Paris being creepy? (4.1.6-14)

PARIS              Immoderately she weeps for Tybalt’s death,

                        And therefore have I little talked of love,

                        For Venus smiles not in a house of tears.

                        Now, sir, her father counts it dangerous

                        That she do give her sorrow so much sway;

                        And in his wisdom hastes our marriage

                        To stop the inundation of her tears,

                        Which too much minded by herself alone

                        May be put from her by society. (4.1.6-14)

I am often prepared to cut Paris some slack; it can work so much better if he’s not obviously a terrible person, and in the Zeffirelli film in particular his truly appalling hat surely earns him the right to some sympathy. But he’s being pretty vile here, sweeping aside the Friar’s properly rigorous objection – that Paris does not yet know if Juliet herself has consented to the marriage – with the smug assertion that he’s too polite, too nice, too sensitive to have spoken to her (again, have they even exchanged a single word, ever? let alone talked of love) because she’s so overcome with grief for Tybalt. Immoderately needles back at the Friar’s uneven is the course: if Juliet’s apparently being immoderate, why does Paris need to be fair? Venus smiles not in a house of tears is simply saccharine: look at me with my pat classical commonplace and my minding of social niceties. But he’s covering his back all the same: it’s mostly Capulet’s idea, and I’m going along with it. And it’s all in Juliet’s best interests – the men know best! and Paris and Capulet know better than the Friar! (that sir could have an insolent, rank-pulling tone) – because she’s making herself ill with grief, and in particular spending too much time alone. Marriage is the answer to everything! She’ll cheer up right away, lucky girl. And, while society here can simply mean companionship, company, it’s also perhaps got a sexual gloss, room for a nudge and a wink: the ‘mutual society, help, and comfort’ identified as one of the purposes of marriage in the preface to the marriage service in the Prayerbook. Paris seems to have the same ideas about greensickness as Capulet. Shudder.

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