her consent is but a part.
And she agreed, within her scope of choice
Lies my consent and fair according voice.
Capulet then clearly points towards his love and affection of Juliet, saying that as she is his only child, she represents all his "hopes." However, he does not want to merely parcel out Juliet to Paris like a piece of property, and urges that Paris "woos" his daughter, and gains her love. As long as Paris does this, he has Capulet's consent. Interestingly, this attitude is actually very different to the kind of attitude Capulet displays in front of his daughter later on in the play when she tries to protest against marrying Paris. Here, however, we see a very cautious father, thinking of his daughter and risking putting off the noble Paris to ensure his daughter is ready and also encouraging him to woo her.
Capulet is in somewhat of a quandary. He wants his daughter to be happy, but he doesn't want to marry her off at such a young age, yet he doesn't want to turn away a perfectly eligible suitor. He solves his problem for the time being by advising Paris to woo Juliet, and saying "My will to her consent is but a part" (1.2.17), which means that even if he agrees to the marriage, Juliet has the final say. (Later in the play he will drastically change his attitude about this.) Capulet then invites Paris to an annual feast he has planned for that night. He tells Paris it will be a very big party, where he will see "Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light" (1.2.25). He means that the ladies will be so beautiful that they will shine like stars come down to earth. Capulet goes on to tell Paris he will feel the kind of delight that young men feel in April, when everything looks and smells wonderful. Among all of these beautiful ladies, Capulet says, Paris should, "hear all, all see, / And like her most whose merit most shall be: / Which on more view of many, mine, being one, / May stand in number, though in reckoning none" (1.2.30-33). In other words, Paris is invited to check out all the beautiful ladies, and when he does, he may find that Juliet is only one more. It could turn out that when she is among a group of ladies ("stand in number") she won't count for much ("in reckoning none"). Is Capulet hoping Paris will find someone else and stop asking about Juliet? Or is he just being modest about his daughter? It's hard to tell.
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