Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Why It Would Be Awesome To Play Lord Capulet

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?"


Alan K.Farrar said...

Now, you see, I think he is a good guy!
I know this man - seen him so many times: Wants what's best for his daughter, knows the world she is living in and stopping her getting what she wants and forcing her to have what she needs might just save her life.
Just wait - teenagers - what are they good for: Heart attacks.
(Played him once - as a stand in when someone got sick: Love the man.)

Gedaly said...

Capulet is a good man overall. Be nice, and he'll be nice. But as a big man in town he's very concerned about his honor and the respect due to him. The Montagues cross him, he's ready for a fight; Paris wants to take his daughter away from him, not so fast - you're not going to ruin my baby girl; Tybalt wants to start a fight at the party, but Capulet can't look bad in front of half the town by letting that happen; Juliet doesn't give the respect and obedience she owes him - time for a smackdown; etc.

His temper does become short by the end of the play, but understandably so. Wouldn't you be a little on edge if you had to plan a huge party, someone wanted to marry your daughter, your nephew was slain, and your daughter wasn't respecting you?

I think his intentions are all for the best, but maybe his self image and his honor are more important to him. Isn't that what the whole Montague/Capulet feud is all about? Defending one's honor?

Perhaps the fact that honor is more important to some people - instead of love - is the cause of the play's tragic end.

Alan K.Farrar said...

There you go - blame dad!
Does no one notice his attitude to Romeo at the party?

If anyone had bothered to actually ask him, I bet he'd have let Romeo and Juliet get married - no actually asks him.

Duane said...

Then again, Alan, maybe he was drunk? Perhaps one interpretation of the party scene is that Tybalt was in the right, and it was Lord Capulet who was the embarrassment to the family? Not that I've particularly held that belief one way or the other, just something I thought of this morning.

David Blixt said...

I've played Cap four times, and love the guy for a lot of the reasons you list. But also for his relationship with his wife. What a fine kettle of fish that is to play!

For example, whenever I direct the show, I have her come in with Cap and Paris, so she can hear that "too soon marr'd are those so early made" line (it also helps the story, as Lady Cap can then go straight to Juliet to relate direct knowledge of Paris' interest). If we take Lady Cap at her word, she's around 26 years old, married to a much older man (no hint at Cap's age other than he was crashing weddings 30 years ago). If she was a mother before she was thirteen, it's a pretty straight line from there to Cap's comment. That's just one of several fun things to do with that relationship (another is to let Lady Cap moon over Paris, the ideal husband, as she lives vicariously through her daughter).

Duane, by now you know all about my feud theory. I'm the first to say it's pretty unplayable on stage - the play stands as is. But the moment when Cap explodes at his daughter, there's a button being pushed. To put it in context of MV, if he's remembering Gianozza in that moment, he's enraged.

Craig said...

I don't really have anything clever to add to your thoughts--I've always counted Capulet as one of those little gems of a role in Shakespeare, like Ross in Macbeth or Casca in Caesar. It's amazing how deep even the minor characters can be in the great plays.

A few years back, Ken Brannagh made audio productions of both Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet with the BBC under the label "Renaissance Theatre Company." They're wonderful productions, with Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench, and so forth, but I mention them particularly because Richard Briers gives an absolutely fantastic Lord Capulet. He brings out all the qualities and complexities you talk about in your post, and I think you'd really enjoy hearing the production. Briers was Polonius in Branagh's film of Hamlet, and Leonato in his Much Ado, so I guess you could say he's made a specialty of tetchy Shakespearean fathers. Your library might have a copy if you don't want to buy your own...

Markus said...

I really found this info helpful. Im playing lord capulet at the Folger Shakespear Library in my home town of Washington D.C. and I think this info really helped to get to push myself through those last couple of lines. Thanks.

Robert said...

Definatly agree, I just got cast as him at Towson University, and was kinda bummed since I got called back for romeo and got him. This stuff is cheerin me up :-)