Explain how far you think shakespeare presents lord capulet as a good farther

Expert Answers
davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What constitutes a good father is notoriously difficult to pin down with any degree of accuracy. Furthermore, in examining this question, we need to acknowledge the huge cultural differences between Shakespeare's day and ours. The best procedure is to set out how Shakespeare presents the character of Lord Capulet and then make up our own minds as to whether he can reasonably be described as a good father.

At the start of the play, Lord Capulet appears to be quite a sympathetic character. In Act I Scene II he's talking with Count Paris, one of Juliet's suitors. Paris has requested Juliet's hand in marriage, but initially, her father dissuades him. Juliet's too young:

"But saying o'er what I have said before:
My child is yet a stranger in the world,
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years;
Let two more summers wither in their pride
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride."

So far, so good. It seems that Lord Capulet is genuinely looking out for Juliet and has her best interests at heart. But before long, Capulet relents and agrees to marry off Juliet to Paris. In keeping with the conventions of the time, the proposed match is a power marriage, the cementing of a political alliance between two prominent aristocratic families. Like other women of her time and class, Juliet is little more than a bargaining chip in a formal business arrangement.

Juliet is dead set against her arranged marriage to Paris. And as the nuptials approach, she becomes ever more indignant that she won't go through with the ceremony. She's head over heels in love with Romeo and simply cannot imagine being apart from him:

"Now by Saint Peter's Church, and Peter too,
He shall not make me there a joyful bride.
I wonder at this haste; that I must wed
Ere he that should be husband comes to woo.
I pray you, tell my lord and father, madam,
I will not marry yet; and when I do, I swear
It shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate,
Rather than Paris:--these are news indeed!" (Act III Scene V).

But Capulet, the paterfamilias, won't hear of it:

"Hang thee, young baggage! disobedient wretch!
I tell thee what,--get thee to church o' Thursday,
Or never after look me in the face:
Speak not, reply not, do not answer me;" (Act III Scene V).

How dare Juliet defy her father! How dare she be so ungrateful! If Juliet refuses to marry Count Paris, then Capulet will personally drag her to the church himself. His "fingers itch," clearly implying that he wants to beat some sense into his wayward daughter. The mask of benevolence appears to have slipped. Lord Capulet is absolutely furious at his paternal authority being so wilfully undermined. At the same time, we have to make a judgement as to whether Capulet is acting in character, or simply doing what's expected of him as the head of an aristocratic household, protecting his daughter's honor and his family's good name.

There's little doubt, though, that Capulet is genuinely crestfallen when he learns of what he thinks is Juliet's death on the eve of her wedding. There is nothing remotely conventional about his heartbroken response this time:

"Death, that hath ta'en her hence to make me wail,
Ties up my tongue and will not let me speak." (Act IV Scene V).

We need to bear in mind that Juliet is actually still alive at this moment. This adds a touch of authenticity to her father's grief. Capulet, then, is a more complex character than we might think. While on the one hand he loves his daughter, he still retains an unthinking adherence to the prevailing social standards of the day. Realistically, he has no other choice. Verona at that time had a rigidly hierarchical society, one in which everyone was expected to perform certain functions conducive to the city's overall stability. In that sense, Lord Capulet is as much a victim of his time as Juliet. Whether this makes him a good father or not, is a matter largely for conjecture. But Shakespeare has been skilfull enough to present us with a suitably ambiguous picture, one that allows us to draw our own conclusions.