What is ironic about the conversation between Juliet and Paris in Act IV scene 1?
Romeo and Juliet's Act IV, Scene 1 exemplifies well the use of dramatic irony, a literary technique involving an interesting contradiction of what is expected and what is known. Specifically, in dramatic irony, there is a contradiction between what a character thinks and what the reader or audience knows to be true. For, while the audience is aware that Juliet is wed to Romeo, Paris is ignorant of this fact. He, then, comes to Friar Laurence to arrange his wedding to the fair Juliet; however, since Friar Laurence performed the wedding mass, who also knows that Juliet is wed. His aside indicates this knowledge to the audience:
I would I knew not why it should be slowed. (4.1.16)
Of course, the conversation between Paris and Juliet furthers the dramatic irony since the meaning of Juliet's words carries implications of which Paris is unaware. Here are examples:
1. When Paris addresses Juliet as his "wife," Juliet replies ironically,
That may be, sir, when I may be a wife (4.1.19)
meaning that she can only wed Paris if her marriage to Romeo ends by his death. But, Paris thinks she does not know the day of the wedding and tells her "on Thursday."
2. Then, Paris mistakenly believes that Juliet comes to the priest to make her confession as one does before receiving a sacrament such as the Sacrament of Marriage:
Come you to make confession to this Father?
To answer that, I should confess to you.(4.1.
Juliet means that she would have to confess that she is married to Romeo if she is to be forgiven for any sins in confession as one must be completely honest in confessional.
3. Paris continues to be "in the dark" about Juliet's meanings. When he tells her,
[Paris] Do not deny to him that you love me.
[Juliet] I will confess to you that I love him (4.1.25-26)
Juliet replies with the pronoun him; however, her antecedent, Romeo, is understood only by her, so Paris thinks she refers to the friar in the Christian sense of loving others.
4. He, then, responds,
So will ye, I am sure, that you love me (4.1.27)
meaning that he is certain that Juliet will also express in the confessional her love for Paris. To this remark, Juliet states that confessing that she loves Paris to the friar will have a greater value and meaning than saying it to him ("your face")
5. Of course, the dialogue regarding Juliet's tears and face involve misinterpretation as Juliet has been crying over Romeo as much as for Tybalt. When Paris says that Juliet's face belongs to him, "Thy face is mine," Juliet replies,
It may be so, for it is not mine own. (4.1.37)
meaning again that she belongs to Romeo.
6. Finally, Count Paris misinterprets Juliet's intention of coming to to the friar when Friar Laurence tells Paris he and Juliet must be alone, saying,
God shield I should disturb devotion (4.1.42)
Indeed, it is a unknowing and unsuspecting Paris that departs from Juliet and the friar.