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In Romeo and Juliet, what does Capulet mean when he says in Act 1, Scene 2: "And like...

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swagmasterfreash | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 30, 2013 at 1:13 PM via web

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In Romeo and Juliet, what does Capulet mean when he says in Act 1, Scene 2:

"And like her most whose merit most shall be;
Which, on more view of many, mine, being one,
May stand in number, though in reck'ning none."

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:11 PM (Answer #1)

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Capulet can see that Paris would be an extremely desirable husband for his daughter Juliet. Paris is a wealthy count and a kinsman of Escalus, the Prince of Verona. Capulet is finding himself in an awkward position with Paris persisting in Act 1, Scene 2 to ask for Juliet's hand in marriage. It is as if Paris and Escalus are making him an offer he can't refuse. Capulet does not like the prospect of offending Paris or Escalus, yet he is obviously strongly attached to his young daughter and doesn't want to lose her when she is still only thirteen years old. He speaks of Juliet disparagingly in an effort to make her seem less attractive to Paris.

Capulet tells Paris that there will be many beautiful girls at his home tonight and that if he sees Juliet among all the others she may not stand out as radiantly as she seems to shine when she is seen alone. The suggestion of the following lines seems to be that Paris will be ranking all the available girls, assigning one of them a 5, for example, another a 3, another a 9, etc., and that he might then assign Juliet a low number, a 1, or possibly no number at all. Or Capulet may be suggesting that Paris might give each girl several numbers for different qualities, such as a 5 for beauty, a 7 for personality, a 3 for wit, a 6 for poise (not forgetting a number for her family's wealth and social status), etc., and then add up all the numbers for each of the girls. Then when Paris sits down to make a "reckoning" by adding up all the accumulated numbers, Juliet may be mathematically eliminated. This would seem similar to what is often done by the judges in American beauty contests. The contestants are rated on many different qualities, including their voices, their special talents, and so forth.

Among fresh female buds shall you this night
Inherit at my house; 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,

Capulet loves his daughter and probably thinks she would stand out amongst all the other young girls, but he is not saying as much to Count Paris. He is secretly hoping that Paris will see another girl who will appeal to him more than his daughter. As Capulet says:

The earth hath swallow'd all my hopes but she,
She is the hopeful lady of my earth:

Paris may be just as interested in making an alliance with an important family like the Capaulets as he is in getting Juliet for a bride. We see that Romeo goes to the Capulets' home hoping to meet Rosaline and immediately falls in love with Juliet at first sight. Benvolio has told him:

At this same ancient feast of Capulet's
Sups the fair Rosaline whom thou so lov'st,
With all the admired beauties of Verona.
Go thither, and with unattainted eye
Compare her face with some that I shall show,
And I will make thee think thy swan a crow.

Capulet is hoping something similar may happen with Paris. He will go there to look at Juliet and fall for some other girl at first sight.

Both Capulet and Benvolio seem to feel that young men are so ready to fall in love that they can switch their affections with just a glance.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 30, 2013 at 8:24 PM (Answer #2)

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The lines you mention in your question are found in Act I scene ii of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, and they are spoken by Capulet.

Paris has come to ask Capulet for Juliet's hand in marriage, but Capulet demurs, saying Juliet is yet too young. Paris reminds Capulet that many other young women have gotten married, but Capulet is unmoved. He is not ready to lose his daughter, "the hopeful lady of my earth," and he will only consent to her marriage if he is convinced that the suitor has won Juliet's heart. (How quickly he will change this tune!)

After he gives this answer to Paris, Capulet invites him to attend a banquet he is having tonight and to do what many of the other young men in attendance will do:

At my poor house look to behold this night
Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light:
Such comfort as do lusty young men feel
When well-apparell'd April on the heel
Of limping winter treads, even such delight
Among fresh female buds shall you this night
Inherit at my house; 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,
Come, go with me.

In the lines you asked about, Capulet suggests that Paris should observe all the beautiful young women at the party and see if there is anyone there who might capture his interest. Juliet will be among them, of course, but she may not be the one Paris most prefers after he has seen all of the ladies. 

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