Gratitude, pride, love, and hate (3.5.146-151)

JULIET                        Not proud you have, but thankful that you have:

                        Proud never can I be of what I hate,

                        But thankful even for hate that is meant love.

CAPULET        How how, how how, chopt-logic? What is this?

                        ‘Proud’, and ‘I thank you’, and ‘I thank you not’,

                        And yet ‘not proud’, mistress minion, you? (3.5.146-151)

One of the problems in this exchange between Capulet and Juliet – as a whole, not just this bit – is that she is so much sharper and quicker than he is. He’s turned up with his fabulous paternal plan (husband! wedding! that’s what every girl wants!) and a lovely metaphor and a big handkerchief, and she’s throwing it back in his face. And he can’t keep up (some of this is bluster but some of it is surely just bewilderment). Juliet is doing her absolute best to be clear, and not to make things worse: she is grateful, she will go along with the charitable interpretation that her parents’ plan of marrying her to Paris is motivated by their love for her, she concedes that he is a good catch. But the thought of marrying Paris is utterly hateful to her. (Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.) Yet even as hate and love conclude her first response here, the way in which she really takes seriously the other emotions in play is striking. It’s easy to reduce this play to a hate/love binary, the lovers alone against the world, focusing on their pain and passion to the exclusion of all else. But this terrible scene (which is going to get worse) is a forensic, keenly-observed exposition of the way in which all relationships – of family, friends, lovers – interpenetrate, and of how love and hate are almost never absolutes, but are intimately tied up with, and shaped by, other less dramatic, more contingent emotions – like pride, and gratitude – and other relationships, which are often asymmetrical, dependent, contingent, mobile. We have seen almost every moment of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship. It hasn’t had time to acquire baggage. But this scene distills, and expresses, years and years of family expectation, shared experience, and role-playing, tension, and mess. (Maybe that’s too novelistic a way of thinking about it.) Juliet’s lines are neatly turned, so carefully knitted together, with the parallelism in the first line, the repetitions of proudthankful, and hate – and then that single concluding love that is meant love, that is your partial, misguided idea of love. But Capulet responds with one of his own characteristic repetitions, how how, how how – whaaaat? – then puts words into her mouth that make her sound perter, chipper, but also contradictory, as if she’s being willfully obfuscatory and obscure. (Which she sort of is.) He can’t keep up, and so dismisses it as chopt-logic, sophistry, word-games, specious reasoning. (Which it sort of is.) And then the insults start: mistress minion, getting above yourself, you spoiled brat, little madam.

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