Let’s seal the deal (3.4.12-22)

[Paris offers to go in, and Capulet calls him again.]

CAPULET        Sir Paris, I will make a desperate tender

                        Of my child’s love: I think she will be ruled

                        In all respects by me; nay more, I doubt it not.

                        Wife, go you to her ere you go to bed,

                        Acquaint her here of my son Paris’ love,

                        And bid her – mark you me? – on Wednesday next –

                        But soft, what day is this?

PARIS                                                              Monday, my lord.

CAPULET        Monday, ha, ha! Well, Wednesday is too soon,

                        A’Thursday let it be – a’Thursday, tell her,

                        She shall be married to this noble earl.

                        Will you be ready? do you like this haste? (3.4.12-22)

The stage direction is from Q1, and it’s useful: Paris really is going now, but Capulet is going to make one last – fateful – attempt to tie him down. He will make a desperate tender of Juliet’s love, putting words into her mouth because he thinks – he’s sure – that she’ll do what he tells her. A tenderis an offer, but it’s got a contractual, financial force to it too; Capulet wants to close a business deal. And desperate: compare the Friar’s instruction that Romeo hold his desperate hand!– desperate is an extreme word, a word associated with suicide. Of course Capulet’s not using it in a life or death sense at all, here, but it’s a word that resonates. There’s a stark contrast with Capulet’s earlier conversations with Paris about Juliet, when he was protective of his daughter on account of her youth, and didn’t want to give Paris unrealistic expectations. Now he assumes her obedience – which is actually entirely reasonable, given Juliet’s polite acceptance of her mother’s suggestion that she might marry Paris, and her promise that she would be led by her parents. Capulet is laying it on thick – Paris is now my son Paris – and he reminds Lady Capulet, and the audience, of Paris’s rank, this noble earl. (Earl is an English rank, equivalent to the Italian Count, which – as County – has previously been used for Paris.) Capulet is determined to get this concluded as soon as possible, now he’s made his mind up. The naming of specific days here is crucial for the plot – it’s the first time that future time has been mapped out and pinned down like this. Will you be ready? do you like this haste? could be addressed to Paris, with a bit of a nudge and a wink; it could also be spoken, with more concern, to Lady Capulet, who may well have reacted with some horror to the prospect of organising her only daughter’s wedding in the space of 3 days.

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