I promise I really was thinking about this topic, and not just because somebody woke up the old “Is Tybalt one of the better villains?” thread over in the sidebar. I love Juliet’s dad as a character. He’s got some of the best moments in the play whenever he’s on stage:
- His very first entrance, in his nightgown, he’s yelling “Bring me my longsword!” He sees a fight, he wants in. Sure, maybe he looks like a fool, and his wife gets in the better line (“A crutch! Why call you for a sword?”) Good for a little comic relief. So, that’s one side of his character.
- “Tis not hard, I think, for men so old as we to keep the peace.” When he’s not in the heat of the fight, he’s actually got a reasonable head on his shoulders. If this personality of Capulet’s sat down and talked to Montague, maybe we wouldn’t have a tragedy on our hands.
- “Woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart. My will to her consent is but a part.” He could easily hand over his daughter to Paris, but he doesn’t, and he cites his reasons. Paris points out that girls younger that Juliet are already married, and Capulet smacks him down with “too soon marr’d are those so early made.” He’s actually a good dad here, much better than he technically needs to be. We will see a very different side of him later.
- “Am I the master here, or you?” When Tybalt spies Romeo at the Capulet party, he wants to duel on the spot. So what does Lord Capulet do? Remember, this is the guy who we first saw screaming for his longsword when he saw fighting in the streets. This time, though, he clearly tells Tybalt, “You’re ruining the party, so sit down and shut up.”
- “She loved her kinsman Tybalt dearly, and so did I. Well, we were born to die.” Sounds like he really loved him. Oh well, people live, they die, we move on.
- “I think she will be ruled in all respects by me, nay more, I doubt it not.” Yeah, that’s gonna work out real well for you, chief. This is the guy who said “my will to her consent is but a part”, and now he’s saying “Don’t worry, she’ll do whatever I tell her.”
- “Thank me no thankings, proud me no prouds, but fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next, to go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church, or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither. Out, you green-sickness carrion! out, you baggage! You tallow-face!” Funny how he’s changed his tune about the whole “win her heart” thing, isn’t it?
- “My fingers itch.” I don’t know it for a fact, but I’ve always interpreted this to mean “I really think you need a good smack right now and I’m trying very hard not to follow through with it.”
He’s certainly not a nice guy, most of the dads in Shakespeares works are not, at least when it comes to their daughters (look at Polonius/Ophelia, Egeus/Hermia, Baptista/Katharina, etc….) But getting inside his character and trying to come to a place where he’s not just completely schizophrenic seems like it would be quite a challenge. How can he be all “oh my daughter my daughter!” one moment and “I disown you, get out of my sight before I drag you through the streets myself” the next? Is it all just temper? Is that why he runs into the fray with his longsword (almost), but can still say “It’s not so hard to keep the peace?”