Paul Rudd as Paris.
Image Source: Slides.com.
Roberto Bisacco as Paris.
Image Source: Verona Times.
[In mythology, Paris was the male beauty who abducted Helen of Troy.]
Paris first appears with Capulet, who is saying that he and Montague ought to be able to keep the peace. Paris makes a polite comment about that, then asks, "But now, my lord, what say you to my suit?" (1.2.6). His "suit" (important request) is for Juliet's hand in marriage. Capulet replies that Juliet is really too young, but Paris disagrees. [Scene Summary]
When Lady Capulet tells Juliet that "The valiant Paris seeks you for his love" (1.3.74), she puts a great deal of emphasis on how good-looking he is. The nurse is also impressed by Paris' looks. At the mention of his name, she exclaims, "A man, young lady! Lady, such a man / As all the world--why, he's a man of wax" (1.3.75-76). She means that Paris is perfect, as handsome as a wax figure. [Scene Summary]
After the Nurse receives from Romeo the happy news of Romeo's plans for marrying Juliet, the Nurse prattles on about how sweet Juliet is, and tells how she teases Juliet: "O, there is a nobleman in town, one Paris, that would fain lay knife aboard; but she, good soul, had as lief see a toad, a very toad, as see him. I anger her sometimes and tell her that Paris is the properer [handsomer] man; but, I'll warrant you, when I say so, she looks as pale as any clout [dishcloth] in the versal [whole] world" (2.4.201-206). [Scene Summary]
Very late in the evening of the day that Romeo kills Tybalt, we see Capulet explaining to Paris that "Things have fall'n out, sir, so unluckily, / That we have had no time to move our daughter" (3.4.1-2). By "move our daughter" Capulet means "urge her to marry," so Capulet is explaining why he doesn't have an answer to Paris' marriage proposal. Capulet also mentions how late it is, and Paris seems to take the hint that he should leave. He says, "These times of woe afford no time to woo. / Madam, good night: commend me to your daughter" (3.4.8-9). Then, before Paris can get out the door, Capulet suddenly promises him that Juliet will marry him three days hence. Capulet asks him how he likes that, and Paris says that he wishes the wedding were the very next day. In this very short scene Paris appears to be a schmuck. Tybalt, a Capulet kinsman, has just been killed and it's very late at night, but there Paris is, wanting to know if Juliet will marry him. He knows that Juliet hasn't given her consent, but gladly accepts her father's offer. [Scene Summary]
Shortly after Romeo has left Juliet's room to go to Mantua, Lady Capulet tells Juliet that "early next Thursday morn, / The gallant, young and noble gentleman, / The County Paris, at Saint Peter's Church, / Shall happily make thee there a joyful bride" (3.5.112-115). Juliet exclaims, "Now, by Saint Peter's Church and Peter too, / He shall not make me there a joyful bride" (3.5.116-117). She complains that she's going to be married off before the man has even wooed her, and she tells her mother to tell her father that she will not marry. To show just how much she is opposed to the whole idea she declares that when she does marry, "It shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate, / Rather than Paris" (3.5.122-123). Moments later Capulet arrives and is outraged that Juliet is refusing a match with Paris, "A gentleman of noble parentage, / Of fair demesnes, youthful, and nobly lien'd, / Stuff'd, as they say, with honourable parts, / Proportion'd as one's thought would wish a man" (3.5.179-182). After Capulet storms out, the Nurse advises Juliet to marry Paris. In the Nurse's opinion, Romeo is as good as dead, and Paris is "a lovely gentleman! / Romeo's a dishclout to him. An eagle, madam, / Hath not so green, so quick, so fair an eye / As Paris hath" (3.5.218-221). [Scene Summary]
When Paris informs Friar Laurence that he wants him to perform the marriage ceremony between himself and Juliet, the Friar tries to raise objections. The first thing we hear him say is "On Thursday, sir? the time is very short" (4.1.1). Paris replies, "My father Capulet will have it so, / And I am nothing slow to slack his haste" (4.1.2-3). Paris uses the word "father" because he already considers Capulet to be his father-in-law, and "I am nothing slow to slack his haste" means "I don't have any reluctance that would make me try to slow down Capulet." Paris is quite happy that Capulet is going to give him his daughter, but the Friar, more concerned with the daughter than the father, comments, "You say you do not know the lady's mind: / Uneven is the course, I like it not" (4.1.4-5). "Uneven is the course" means "this is not the regular way of doing such things." The man is supposed to woo the lady, and propose, and ask her father's permission; Paris has skipped right to the last step. Paris is aware of this, but he talks about the reasons that Juliet's father has for rushing the wedding. Then Paris says, as though explaining what Capulet thinks naturally explains everything, "Now do you know the reason of this haste" (4.1.15).
Soon after this, Juliet appears. Paris greets her by saying, "Happily met, my lady and my wife!" (4.1.18). His idea of wooing her is to tell her, over and over again, that she already belongs to him. Juliet has to fend him off without raising any suspicions about the true state of affairs. Thus a dialogue ensues in which Juliet skillfully keeps Paris at arm's length while allowing him to think that she's only being coy. [Scene Summary]
Juliet's first step in carrying out Friar Laurence's plan for avoiding the marriage to Paris is to lie to her father. She tells Capulet that from henceforth she will obey him in everything. Juliet's new attitude makes Capulet so happy that he decides to get things rolling right away. He says--to no one in particular--"Send for the County; go tell him of this: / I'll have this knot knit up to-morrow morning" (4.2.23-24). Capulet has just moved up the date of the wedding by 24 hours, but that doesn't seem to bother Juliet, who continues to mislead her father by saying of Paris, "I met the youthful lord at Laurence' cell; / And gave him what becomed love I might, / Not stepping o'er the bounds of modesty" (4.2.25-27). "Becomed" means "befitting"; Juliet is saying that she flirted with Paris as was befitting for a woman who is engaged to him. This, too, is mostly a lie. But Capulet is taken in and orders, "Let me see the county; / Ay, marry, go, I say, and fetch him hither" (4.2.29-30). There's no servant present to carry out Capulet's order, but Capulet doesn't notice that. Later Capulet calls for a servant, but discovers that they are all gone on other errands, so he decides he'll take his message to Paris himself.
Capulet doesn't even consider the possibility that Paris might have some objection to having his wedding date suddenly moved up to the very next morning. For Capulet, Paris seems to be the perfect son -- one who will do what he's told the instant he's told. [Scene Summary]
While everyone in the Capulet household has been rushing about preparing for the wedding of Juliet and Paris, the sun has risen. Capulet suddenly realizes that it's day and that Paris will arrive any moment. Sure enough, we hear Paris' musicians playing, and Capulet yells for the Nurse and for his wife. It's the nurse who comes, and Capulet ends the scene with a hurried order: "Go waken Juliet, go and trim her up; / I'll go and chat with Paris: hie, make haste, / Make haste; the bridegroom he is come already: / Make haste, I say" (4.4.25-28). [Scene Summary]
Capulet comes to Juliet's room because she should already be downstairs to meet her groom, Paris. Capulet says, "For shame, bring Juliet forth; her lord is come" (4.5.22), then discovers that Juliet is dead. (Only we know that she is not.) Soon Friar Laurence, the Musicians, and Paris come in. Capulet delivers the news of Juliet's death to the would-be groom by speaking of her as the bride of Death. He says, "O son! the night before thy wedding-day / Hath Death lain with thy wife. There she lies, / Flower as she was, deflowered by him" (4.5.35-37). The response of Paris is natural, though perhaps a bit self-centered. He exclaims, "Have I thought long to see [long looked forward to] this morning's face, / And doth it give me such a sight as this?" (4.5.41-42). Amidst the general mourning, Paris says, "Beguiled, divorced, wronged, spited, slain!" (4.5.55), which describes Juliet, but probably also himself. And, looking at (what he thinks is) Juliet's beautiful corpse, he exclaims, "O love! O life! not life, but love in death!" (4.5.58) [Scene Summary]
At Juliet's grave Paris says to his Page, "Give me thy torch, boy: hence, and stand aloof [at a distance]: / Yet put it out, for I would not be seen" (5.3.1-2) . He wants to be alone with his grief for Juliet, but in a few minutes Romeo comes with a crowbar and mattock to enter the same grave. Paris stands aside to observe, and when he sees Romeo start to open the tomb, he supposes that Romeo means to continue the feud with the Capulets by doing "some villanous shame / To the dead bodies" (5.3.52-53). Paris decides to make a citizen's arrest, but Romeo tries to talk Paris into just leaving. Paris won't be warned away, and Romeo kills him.
Paris' dying words are a plea to the man who has killed him: "If thou be merciful, / Open the tomb, lay me with Juliet" (5.3.72-73). Then follows a remarkable moment. We might expect that Romeo, Juliet's husband, wouldn't want any other man, even a dead one, lying next to Juliet, but Romeo's immediate response to Paris' request is, "In faith, I will" (5.3.74). Only after making this promise to his dead foe does Romeo take a hard look at him, recognize him, and remember that Balthasar told him, sometime on the journey back to Verona, that Paris was to have married Juliet. Even after this, Romeo shows no jealousy; instead, he seems to regard Paris as a comrade in the adventure of love and death. He says to Paris' body, "O, give me thy hand, / One writ with me in sour misfortune's book!" (5.3.82).
Keeping his promise, Romeo picks up the body of Paris, saying to it, "I'll bury thee in a triumphant grave" (5.3.83), then sees Juliet and says, "A grave? O no! a lantern, slaughter'd youth, / For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes / This vault a feasting presence full of light" (5.3.84-86). A "lantern" is a turret room with many windows through which the light can shine, and a "feasting presence" is a reception chamber in which festivals are held. Romeo speaks as though he and the "slaughter'd youth" in his arms are friends going to wonderful party, made most wonderful by the shining presence of Juliet. Then, laying Paris down, Romeo says, "Death, lie thou there, by a dead man interr'd" (5.3.87). "Death" is the body of Paris; the "dead man" who is interring the body is Romeo himself. [Scene Summary]