Capulet, done (and, homosociality 101) (3.5.189-195)

CAPULET        Look to’t, think on’t, I do not use to jest.

                        Thursday is near, lay hand on heart, advise:

                        And you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend;

                        And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets,

                        For by my soul, I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee,

                        Nor what is mine shall never do thee good.

                        Trust to’t, bethink you, I’ll not be forsworn.

                                                                           Exit.     (3.5.189-195)

In some ways this is just Capulet summing up, repeating himself, continuing to put the boot in, reiterating his threats of disinheritance, throwing Juliet out. But there are three particular things to note. The first is I do not use to jest. Capulet has no sense of humour; his literal-mindedness, his earnestness, is part of his insecurity. It’s one of the things that sets Juliet (and Romeo) apart from her parents: neither Capulet nor Lady Capulet is witty, playful, delighted by words. For Capulet, words are about power and action and status. Related to that: I’ll not be forsworn, his exit line. This points in two directions, I think. The first is that he won’t be forsworn by not carrying out the threats he’s just been making; he won’t go back on his word, he really, really means it. But, more centrally, he won’t be forsworn in relation to his promise to Paris that he can marry Juliet more or less immediately. That is the concern, and the principle, which has underpinned everything Capulet’s said here: And you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend. You are my chattel, my pawn, my bargaining chip, the means whereby I can forge advantageous alliances with other men. That’s your sole, and ultimate, purpose and value. And so I will not go back on my word to Paris, my relationship with whom I value more than I love my daughter, and I will not be made to lose face in front of him (and by implication, in the eyes of other men) by not doing what I’ve said I’ll do. It’s worth remembering at this point that Capulet hasn’t gone ballistic because he’s found out about Romeo. He’s gone ballistic because he’s not getting his own way.

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