Choice and voice (1.2.14-19)

CAPULET        Earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she;

                        She’s the hopeful lady of my earth.

                        But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart,

                        My will to her consent is but a part;

                        And she agreed, within her scope of choice

                        Lies my consent and fair according voice. (1.2.14-19)


This continues to make Capulet look like a nice guy. The disclosure that Juliet is the Capulets’ only living child, like the stranger in the world a few lines earlier, makes both Juliet and her parents seem vulnerable. (When Juliet imagines waking in the tomb, she gives it a foul mouth; the idea of death eating children makes it a version of Saturn, eating his own progeny. Juliet and Romeo will be consumed by their fathers’ feud.) Juliet is both hopeful in herself and the source, or repository, of all her father’s hopes. The close juxtaposition of will, choice, voice (meaning vote) and the repeated consent is important: the centrality of consent to Christian marriage (and the centrality of marriage to the play), consented to by parents and partners, is underscored here, and Capulet seems to be emphasising that the choice of marriage partner will be up to Juliet, but it’s his will that he cites first. He still has a say in the matter, and he’s made clear his preference for Paris (probably); her own choice in the matter may be secondary. The couplet rhymes choice with voice: will Capulet ultimately have the casting vote, the last word?

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