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In Romeo and Juliet, when Juliet describes her meeting with Paris at Friar Lawrence’s...

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user7619831 | eNoter

Posted January 14, 2013 at 7:34 AM via web

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In Romeo and Juliet, when Juliet describes her meeting with Paris at Friar Lawrence’s cell to her father, what accounts for her modesty?

When Juliet describes her meeting with Paris at Friar Lawrence’s cell to her father, she says, “I met the youthful lord at Lawrence’s cell / And gave him what becomèd love I might, / Not stepping o’er the bounds of modesty.”

What accounts for her modesty? 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 14, 2013 at 9:32 AM (Answer #1)

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It is important to be aware of what a difficult position Juliet is in here. In Act IV scene 2, remember she is secretly married to Romeo, yet her father is forcing her to marry Paris, threatening violence if she does not do as she is told and is not obedient. Pressure is mounting for this match to take place, and Juliet is not able to reveal the truth. The quote identified above is said by Juliet to her father, Lord Capulet, when he demands an update on what happened with Paris and how matters stand. Her words to her father therefore need to be read in the context of the pressure she is being placed under. She is basically trying to buy herself some time but also persuade her father that she is playing the role of "dutiful daughter" that will make him leave her alone. Note how he responds to what she says:

Why, I am glad on ’t. This is well. Stand up.

This is as ’t should be.—Let me see the county.
Ay, marry, go, I say, and fetch him hither.—
Now, afore God, this reverend holy friar!
Our whole city is much bound to him.
Lord Capulet is obviously convinced, and praises the Friar for his role in bringing his daughter around to his way of thinking. The "modesty" in Juliet's words therefore needs to be recognised as part of her act of dutiful daughter that she needs to present to her father to stop him threatening violence towards her because of her reluctance to obey him and marry Paris. In fact, if her interview with Paris is examined, she does everything she can to try to put him off, short of openly insulting him.

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