A wedding on Thursday? (4.1.1-5)


FRIAR              On Thursday, sir? the time is very short.

PARIS              My father Capulet will have it so,

                        And I am nothing slow to slack his haste.

FRIAR              You say you do not know the lady’s mind?

                        Uneven is the course, I like it not. (4.1.1-5)

Towards the end of his final tirade in the previous scene, Capulet reminded Juliet that Thursday is near (it’s now Tuesday morning), and there are going to be many further reminders in this scene, starting with the Friar here, as time and its management become more and more crucial to the plotting. Even as the scene begins, the Friar is trying to engineer a delay: the time is very short. But Paris is ready for this: this is what Capulet wants, and I want it too. Paris demonstrates that he has entirely bought into his future father-in-law’s point of view and values with my father Capulet; perhaps he even realises that he seems to have displaced Juliet in her father’s affections, that Capulet is putting his relationship with his son Paris (as he referred to him in 3.4) before the wishes and feelings of his only daughter. So the Friar tries another angle: You say you do not know the lady’s mind? This is a reminder that consent was crucial to early modern marriage (this did not, of course, remove the possibility of coercion), and it’s also forming an explicit contrast with the emphasis on mutuality and shared understanding and commitment that marked the formation of Romeo and Juliet’s marriage. So when the Friar describes the course, the way of proceeding, as uneven, he’s not just saying, this is a bit of a bumpy road, he is also telling Paris that making these arrangements without knowing that Juliet has explicitly agreed to the marriage (and its timing) is both unfair and improper. The Friar is doing his best, raising sensible objections, trying to avoid suspicion.

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