Capulet losing it #1 (3.5.152-157)

CAPULET        Thank me no thankings, nor proud me no prouds,

                        But fettle your fine joints ’gainst Thursday next,

                        To go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church,

                        Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.

                        Out, you green-sickness carrion! out, you baggage!

                         You tallow-face!         (3.5.152-157)

Capulet has now completely abandoned the persona of the concerned father and is sneerily insulting; it’s possible to imagine a production in which an accent slips here and something rougher, less refined emerges. Certainly the alliteration and the proverbial quality of thank me no thankings, nor proud me no prouds is a sharp contrast to the earlier extended metaphor of the sea, and fettle your fine joints, while not yet dialect, is heading that way (fettle means prepare, make ready; by the eighteenth century, and probably earlier, it’s found only in the north of England). There’s a nasty sexual undercurrent here too: fettle your fine joints, if taken literally, means something like brace, arrange your delicate body, limbs (compare his earlier comment to Paris that too soon marred are those so early made, those who marry and bear children too young can be physically harmed). Green-sickness was a form of anaemia thought to afflict young unmarried women, the cure for which was marriage: Juliet is clearly pale, not just someone suffering from anaemia, but as an anaemic corpse, carrion, and tallow-face also suggests pallor (tallow is much more down-market than wax; compare Paris being praised as a man of wax). But of course she’s a baggage as well, a strumpet, because why not insult her as both a virgin and a whore, and insult her looks into the bargain (what have you got to be proud of anyway, you’re not all that)… And in the midst, a very specific threat, although not necessarily a literal one: I will drag thee on a hurdle thither. Traitors were dragged to the place of execution on a hurdle– think a rudimentary sled – and Capulet is therefore suggesting that Juliet is a traitor, in her unfilial disobedience and defiance, and also that she’s dead to him. (Men convicted of treason were disemboweled and dismembered, and this very particular and spectacular violence is also, perhaps, nastily shadowed by fettle your fine joints; women traitors were burned. Fun fact: wives who killed their husbands were executed as traitors, because patriarchy.)

This scene is one of the reasons why we see Capulet completely lose it with Tybalt at the ball, when he wants to confront Romeo: Am I the master here? he demanded then of Tybalt, touchy about his status, thick-skinned, always wanting to be in control, and very quick to anger when he felt slighted or that his status was being compromised. And that touchiness and rage now extends even to his once-beloved daughter.


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