Romeo: don’t make me angry (5.3.58-67)

ROMEO           I must indeed, and therefore came I hither.

                        Good gentle youth, tempt not a desp’rate man,

                        Fly hence and leave me. Think upon these gone,

                        Let them affright thee. I beseech thee, youth,

                        Put not another sin upon my head,

                        By urging me to fury: O be gone!

                        By heaven, I love thee better than myself,

                        For I come hither armed against myself.

                        Stay not, be gone; live, and hereafter say,

                        A madman’s mercy bid thee run away. (5.3.58-67)

There’s an interesting asymmetry here: Paris seems to have recognised Romeo, at least as a Montague, but Romeo doesn’t recognise Paris. It’s dark, obviously, although Romeo has a torch or a lantern (the latter more likely, as it can sit on the ground while he tries to open the tomb), so if we’re being realistic, we can infer that Romeo’s face is illuminated while Paris is still in the shadows. More significant, however, is the fact that Romeo doesn’t seem to be interested in who this is. He doesn’t ask Paris who he is or why he’s there; he’s perfectly courteous and polite (good gentle youth; in this play of doomed youth, it’s touching to be reminded that Paris, too, is young, even if his interests and manner seem to be aligned with the parental generation) but he’s not interested, he doesn’t care about anyone else, or their motivations – he just wants this intruder, who is interrupting, getting in the way, to get out. Romeo’s manner is also reminiscent of his initial attempts to pacify Tybalt, when it all went so horribly wrong. Yet at the same time as he is being himself so gentle, so polite, he acknowledges that this could change, as indeed it will: put not another sin upon my head by urging me to fury. Don’t make me angry: if you get in my way and try to stop me doing this, I will kill you, adding murder to suicide as the sins I am committing. Because Romeo is desperate, that key word again, despair, the word that means that he is set on killing himself, that he has given up. So he doesn’t recognise Paris because he doesn’t care who this is, and because he is so totally focused on what he intends to do – but also because he recognises that in a sense he is mad, maddened with grief, with loss, with utter hopelessness.

In the UK,  Samaritans, phone 116 123, and, for young men in particular, CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably has some great resources.

View 5 comments on “Romeo: don’t make me angry (5.3.58-67)

  1. Not related to this post in particular, but I would like to say thank you. Your analysis has been invaluable to my teaching of a high ability set of Year 11s and has resulted in them being able to talk confidently about complex ideas like chiastic structure etc. They have an incredibly in-depth knowledge of the play and this is in part thanks to you.

    1. Thanks Jason – it’s so lovely of you to get in touch! I can’t quite believe it’s almost over… What’s brought you to the play on this occasion?

    2. And for some reason I didn’t see all of your comment before I replied – I am so pleased that you’ve found this useful in the classroom – gladdens my heart… I’m doing the new introduction for the Cambridge edition (will be out in 2021 I think?) (not the school edition) and I hope that a lot of what I’ve written about here will end up there…

  2. This is an extremely accurate depiction of this scene, from someone going back and researching Shakespeare post- high school! Thank you for this, years later, it’s still helpful.

    1. Oh that’s really nice to hear! I do still check comments regularly… I’m glad you enjoyed reading it and found it interesting!:-)

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