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Lord and Lady Capulet


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LADY CAPULET: A crutch, a crutch! why call you for a sword?
[Act 1, scene 1] Shakespeare uses Lady Capulet, here, to foreground (albeit subtly) that many of the men on stage in this play (and no-doubt in the audience, too) use violence as a "crutch" to prop up their fragile egos. In this case it's also a slight on Capulet's age (violence is a young man's game) but we'll see it with Tybalt, Mercutio and, eventually, running under the obligation felt by Romeo.
CAPULET: My child is yet a stranger in the world; / She hath not seen the change of fourteen years
[Act 1, scene 2] When Shakespeare studied the Comedies of the Roman playwright Plautus in school, he would have seen the father and daughter relationship of a filia astuta (clever young girl) and a senex iratus (angry old man). Shakespeare's Capulet seems to (initially, at least) contradict the stock character, here, by immediately being characterised as protective, if possessive, through that possessive pronoun "my" and the choice of the noun "child" over daugher. The language is still transactional, though, with that "my" and the extra connotation of "change" (not yet seen the returned investment).
CAPULET: Let two more summers wither in their pride, / Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride.
[Act 1, scene 2] Though Shakespeare makes it clear that Capulet cares for Juliet's best interests, the decision of her future happiness still, contextually, lies in patriarchal (male) power. The pronoun "we" here is either pompous and grand (the so-called 'royal we') to establish/maintain his authority in the decision or - more likely as he is trying to impress and placate Paris rather than dominate him - an inclusive one ('our' choice between 'us'). That adjective "ripe" reminds audiences that - despite his caring edge - this is still a business transaction of an objectified girl.
PARIS: Younger than she are happy mothers made. / CAPULET: And too soon marr'd are those so early made.
[Act 1, scene 2] Shakespeare has Paris make the point that women as young as Juliet are already "happy mothers" (and we'll know later that Juliet's mother was her age when she had Juliet) - though the verb "made" is quite oppressive - to which Capulet's reply further emphasises his care for Juliet. The contraction of the adjective "marr'd" is deliberately ambiguous: either 'married' or, more forecefully, 'marred' (harmed/damaged).
CAPULET: The earth hath swallow'd all my hopes but she, / She is the hopeful lady of my earth
[Act 1, scene 2] Shakespeare establishes that Juliet is Capulet's last living child, having buried all his others. Knowing the Prologue, the dramatic irony of this line is all the more upsetting. However, it's also a line where Capulet is being quite shrewd: as the last living child of a wealthy, powerful man, Juliet is a financially attractive prospect.
CAPULET: woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart, / My will to her consent is but a part
[Act 1, scene 2] Interestingly - and atypically - Capulet wants Juliet to love Paris. He also alludes to the fact that he won't solely make the decision. Romantic love is a quite modern concept in a marriage when they were typically - in families as powerful as the Capulets and Escales - instead alliances to consolidate power.
CAPULET: He bears him like a portly gentleman; / And […] Verona brags of him / To be a virtuous and well-govern'd youth / I would not for the wealth of all the town / Here in my house do him disparagement
[Act 1, scene 5] Where Shakespeare has Tybalt greet Romeo's presence at the party with furious and immediate calls for violence, Capulet is here characterised as a respectful and civilised host. Shakespeare has Capulet adhere to two social traditions here: the old laws of hospitality (whereby you must protect and honour guests) and the convention of 'masquerade'. Though Romeo wasn't invited to the party , he is still allowed to attend as a 'masquer' (wearing a mask and arriving with entertainment) and spend some time at the party which is seen as a compliment to the host.
CAPULET: Sir Paris, I will make a desperate tender / Of my child's love: I think she will be ruled / In all respects by me; nay, more, I doubt it not.
[Act 3, scene 4] After losing public reputation having had a family member murder a member of the royal household, Shakespeare presents us with Lord Capulet is a last "desperate" bid to marry Juliet to Paris, thus regaining some credibility. Remember: Paris is related to the Prince and Mercutio, so this marriage would go a long way to reparing the damage caused by Tybalt. He can't let Paris get away. However, there's a lot of dramatic irony here, as Juliet is so far from being "ruled / In all respects" by Capulet, having already secretly married. A moment of possible humor here from Shakespeare after a very intense few scenes.
CAPULET: tell her, / She shall be married to this noble earl.
[Act 3, scene 4] Gone is the desire to include Juliet in the decision process. Just as Romeo experienced crisis and peripeteia earlier in the Act, we can begin to anticipate similar for Juliet as a result of the deal being done here. She cannot marry Paris if already married to Romeo; she is in a dangerous situation.
LADY CAPULET: thou hast a careful father, child; / One who, to put thee from thy heaviness, / Hath sorted out a sudden day of joy
[Act 3, scene 5] Shakespeare reminds his audience that Capulet has done his duty to Juliet and been a "careful father" in ensuring her a good marriage, even if he has removed the previous choice he gave her to refuse. Whether Shakespeare has his actor deliver this as a sales pitch to convince Juliet or as consolation, considering it is a "sudden" (critical?) announcement, is unclear. Perhaps both.
CAPULET: How now, wife! / Have you deliver'd to her our decree?
[Act 3, scene 5] When compared to Act 1, where Capulet's "will" was only a "part" compared to Juliet's "consent", Shakespeare now uses the noun phrase "our decree" fully assert the authority and control of Capulet. The pronoun "our" is either inclusive of Lady Capulet or, more likely, a formal tone like the royal 'we'. Contextually, though, Capulet is at his least legitimately powerful in his social control of Juliet as she is now a Montague.
CAPULET: fettle your fine joints 'gainst Thursday next, / To go with Paris to Saint Peter's Church, / Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.
[Act 3, scene 5] The actor playing Capulet will likely deliver these lines with a growing sense of anger, where each line increases in volume as the character's rage at his daughter's refusal of his "decree" grows. A "hurdle" - a bit like the ones you might jump over in a race - was a structure like a cart or frame often used for dragging traitors to execution. Shakespeare has Capulet accuse Juliet, then, of being traitorous to his rulership. Paired with the aggressive and forceful verb "drag", Shakespeare creates a change in Capulet back to the old 'senex irratus' stock character: the intimidating and dominating 'angry old man' that he was so unlike in Act 1.
CAPULET: Out, you green-sickness carrion! out, you baggage! / You tallow-face!
[Act 3, scene 5] Verbal abuse follows the threat of violence as Shakespeare has Capulet use a chain of insults to call Juliet sick (in her disobedience) as well as a burden (through the noun "baggage"). That noun also reminds Juliet that - so far as Capulet knows - she is still legally his property (as unmarried girls were considered to be in this period).
CAPULET: 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; / My fingers itch.
[Act 3, scene 5] A repetition of the "baggage" imagery to reiterate Capulet's belief that he owns Juliet, with a threat that he will 'disown' her if she doesn't obey. This would doubtless be a dangerous situation for any young girl, but considering she's secretly married to an exhiled murdered, this is doubly threatening. The end of this speech finishes with a thinly concealed threat of immediate physical violence, with the phrase "my fingers itch" likely paired with the actor raising a hand to hit Juliet.
CAPULET: God's bread! it makes me mad: / Day, night, hour, tide, time, work, play, / Alone, in company, still my care hath been / To have her match'd:
[Act 3, scene 5] Shakespeare goes some way, here, to explaining Capulet's reaction and we are reminded of his original care for his daughter in arranging the marriage to Paris. Were it not for her secret marriage to Romeo, this would indeed have been a great achievement. We're not, it seems, to condemn Capulet outright. He has been as good a father as ca be expected of him; better, in fact, than many, though the violence of his reaction complicates the character. Sadly, this is one of the last exchanges he will have with Juliet, so perhaps Shakespeare is warning fathers here to be careful with their words: we never know if they'll be the last words our loved ones here from us.
CAPULET: To have her match'd […] And then to have a wretched puling fool, / A whining mammet [...] To answer 'I'll not wed; I cannot love'
[Act 3, scene 5] Lots of imagery here that has Capulet describe Juliet as a crying ("whining" and "puling"), infant-like doll (a "mammet"), and an idiot ("fool"). Unlike in Act 1 where he claims that her "consent" matters, here Shakespeare has Capulet claim that Juliet doesn't know what's good for her. Arguably not far from the truth considering that she'd survive if married to Paris, though arguably without ever experiencing the true love of her and Romeo.
CAPULET: What, is my daughter gone to Friar Laurence? […] / Well, he may chance to do some good on her: / A peevish self-will'd harlotry it is.
[Act 4, scene 2] Similar to the last time we saw Capulet on stage, Shakespeare continues to stuff his speech with scathing insults directed at Juliet. The adjective "peevish" here means 'worthless', "self-willed" is 'stubbord' and the noun "harlotry" is the practice of being a whore. To see a father call his daughter a pointless, stubborn whore is shocking in how far the character has fallen from the loving parent of Act 1.
CAPULET: my heart is wondrous light, / Since this same wayward girl is so reclaim'd.
[Act 4, scene 2] Capulet's happiness at the end of Act 4, scene 2 should be received with the dramatic irony of an audience knowledgable of Juliet and the Friar's plans. Any sympathy we feel for Capulet's false feelings of hope and happiness here should be qualified by our disapproval of his violence and insults earlier in the play. Here he is reduced to the stock character type of the senex iratus (angry old man) tricked by the servant (in this case the Friar) and the 'filia astuta' (clever daughter - Juliet).
LADY CAPULET: My child, my only life, / Revive, look up, or I will die with thee!
[Act 4, scene 5] Lady Capulet's reaction here at discovering Juliet seemingly dead is both factual and deeply emotive. The double possessive noun phrase "My child, My only life" can factually mean 'my only surviving child' but also likely means here 'my entire world'. Shakespeare has her shift quite suddenly from the character who wished her daughter dead in Act 3. Does the declaration that Lady Capulet will "die too" if Juliet is dead have Shakespeare reveal her feelings of guilt? It's up to you to decide here.
CAPULET: Death lies on her like an untimely frost / Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.
[Act 4, scene 5] After initially dismissing the news of her death, Shakespeare has Capulet realise that it seems true. At list point, as with Lady Capulet just before, we see a return to the tender, loving parent of the earlier play. His imagery, too, becomes natural again. Juliet is no longer a "mamet", 'harlot' or "baggage" but "the sweetest flower of all the field". We're reminded too of the imagery of Act where Capulet feared marriage would damage Juliet. It seems to have happened.
CAPULET: Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir; / My daughter he hath wedded: I will die, / And leave him all
[Act 4, scene 5] Thinking that he has lost his only child, Shakespeare has Capulet realise that his family line has ended. He has no children to pass on his wealth and land so "Death" will be his "heir". Though not true yet, we know from the Prologue that it soon will be.
CAPULET: Alack! my child is dead; / And with my child my joys are buried.
[Act 4, scene 5] Recalling Capulet's earlier claim that Juliet is "the hopeful lady of my earth", here we see the love the character has for his daughter come back to the forefront. Too late, however. Shakespeare will never put a living Juliet back on stage with her parents; they have tragically missed their chance to tell her that she is loved.
FRIAR LAURENCE: The most you sought was her promotion; / For 'twas your heaven she should be advanced
[Act 4, scene 5] Shakespeare has Friar Laurence offer the view that Capulet wanted Juliet to marry 'up' though is it ambivalent here whether he's being critical or not. Marrying someone wealthier and of a higher status would doubtless be a good political move for Capulet but would also ensure that his daughter was provided for; it's not as simple as it seems.
CAPULET: Poor sacrifices of our enmity
[Act 5, scene 3] In the final moments of the play, Shakespeare has Capulet recognise - tragically too late - his and Montague's part in creating the toxic society of violence and rivalry that made the couple's love impossible. Their "emnity" (enemy status) could have been ended by a marriage between the couple, with peace and future prosperity for both united families. Now they are only "poor sacrifices" and the families will die out.