Prince: we’re going to find out the truth, all of it (5.3.216-222)

PRINCE           Seal up the mouth of outrage for a while,

                        Till we can clear these ambiguities,

                        And know their spring, their head, their true descent,

                        And then will I be general of your woes,

                        And lead you even to death. Mean time forbear,

                        And let mischance be slave to patience.

                        Bring forth the parties of suspicion. (5.3.216-222)

The Prince is emphatically in charge, and there’s a palpable sense of relief, I think, at his measured, formal statements. Everyone needs to calm down and be quiet – if only for a while; he implicitly acknowledges the outrage, here meaning something like shock or passion; he knows that everyone wants to have their say, to mourn and rage and howl. (Outrage has a body, or at least a mouth; its shape is surely an woe, woewoes, as the Prince himself says – and all the Os of that first scene of ritual lamentation with the Capulets, Paris, and the Nurse, when they thought Juliet was dead before. There will be all too much time, again, for such grieving and lament.) No more ambiguities: the story needs to be told right from the start. Spring and head here mean origin or source, but there’s also, perhaps, a glance back at the Prologue (another one): the Prince imagines the truth as something cleansing, like water – washing away the mess, the misunderstandings, the suspicions, and the civil blood, which has made civil hands unclean. When the truth of what’s happened is definitively and finally established, and in order (true descent) the Prince will be the chief mourner, the general of your woes; he too (as he will point out shortly) is grieving, both personally, for losses in his own family, and for what has happened to the city that he governs. But he will also see that justice is done, and he will not hesitate to lead you even to death – that is, to impose the death penalty. (The general suspicion, still, is that the deaths are all murder.) And again, calm down and be patient; at forbear, we might imagine someone trying to interrupt. Then – quite suddenly – the language of interrogation, of a courtroom even: Bring forth the parties of suspicion. (We know that the Friar is very upset, although he’s probably got himself under control; if Balthasar is being played by a child, then there is added pathos here.)


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