Paris, reverting to outright creepiness (4.1.37-43)

JULIET                        Are you at leisure, holy father, now,

                        Or shall I come to you at evening mass?

FRIAR              My leisure serves me, pensive daughter, now.

                        My lord, we must entreat the time alone.

PARIS              God shield I should disturb devotion!

                        Juliet, on Thursday early will I rouse ye;

                        Till then adieu, and keep this holy kiss.      Exit.     (4.1.37-43)

Juliet can’t stand this a moment longer: either Paris goes or she does. We like the Friar, but proactivity isn’t his thing: Juliet has to remind him why she’s (said she’s) there (to make her confession) and also, indirectly, that he’s meant to be the one in charge here, by using the more formal holy father, and identifying some explicit time constraints and markers – can they talk right now, or will she have to come back later? (And a reminder that she’s got a narrow range of excuses on which to draw; having asked the Nurse to tell her parents she’s gone to confession, she can’t hang around; coming back later for mass would be another possible excuse but she’s under tremendous pressure and, as ever in this play and ever more loudly, the clock is ticking.) She puts the Friar on the spot and, fortunately, he picks up on her desperation and tells Paris to leave, now. This scenario also appeals to Paris’s sense of propriety and the social niceties, and he clearly likes the idea that he’s getting a devout wife: God forbid I should get in the way of religious devotion! but there’s one final sting, first in the reminder that the wedding is still on (still on Thursday, early; it’s Tuesday, probably afternoon by now) and that, as was customary, he will wake her by sending musicians to the house. (Why was this ever a good idea? See Cloten’s completely brilliant never-fail plan to woo Innogen in Cymbelinehere in my most favourite version, which I was lucky enough to see live…) (The sexual sense of rouse or arouse doesn’t appear until the twentieth century, it seems; I’m charmed to see that it’s been a draft addition to the OED for a decade now, as if they’re still making up their minds. But it’s certainly there for a modern audience, shudder.) And then – shudder shudder flesh-crawl – this holy kiss. Formally on the cheek? on the hand, with exaggerated courtesy to the little lady? or on the forehead, as one might a child? Whatever, it’s achingly reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet’s own holy palmer’s kiss, and first kiss, at their meeting, of their last kiss (one kiss, and I’ll descend) as Romeo left the balcony as the day dawned, and his last words to Juliet, his wife, adieu, adieu.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *