A wedding, on Thursday; sorted! it’s very, very late… (3.4.23-35)

CAPULET        Well, keep no great ado – a friend or two,

                        For hark you, Tybalt being slain so late,

                        It may be thought we held him carelessly,

                        Being our kinsman, if we revel much:

                        Therefore we’ll have some half a dozen friends,

                        And there an end. But what say you to Thursday?

PARIS              My lord, I would that Thursday were tomorrow.

CAPULET        Well, get you gone, a’Thursday be it then.—

                        Go you to Juliet ere you go to bed,

                        Prepare her, wife, against this wedding day.

                        Farewell, my lord. Light to my chamber, ho!

                        Afore me, it is so very late that we

                        May call it early by and by. Good night!

                                                                        Exeunt (3.4.23-35)

There’s another interesting (no, really) textual variant here – almost all the earliest editions have We’ll keep no great ado; this Well, keep (from Q2) could be addressed specifically to Lady Capulet, in her evident consternation at so imminently discovering herself as mother of the bride. Whatever, it’s going to be a small, quiet affair: Capulet perhaps realises even as he speaks that the haste of the wedding could be misconstrued and, as ever, he’s anxious about his public image as well as the social niceties; they don’t want anyone to think they’ve forgotten about Tybalt. The most important thing is pinning Paris down, definitively, to Thursday, and then Paris can leave and everyone can finally go to bed. And Paris concurs, affable, courtly, compliant, perhaps obsequious in his acquiescence. (Maybe he wanted a massive wedding? Maybe he’s been planning it for years?) We have to assume that Lady Capulet doesn’t do as she’s told here – a useful note for the actor? a frisson of risk for an audience unfamiliar with the play? – because it’s a shock to Juliet when she does hear about the wedding plans, the following morning, and of course at this very moment Romeo is either in bed with Juliet or she is still impatiently awaiting his arrival. I think that Capulet’s final words in the scene are mostly to emphasise this overlap of events: it is so very late that we may call it early by and by; it’s nearly or even after midnight, perhaps (it’s mid July, the nights are short) even getting close to daybreak. The Capulets exit through one door and Paris through another. And then, aloft

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