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Shakespeare's Characters: Paris (Romeo and Juliet)

From The Works of William Shakespeare. Vol. 8. Ed. Evangeline Maria O'Connor. J.D. Morris and Co.

Some critics have thought the good Friar a herald of the Poet's intentions, through whose mouth Shakspeare is supposed to inform us that his poem is by no means a "hymn of praise," a "deification" of love, but on the contrary, that it is meant to show us that love is only a "happy intoxication" only a "flower liked for its sweet smell, the poison of which, when taken as food, will work fatally upon the heart." . . .

The intention, attributed to Shakspeare, is rather to be found in the character of Count Paris. It has been asked, what need is there, at all, for Count Paris and his love affair, and more particularly for the fight between him and Romeo? It is said that his death by the hand of the latter is obviously quite superfluous, wanting in motive, and as meaningless as a mere sensational scene. In answer to this it might at once be said, that nothing is superfluous that gives a clearer insight into the character of the principal hero, and that it must continue to be more fully and definitely unfolded throughout all the incidents of the action. But the chief reason for the death of the calm, cold, prosaic Count lies in his flat, dull and heartless conception of love, in his purposing to bargain with the parents for the beauty and amiability of their daughter — without first consulting the inclinations of her heart — in consideration of his rank, position and untried virtue. This is why the divine power of love, as it were, takes its revenge upon him; his manner of loving, therefore, forms the organic contrast of Romeo's and Juliet's passion; his fate is meant to show us that the Poet, in representing the tragic fate of the great, beautiful and poetic passion, had no idea of speaking in behalf of common prose.

Quoting Ulrici: Shakspeare's Dramatic Art.


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