Paris dead? Romeo dead? Juliet dead, again? (5.3.194-201)

PRINCE           What fear is this which startles in your ears?

CAPTAIN        Sovereign, here lies the County Paris slain,

                        And Romeo dead, and Juliet, dead before,

                        Warm and new killed.

PRINCE           Search, seek, and know how this foul murder comes.

CAPTAIN        Here is a friar, and slaughtered Romeo’s man,

                        With instruments upon them, fit to open

                        These dead men’s tombs. (5.3.194-201)

So things start to come together, as the Prince takes charge and the Captain makes his report. What do the Capulets do, during this exchange? clutch each other, probably, and react to each of these shocks. Again, we have to remind ourselves just how secret all of this is: there has been nothing, hitherto, to connect Romeo and Juliet, or indeed Paris and Romeo, for anyone in the play except Romeo and Juliet themselves, the Nurse and the Friar. Paris didn’t know about Romeo, and Romeo barely knew about Paris. The Captain’s initial statement, Sovereign, here lies the County Paris slain, perhaps suggests that Paris is nearer to the tomb’s entrance than Juliet’s tomb (but: undue realism?) More importantly, he’s starting at the top: the Prince is in charge of Verona, and Paris is the only one here of noble birth. Like the previous evocation of the people running through the streets as the terrible news spreads, this is a reminder that this is a public tragedy too, that the shockwaves are already spreading throughout Verona. One of its most prominent nobles (we presume) is suddenly and violently dead. That’s part of the mystery, but there’s more. Why is Romeo here, dead? In the Capulet tomb? And Juliet, as the Captain so straightforwardly puts it, dead before, warm and new killed. It’s not surprising that the first assumption is murder, rather than suicide, and the Prince at first seems to think (like the Captain) that there might be a murderer at large. But the Captain is one step ahead; he has witnesses, he has his own suspicions, and he wants the Prince to interrogate Balthasar and the Friar.


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