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The Prince’s Daddy Issues in The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet

At this time of year as we find ourselves preparing for our upcoming Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project’s tour of A Misommer Night’s Dreame and The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet, I find myself up to the elbows in cue scripts as I prepare and format the texts. When working on the texts in parts this way, themes and words make themselves known in different ways. This time, working on Romeo and Juliet, I have been struck by the roles of the parents. The following is part of a longer essay, still being composed, that will explore the parental relationships in The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet as seen through the text of the First Folio and the cue scripts for the characters involved.

After pointing out some differences in the title pages of the quartos preceding the publication of the First Folio, I point to one specific variation. One of the Prince’s lines, commonly printed as ‘To know our farther pleasure in this case,’ appears in the First Folio as ‘To know our Fathers pleasure in this case’ (emphasis mine). The following are my musings on the implications of this word choice when exploring the roles of parent’s in The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet.

In his first appearance, The Prince has only one speech in which he brings a brawl to an end:

Rebellious Subjects, Enemies to peace,

Prophaners of this Neighbor-stained Steele,

Will they not heare? What hoe, you Men, you Beasts,

That quench the fire of your pernitious Rage,

With purple Fountaines issuing from your Veines:

On paine of Torture, from those bloody hands

Throw your mistemper’d Weapons to the ground,

And heare the Sentence of your mooved Prince.

Three civill Broyles, bred of an Ayery word,

By thee old Capulet and Mountague,

Have thrice disturb’d the quiet of our streets,

And made Verona’s ancient Citizens

Cast by their Grave beseeming Ornaments,

To wield old Partizans, in hands as old,

Cankred with peace, to part your Cankred hate,

If ever you disturbe our streets againe,

Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.

For this time all the rest depart away:

You Capulet shall goe along with me,

And Mountague come you this afternoone,

To know our Fathers pleasure in this case:

To old Free-towne, our common judgement place:

Once more on paine of death, all men depart.

It takes the Prince 8 lines of text before the fighting ceases, and he can get a word in edgeways. His cue to enter is ‘seek a Foe.’ This gives the actor entering the idea that he is already entering a situation looking for an adversary, not to take control. He speaks of ‘Three civill Broyles, bred of an Ayery word.’ If his power is so respected, such slights would not break out into violence, but rather the fear of repercussions would keep the citizens in line. He must tell everyone to leave twice: ‘For this time all the rest depart away:’ then again 5 lines later, ‘Once more on paine of death, all men depart.’ This could be seen as 2 stage directions, the first to the citizens who have come to join the fight, and the second to the remaining heads of the family. It is within these five lines that the Prince speaks of his ‘Father’s pleasure.’ Possibly, he wanted the common citizens to disperse, and not hear that he must take this case to a higher authority, his Father. It is possible that everyone is aware of his weakness as a ruler, and therefore, ignores the order. At the end of these lines, still all men do not depart. Montague, Lady Montague and Benvolio remain on stage. Yes, this device keeps the plot and action moving along (and rightly so), but we could have another introducing Romeo after everyone had left the stage. By keeping some players on stage, the weakness of the Prince’s position is pushed farther.

Several references are made to age in his first speech: ‘old Capulet and Montague,’ ‘auncient Citizens,’ the double entendre of ‘Grave beseeming Ornaments’ and ‘hands as old.’ These men, or this situation at least, seem to have some seniority to the Prince. The reference to his Father also refers to an older authority. This opens up the possibility that the Prince is young himself, and offers an explanation for his weakness. The ending’s inevitability is presaged by the fact that a world in which the generations do not listen to one another is overseen by a youthful figure who does not command the authority necessary to keep order and peace.

The next time we see the Prince, we see the result of his weak leadership. He enters following the two fights that end with the deaths of Mercutio and Tibalt. His cue script for this scene is as follows:

 

…………………………………………………………………dost thou stay?

ENTER PRINCE, OLD MONTAGUE, CAPULET, THEIR WIVES

Where are the vile beginners of this Fray?

…………………………………………………………………O Cozin, Cozin.

Benvolio, who began this Fray?

…………………………………………………………………must not live.

Romeo slew him, he slew Mercutio,

Who now the price of his deare blood doth owe.

…………………………………………………………………life of Tybalt.

And for that offence,

Immediately we doe exile him hence:

I have an interest in your hearts proceeding:

My bloud for your rude brawles doth lie a bleeding.

But Ile Amerce you with so strong a fine,

That you shall all repent the losse of mine.

It will be deafe to pleading and excuses,

Nor teares, nor prayers shall purchase our abuses.

Therefore use none, let Romeo hence in hast,

Else when he is found, that houre is his last.

Beare hence his body, and attend our will:

Mercy not Murders, pardoning those that kill.

EXEUNT

Upon his arrival, he has to repeat himself. This is never a good beginning to a person supposedly in a position of power. The full text of these first exchanges looks like this:

Prince

Where are the vile beginners of this Fray?

Benvolio

O Noble Prince, I can discover all

The unluckie Mannage of this fatall brall:

There lies the man slaine by young Romeo,

That slew thy kinsman brave Mercutio.

Capulet Wife

Tybalt, my Cozin? O my Brothers Child,

O Prince, O Cozin, Husband, O the blood is spild

Of my deare kinsman. Prince as thou art true,

For bloud of ours, shed bloud of Mountague.

O Cozin, Cozin.

Prince

Benvolio, who began this Fray?

There is evidence here that the lines spoken by Benvolio and Lady Capulet are simultaneous and he is given a false cue to start speaking by Lady Capulet. He is being shouted at and interrupted. From the audience’s point of view, this makes thematic sense: Lady Capulet has just found her kinsman was murdered, and Benvolio is trying to protect his best friend. From a character point of view, this reinforces the Prince’s weakness.

When interceding in the large melee in the first scene, the Prince threatens ‘If ever you disturbe our streets againe, / Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.’ Yet here, after the feud results in the death of his own kinsman, his sentence is exile for Romeo, and a stiff financial penalty for the Montagues and Capulets. He goes back on his word, where a penalty of death is called for he again shows what he believes to be mercy. This tactic does not work out well for him.

The third and final time that we see the Prince, he is summoned late at night to the Capulet family tomb.

…………………………………………………………………the Frier too.

ENTER THE PRINCE

What misadventure is so earely up,

That calls our person from our mornings rest?

 

…………………………………………………………………toward our Monument.

What feare is this which startles in your eares?

…………………………………………………………………and new kil’d.

Search,

Seeke, and know how, this foule murder comes.

…………………………………………………………………to a Sepulcher.

Come Mountague, for thou art early up

To see thy Sonne and Heire, now early downe.

…………………………………………………………………against my age?

Looke: and thou shalt see.

…………………………………………………………………to a grave?

Seale up the mouth of outrage for a while,

Till we can cleare these ambiguities,

And know their spring, their head, their true descent,

And then I will be generall of your woes,

And lead you even to death? meane time forbeare,

And let mischance be slave to patience,

Bring forth the parties of suspition.

…………………………………………………………………my selfe excus’d.

Then say at once, what thou dost know in this?

…………………………………………………………………of severest Law.

We still have knowne thee for a Holy man.

Where’s Romeo’s man? What can he say to this?

…………………………………………………………………left him there.

Give me the Letter, I will look on it.

Where is the Counties Page that rais’d the Watch?

This Letter doth make good the Friers words,

Their course of Love, the tydings of her death:

And heere he writes, that he did buy a poison

Of a poore Pothecarie, and therewithal

Came to this Vault to dye, and lye with Juliet.

Where be these Enemies? Capulet, Mountague,

See what a scourge is laide upon your hate,

That Heaven finds meanes to kill your joyes with Love;

And I, for winking at your discords too,

Have lost a brace of Kinsmen: All are punish’d.

…………………………………………………………………of our enmity.

A glooming peace this morning with it brings,

The Sunne for sorrow will not shew his head;

Go hence, to have more talke of these sad things,

Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished.

For never was a Storie of more Wo,

Then this of Juliet, and her Romeo.

He comes on the scene to find the bodies of Romeo (whom he had exiled), Paris (another of his own kinsmen) and Juliet, freshly dead. There is, however, an acknowledgment of the role his weakness has played in the unfolding of the tragedy: ‘And I, for winking at your discords too, / Have lost a brace of Kinsmen: All are punish’d.’ Any reason for this weakness is only hinted at throughout the text.

However, once he discovers that the grudge between these families has resulted in death, and in an affront to his own family and authority, there is no more mention of age in the Prince’s text, and no further intimation of an absent Father. It could be said that the Prince does grow up.

The whereabouts and identity of the Prince’s Father, if he ever existed in the confines of the story, is never discussed. There is mention of the plague breaking out during the action of the play, but it never directly touches Verona. Was he afflicted? We do not know, and possibly should not even care. However, if this fleeting reference to an absent father (ruler) is significant to the over-arching theme of parents and their children, what does the Prince’s Father’s absence mean for, and say about, The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet?

The absence means, that for whatever reason, the son is left in charge. The child is given authority. We are never told how old the Prince is. We know that Mercutio and Paris are his kinsmen. We know that he has spoken out harshly against the feud between the Montagues and Capulets. We know by his actions that he is not a consistent ruler. By his own admission, his rule has contributed to the tragedy of the play. This all possibly points to the fact that the Prince is not ready to be in charge. He cannot govern Verona (his symbolic children) because he is immature and not ready. Having an unprepared Prince in charge mirrors the actions of the more popular characters in the play, parents who cannot govern their children and the youths who are incapable of governing themselves.

 

The essay will go on to compare and contrast the Lords and Ladies Montague and Capulet, as well as exploring the surrogate parents, the Nurse and Friar Lawrence. Some other themes that have caught my interest while preparing this play have been communication, or lack thereof, and the importance of names. I look forward to putting more of my thoughts down and sharing them with all of you.

-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.

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