Enter Juliet, with nerves of steel (4.1.15-21)

PARIS              Now do you know the reason of this haste.

FRIAR              [Aside] I would I knew not why it should be slowed. –

                        Look, sir, here comes the lady toward my cell.

                                    Enter JULIET.

PARIS              Happily met, my lady and my wife!

JULIET                        That may be, sir, when I may be a wife.

PARIS              That ‘may be’ must be, love, on Thursday next.

JULIET                        What must be shall be.

FRIAR                                                  That’s a certain text. (4.1.15-21)

Now you do know the reason of this haste: I guess this could be played slightly ruefully, Paris suggesting that he didn’t necessarily want to divulge this rather sensitive personal information to the Friar, about Juliet’s apparent grief (or indeed to suggest that the marriage is being hastened for reasons other than full-on she-can’t-keep-her-hands-off-me passion, as was in part the case with Romeo and Juliet themselves). Or it could be played with exaggerated politeness and slightly gritted teeth: I don’t need to explain myself to you at all because I am a noble and you are an ordinary Franciscan friar, but I’ve humoured you and now you just need to do as I tell you. And the Friar’s aside is also ambiguous: is he expressing real regret here, for having ever got mixed up in this, for knowing too much already? I’d like to think not. Surely mixed emotions at Juliet’s approach – maybe some relief that he’s not going to be continuing this prickly conversation with Paris solo, but mostly apprehension about what’s going to happen next, and just how much worse this is going to get. I think I am deciding that Paris is mostly slimy, at least in this scene (it gets cringier): it’s the little lady, Mrs Paris-to-be! (I paraphrase.) And happily rings utterly hollow: this is neither happy nor fortunate, and Paris is doing his best to control the imperatives, continuing the status games. Juliet is absolutely on it, though, cool, guarded, icily polite, double-edged: what must be shall be is less que sera, sera than a steely fatalism. She ostentatiously sticks to the formal sir, as well as rejecting my lady and my wife, and she pointedly does not address him as my lord – that title is reserved for Romeo, her husband. But Paris thinks he’s being smooth and smart, and the Friar watches the verbal table-tennis and wonders what’s going to happen next.

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