Gentlemanly conduct (1.5.63-75)

CAPULET        Young Romeo, is it?

TYBALT                                              ’Tis he, that villain Romeo.

CAPULET        Content thee, gentle coz, let him alone,

                        ’A bears him like a portly gentleman;

                        And to say truth, Verona brags of him

                        To be a virtuous and well-governed youth.

                        I would not for the wealth of all this town

                        Here in my house do him disparagement;

                        Therefore be patient, take no note of him;

                        It is my will, the which if thou respect,

                        Show a fair presence, and put off these frowns,

                        An ill-beseeming semblance for a feast.

TYBALT          It fits when such a villain is a guest:

                        I’ll not endure him.

CAPULET                                            He shall be endured. (1.5.63-75)

Oh the irony. Romeo’s a nice boy, says Capulet, in full genial-host head-of-the-family mode. What’s more, he’s both virtuous and well-governed, disciplined, temperate; he’s a gentleman, a portly (not stout! but dignified) one at that. Tybalt, of course, isn’t; he’s choleric, angry, seething, prone to these violent outbursts. And he’s petulant, childish. Both Capulet men are talking about honour. Tybalt thinks it’s an insult both to the family and to him, personally, that Romeo’s there. (It’s interesting to note that, in the previous passage, he calls for his rapier. This means that he wants to challenge Romeo to a duel, because if he wanted simply to attack him, he would still have his dagger and could do it immediately. The duel is the ritual which performs personal honour, which would also allow Tybalt, as he thinks, to avenge the insult which has been done to the family.) Capulet is also concerned with honour, but he thinks more in terms of hospitality and the nature of the occasion: it would be dishonourable to call out a guest, however uninvited or unwelcome; it would make the Capulets look bad. They need to keep up appearances, show a fair presence. Tybalt again describes Romeo as a villain, disparaging him in class terms; Capulet calls him a gentlemen, the equal of both Tybalt and himself. He’s reminding Tybalt, too, that he is gentle, and should start acting like it, and he’s also reminding him who’s in charge: he may be addressing Tybalt affectionately as coz, but it’s his house and his will (that crucial word, for Capulet) – and he makes the rules.

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