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Father Figures in Romeo and Juliet – Lord Capulet

What follows is a second part of a larger piece that I am working on regarding the roles of the parents in The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet. Earlier I looked at the role of Prince Eskales as a possibly fatherless father figure. Here we will take a look at the strongest of the patriarchs depicted in the play, and see how his role effects the tragedy of the young star-crossed lovers.

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The Capulets are probably the best-illustrated family unit in the entirety of Shakespeare’s theatrical canon. We have scenes between the parents and child. We see intercessions by the household servants who are like family. There is a variety to this family that makes them human, if not entirely likable. How then does this environment contribute to the tragedy of the play?

Lord Capulet speaks the first line almost every time that he enters the scene. He comes on speaking which puts the attention on him. When the Prince speaks privately to the fathers after the opening brawl, he takes Capulet away with him first. Paris, the Prince’s kinsman is wooing Capulet’s daughter. Capulet holds a feast. Capulet’s family has a large crypt. In the context of the play the Capulet family is given importance over the Montagues. The first words in the play are given to the Capulets. Lord Capulet is the strong, authoritative father figure in this tragedy.

The character is not drawn as a bad father. He protects his family. When the audience discovers that the Countie Paris wishes to marry Juliet, we first see Lord Capulet putting him off, telling him to wait because she is too young. At his great feast, he speaks well of the party-crashing Romeo, the son of his great rival and is able to keep the peace when Tibalt demands satisfaction for this insult. It is only when Tibalt is murdered that Capulet begins to force the marriage on his only living child in order to ensure her safety and the family’s prosperity, making him appear a monster in the eyes of his daughter, and a villain in the hearts of the audience.

‘Mountague is bound as well as I, / In penalty alike, and ’tis not hard I thinke, / For men so old as wee, to keepe the peace,’ he states. There is an acknowledgment of his role as a leader, due to his age and authority. However, he quickly tempers this authority with a father’s care for his daughter: ‘But wooe her gentle Paris, get her heart, / My will to her consent, is but a part, / And shee agree, within her scope of choise, / Lyes my consent, and faire according voice.’ He does not treat Juliet as chattel, and shows true care and tenderness in these lines regarding the dispensation of his daughter.

The first time we are given any exchange between Lord and Lady Capulet is after Tibalt’s death when Lord Capulet does an about-face and agrees to quickly marry Juliet off to Paris. He sends his wife to their daughter to make the case. Herein we have a glimpse as to why this concerned father is made out as the baddie in this youthful love story. This is the first time we see Juliet and her father interacting, and he cannot understand why his daughter is not agreeable to his plans. Of course, she is unaware of how he has been protecting her up to this point.

How, will she none? doth she not give us thanks?

Is she not proud? doth she not count her blest,

Unworthy as she is, that we have wrought

So worthy a Gentleman, to be her Bridegroome

…………………………………………………………………is meant Love.

How now?

How now? Chopt Logicke? what is this?

[…]

Gods bread, it makes me mad:

Day, night, houre, ride, time, worke, play,

Alone in companie, still my care hath bin

To have her matcht, and having now provided

A Gentleman of Noble Parentage,

Of faire Demeanes, Youthfull, and Nobly Allied,

Stuft as they say with Honourable parts,

Proportion’d as ones thought would wish a man,

And then to have a wretched puling foole,

A whining mammet, in her Fortunes tender,

To answer, Ile not wed, I cannot Love:

I am too young, I pray you pardon me.

 

Here is much abuse thrown at Juliet by her father. He calls her ‘green sickness,’ ‘carrion,’ ‘baggage,’ ‘tallow face,’ ‘disobedient wretch,’ ‘wretched puling foole’ and ‘whining mammet.’ He threatens her: ‘I will drag thee, on a Hurdle thither,’ ‘My fingers itch,’ ‘you shall not house with me,’ ‘Ile nere acknowledge thee.’ His authority is lost with these insults and threats, showing instead a father whose work for his child is unappreciated. In his eyes, Juliet has no idea what machinations he has been dealing with on her behalf. Perhaps it is the very fact that he has been working without her knowledge that has put this rift between them. In Capulet’s next scene, this rift seems to be closed.

How now my headstrong,

Where have you bin gadding?

…………………………………………………………………rul’d by you.

Send for the Countie, goe tell him of this,

Ile have this knot knit up to morrow morning.

…………………………………………………………………bounds of modestie.

Why I am glad on’t, this is well, stand up,

This is as’t should be, let me see the County:

I marrie go I say, and fetch him hither.

Now afore God, this reveren’d holy Frier,

All our whole Cittie is much bound to him.

…………………………………………………………………there’s time inough.

Go Nurse, go with her,

Weele to Church to morrow.

…………………………………………………………………now neere night.

Tush, I will stirre about,

And all things shall be well, I warrant thee wife:

Go thou to Juliet, helpe to decke up her,

Ile not to bed to night, let me alone:

Ile play the huswife for this once. What ho?

They are all forth, well I will walke my selfe

To Countie Paris, to prepare him up

Against to morrow, my heart is wondrous light,

Since this same way-ward Gyrle is so reclaim’d.

The cues here, ‘rul’d by you’ and ‘bounds of modestie,’ combined with Capulet’s responses show that Juliet has come to her senses and that as far as he is concerned, ‘This is as’t should be.’ He is so happy that he offers to stay up worrying: ‘Ile not to bed to night, let me alone: / Ile play the huswife for this once.’ Having completed his duties has a father, he will now take on the role of the mother.

However, this joy is short-lived. After a few small exchanges, Capulet’s cue lines tell him all he needs to know:

…………………………………………………………………helpe, call helpe.

…………………………………………………………………shee’s dead.

…………………………………………………………………O wofull time.

The death of his daughter throws him into despair, and he grieves, for his child.

Death that hath tane her hence to make me waile,

Ties up my tongue, and will not let me speake.

[…]

O Child, O Child; my soule, and not my Child,

Dead art thou, alacke my Child is dead,

And with my Child, my joyes are buried.

In his grief he does not look for solace with his wife. His lines are given to unspecified persons, or directed to his thwarted son-in-law, Paris. At this most painful time for him, the death of his daughter (of course, we in the audience have satisfaction that Juliet is not dead, and at the same time, the knowledge that she does not see this honest tenderness that her father expresses for her: another instance of the tragedy of miscommunication between father and daughter), he is alone in his suffering.

In the play’s final scene, Capulet makes several references to family. He refers to his own family by their relationship to himself, again calling Lady Capulet ‘wife’ and referring to ‘our Daughter’ and ‘my Daughter[ ]’ rather than using their names. Then surprisingly he refers to ‘Brother Montague.’ Now, with the death of both of their children, they can be brothers. They are of one generation and can understand each other.

By eventually forcing the issue of Juliet’s marriage to Paris, Lord Capulet pushes the tragedy along its path. Had he continued with the compassionate care of his daughter, letting her choose whom she liked, he still may not have allowed the marriage of Romeo and Juliet to continue, but we can only speculate on alternate endings. What is clear through the text is that there is very little meaningful communication between father and daughter in the Capulet household, a strengthening of which may have avoided quite a bit of bloodshed.

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As work continues on the prompt book and through text sessions with the cast of The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet for NRTC’s upcoming production as part of our Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project’s 2016 tour, more will be unearthed regarding the parents and parental figures in the play and how the generation gap effects the course of the play.

-Andy Kirtland, Managing Director of The New Renaissance Theatre Company (which produces The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project)

Andy Kirtland, The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project

The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project

Author The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project

The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project (USP), which is produced by The New Renaissance Theatre Company, specializes in the performance of William Shakespeare's plays using the Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique.

More posts by The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project

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