What does Capulet mean when he says,"Our solemn hyms to sullen dirges change"

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blacksheepunite eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Capulet speaks of their "solemn hyms" changing to "sullen dirges", he speaks of the rapid shift from songs of celebration to songs of sadness. Yet, his celebratory songs are not exactly full of bliss--they are "solemn"--that is consecrated and holy, but also serious. "Sullen" means gloomy, but originally it meant simply "alone". Thus, Capulet here is stating outright his sorrow at the loss of Juliet. She was his only daughter; he was expecting a wedding; what he got, however, was emptiness, lonliness, and a song of loss. It is a wonderfully poignant line, for Capulet, only a short time earlier, was willing to disown his daughter for her insubordination, yet here he reveals that when he loses her, he is alone. He loses everything.

mickey2bailey eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The quote, "Our solemn hymnsto sullen dirges change" is spoken during Act IV, scene 5, when the Nurse finds Juliet "dead."  Capulet points out that hymns that would normally be very holy have turned into sad, mournful songs over the supposed death of Juliet.  Capulet knows this was to be a happy time with the impending marriage of Juliet to Paris, but it is now a death sentence.

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Romeo and Juliet

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