When one compares Lord Capulet's response on learning of Juliet's supposed death to the extremely harsh manner in which he admonished her in Act lll, scene V, it is hardly surprising to doubt the authenticity of his reaction. He had, when Juliet refused to follow his instruction to marry the county Paris, been extremely harsh and critical. He had even promised to throw her out into the street and disown her if she did not respect his command, as the following extracts clearly indicate:
Hang thee, young baggage! disobedient wretch!...
...Wife, we scarce thought us blest
That God had lent us but this only child;
But now I see this one is one too much,
And that we have a curse in having her:
Out on her, hilding!
But, as you will not wed, I'll pardon you:
Graze where you will you shall not house with me:
Look to't, think on't, I do not use to jest.
Thursday is near; lay hand on heart, advise:
An you be mine, I'll give you to my friend;
And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in
For, by my soul, I'll ne'er acknowledge thee,
Nor what is mine shall never do thee good:...
Lord Capulet's harsh, biting words patently display exactly where his sentiments lie. If Juliet should marry Paris, it would add to his status and esteem. He sees her refusal as a slap in the face and believes that his daughter is an ungrateful wretch who does not deserve any of the privileges he has granted her. He seems to have no qualms in abandoning her if she does not obey him.
The same can be said of Lady Capulet, for when Juliet turns to her, she dismisses her plea and says:
Talk not to me, for I'll not speak a word:
Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.
Her parents' rejection drives the utterly distraught Juliet to desperate measures and it is in this frame of mind that she seeks solace and a way out of her dilemma. One may argue that her parents were inflamed by their daughter's disobedience and uttered these words in a flare of passion and did not really mean what they said.
This incident, however, lingers in the audience's mind and when it is later confronted by both parents' anguish at Juliet's apparent death, the expression of their anguish becomes suspect and seems contrived and dramatically exaggerated. Lord Capulet, for example, clinically focuses on Juliet's state of death and he does not once utter a word of remorse or acknowledgement for possibly having had played a part in her demise. It seems that his expressions of grief are affectations to impress, rather than authentic expressions of sorrow.
Ha! let me see her: out, alas! she's cold:
Her blood is settled, and her joints are stiff;
Life and these lips have long been separated:
Death lies on her like an untimely frost
Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.
It would be truly unusual for anyone who genuinely loves another, on first witnessing such a person's corpse, to comment on its state in such a clinical manner. The duke's expressions make it seem as if he viewed Juliet more as an object than someone who was reliant on his love, acknowledgement and appreciation.
Lady Capulet's dramatically exaggerated reaction also says much about the authenticity of her love for Juliet. She cries out:
Alack the day, she's dead, she's dead, she's dead!
Her ambiguous statement could suggest that the day has become a tragedy or that it has been spoilt and that whatever arrangements (for Juliet's wedding to Paris) have now been disrupted. As it is, the audience would not feel much compassion for her or her husband since, as I stated before, the harsh treatment that they meted out to their child does not gel with their current over-the-top outpourings of grief.
In addition, Lord Capulet's metaphoric references to Death now being Juliet's groom further clarifies where his thoughts lie. He had prepared her for marriage and now all he is left with is Death as a son-in-law. His entire little speech ignores his daughter as someone precious whom he has lost and he rather grieves the loss of an eligible future heir. His concern seems to be vested in the fact that his inheritance will now succeed to Death.
One cannot, however, deny the fact that both Lord and Lady Capulet surely have affection for their child. She is, after all, their one and only and, as parents, they certainly must feel grief for what they believe is an untimely and tragic event. What makes their responses seem less than genuine, though, is the fact that they have treated her more as a much-liked object than a genuine, full-blooded human being.