Paris in Romeo and Juliet: Character Analysis

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  • 0:04 Arranged Marriage
  • 1:24 Over Before It Began
  • 3:28 Grief and Death
  • 4:58 Analysis: Internal Conflict
  • 5:39 Irony & Youth
  • 7:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Wendy Ramos

Wendy teaches high school English and has a master's degree in English.

This lesson will explore the character of Count Paris in William Shakespeare's tragic drama ''Romeo and Juliet'', analyzing his significance to the play.

Arranged Marriage

It's generally accepted that Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is set in the 1300s. In the 14th century, aristocratic families in Europe often required their young daughters to marry successful older men in order to solidify the family's position and wealth. Girls were considered eligible at the age of 14 and had to give their consent to a marriage. In Romeo and Juliet, Paris is the man that Lord and Lady Capulet want Juliet to marry. He is a count and is related to Escalus, the Prince of Verona. We are first introduced to Paris in Act I, Scene 2 when he asks Lord Capulet if he can marry Juliet, even though she is not fourteen yet. Lord Capulet says he thinks she is too young and may be marred by an early marriage. When Paris asserts his case, saying that there are younger girls who are married mothers, Lord Capulet says he can attend the feast he is having that evening to see if Juliet is interested.

In Act I, Scene 3, Lady Capulet comes to Juliet's room to tell her that ''the valiant Paris seeks you for his love.'' Even though Lady Capulet and the Nurse are excited about the pursuit of such a distinguished suitor, Juliet replies that she will meet him only to see if she is interested but doesn't promise she will like him. It's agreed that Juliet will formally meet Paris at the party thrown by her parents that evening.

Over Before It Began

Shakespeare never gives us a view of Juliet at the feast getting to know Paris. Instead, Juliet meets Romeo there and the romance of the ''star-crossed lovers'' takes off. We next see Paris in Act III, Scene 4 when he dutifully comes to pay his respects to Lord Capulet after the murder of Tybalt, Juliet's cousin. Capulet explains that with the recent family upheaval they have not had a chance to convince Juliet to marry. At the end of the scene, Juliet's father, confident that she will obey him, promises Paris that the two can marry three days later. Neither of the men are aware that Juliet is already married to Romeo.

When Lord and Lady Capulet come to Juliet in Act III, Scene 5 to cheer her up with the news she will marry Paris soon, Juliet does not react the way they expect. Shocked and eager to avoid revealing her secret marriage to Romeo, she declares that she does not even know Paris and will not marry him. Capulet is especially angry at Juliet's defiance and says he will force her to marry Paris by threatening to disown her. Juliet begs her father to listen to her, but he will not hear her and calls her ''baggage.''

In Act 4, Scene 1, Paris meets with Friar Laurence to plan the wedding ceremony. The friar, having already married Juliet to Romeo, is surprised and tries to convince Paris to take his time and woo Juliet properly instead of rushing into marriage. Juliet arrives on the scene to speak to Friar Laurence, and Paris greets her as ''my wife.'' Juliet tactfully replies that she is not yet a wife, and Paris insists that they will be married on Thursday. This exchange is ironic because both Juliet and Friar Laurence are aware that she is already married to Romeo, but Paris is not. Once Paris leaves, Juliet desperately begs the friar for a plan to get out of her wedding to Paris and to join Romeo, who has been banished from Verona for the murder of Tybalt. They settle on a risky scheme to falsify her death so she can run away with her husband, Romeo. Friar Laurence provides Juliet with a potion to make it seem as if she is dead.

Grief and Death

The next morning, Paris arrives at the Capulet house with Friar Laurence and musicians to collect his bride for the wedding, but Juliet has taken the potion, and everyone believes her to be dead. Paris is genuinely grieved over the loss of his intended wife, saying, ''Have I thought long to see this morning's face, and doth it give me such a sight as this?...O love! O life! not life, but love in death!'' Lord Capulet and Friar Laurence make plans for Juliet's funeral.

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