Essential Passage by Theme: Rebellion
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.
Younger than she are happy mothers made.
And too soon marr'd are those so early made.
The earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she;
She is the hopeful lady of my earth.
But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart;
My will to her consent is but a part.
An she agree, within her scope of choice
Lies my consent and fair according voice.
This night I hold an old accustom'd feast,
Whereto I have invited many a guest,
Such as I love; and you among the store,
One more, most welcome, makes my number more.
At my poor house look to behold this night
Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light.
Such comfort as do lusty young men feel
When well-apparell'd April on the heel
Of limping Winter treads, even such delight
Among fresh female buds shall you this night
Inherit at my house. Hear all, all see,
And like her most whose merit most shall be;
Which, amongst view of many, mine, being one,
May stand in number, though in reck'ning none.
Come, go with me.
Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 7-34
Lord Capulet, Juliet’s father, is speaking to Paris. Paris is one of the Prince of Verona’s royal kinsmen, which means that he is related to the prince and therefore of royal lineage himself. Paris is interested in marrying Juliet and is quite smitten with her—so smitten, in fact, that he is trying to persuade Capulet to let him proceed with wedding plans, even though Juliet is not even fourteen years old yet (fourteen was the minimum age of consent in the Renaissance). Capulet wants to wait another two years. He feels that his daughter is still too young and naive. Paris is not ready to give up, however. He argues that many women, even younger than Juliet, make “happy mothers.”
Capulet remains adamant. He tries to explain to Paris the reasons why he feels postponing their nuptials is wise. First, he postulates that those who marry too young are often “marr’d”: they do not survive childbirth or are too young to make responsible, respectful wives. Next, Lord Capulet appeals to Paris’s sense of humanity. He tells Paris that Juliet is his only surviving child (“Earth has swallowed all my hopes but she”) and she alone can carry on his lineage. Because Juliet is his most treasured possession, Capulet urges Paris to win her heart; Paris already has his consent. Juliet, while she does have a voice in selecting her mate, still must agree to a match within “her scope of choice”—that is, men whom her father approves of as appropriate husbands.
Finally, Capulet invites Paris to a big party he is having at the Capulet estate. He tells Paris that the festivities will include a number of beautiful women. This is another attempt by Capulet to be sure Paris is certain that Juliet is his first and true choice.
The conversation between Capulet and Paris is a catalyst for the teenage rebellion of young Juliet. Here, her father and a man conspire to seal her fate. Paris wants her because she is beautiful. Capulet wants her married to a “good match” because Juliet will be the sole heir to his property and the only continuance of his family line. What neither man takes into account very much is the free will of Juliet herself.
Capulet’s underestimation of Juliet is compounded by a variety of other blunders on both her father and her mother’s part. Capulet sends an illiterate servant out into Verona to deliver invitations to the party. The servant, frustrated that he cannot perform his duty, happens upon Romeo and his friend, Benvolio. He asks them to read the names on the invitation. This happenstance encounter gives the bored (and recently dumped) Romeo and his pals a night of adventure with consequences none could foresee.
As the Capulet home prepares for the festivities, Juliet’s mother unwittingly sets the stage for her daughter’s...
(The entire section is 4,968 words.)