Count Paris

This article is about the Romeo and Juliet character Count Paris. For other uses, see Paris (disambiguation).
Count Paris
Creator William Shakespeare
Play Romeo and Juliet
Family Prince Escalus, Mercutio

Count Paris or County Paris is a fictional character in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. He is a suitor of Juliet. He is handsome, wealthy, and a kinsman to Prince Escalus.


Luigi da Porto adapted the story as Giulietta e Romeo and included it in his Historia novellamente ritrovata di due Nobili Amanti published in 1530.[1] Da Porto drew on Pyramus and Thisbe and Boccacio's Decameron. He gave it much of its modern form, including the lovers' names, the rival Montecchi and Capuleti families, and the location in Verona.[2] He also introduces characters corresponding to Shakespeare's Mercutio, Tybalt, and Paris. Da Porto presents his tale as historically true and claims it took place in the days of Bartolomeo II della Scala (a century earlier than Salernitano). Montecchi and Capuleti were actual 13th-century political factions, but the only connection between them is a mention in Dante's Purgatorio as an example of civil dissention.[3]

Role in the play

Paris makes his first appearance in Act I, Scene II, where he offers to make Juliet his wife and the mother of his child. Juliet's father, Capulet, demurs, telling him to wait until she is older, in which they sneak off later in the scene together. Capulet invites Paris to attend a family ball being held that evening, and grants permission to woo Juliet, only to fall while dancing with Juliet. Later in the play, however, Juliet refuses to become Paris' "joyful bride" because of her affair with her cousin, Tybalt, later to die by Romeo's hand, proclaiming for the first time that she now despises Paris and wants nothing to do with him, despite her earlier feelings. Capulet violently threatens to disown and then make Juliet a lowly street urchin if she does not marry Paris, threatening to slap his daughter, and screaming in her face. Juliet's mother, too, turns her back on Juliet shortly after Capulet storms out of the scene ("Talk not to me, for I'll not speak a word; do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee"), as does the Nurse. Then, while at Friar Lawrence's cell at the church, Paris tries to woo Juliet by repeatedly saying she is his wife and they are to be married on Thursday. He kisses her and then leaves the cell, prompting Juliet to threaten to kill herself if Friar Lawrence doesn't help her escape this second marriage.

Paris' final appearance in the play (but not in the 1968 film version) is in the cemetery where Juliet, who is feigning death, is "laid to rest" in the Capulet family tomb. Believing her to be dead, Paris has come to mourn her in solitude and privacy and sends his manservant away. He professes his love to Juliet, saying he will nightly weep for her.[4] Shortly thereafter, Romeo, deranged by grief himself, also goes to the Capulet's tomb and is confronted by Count Paris, who believes Romeo came to desecrate Juliet's tomb. Romeo begs him to leave and not force him to take another life, but Paris refuses and attempts to arrest him. A duel ensues and Paris's page, who was watching from afar, runs off to alert the watch. Paris is mortally wounded. Before he dies, Paris asks Romeo to be merciful and lay him in the tomb with Juliet. Romeo, recognizing Paris, grants his wish.

Historical context

The earliest versions of the text (First Quarto, Second Quarto and First Folio) all call him "Countie Paris". Some versions of the text call him "County Paris".[5] "County" was in common usage at the time of writing,[6] and Shakespeare's choice was dictated by the needs of the metre.[7]

As a father, the chief role Capulet plays in Juliet's life is that of matchmaker. He has raised and cared for Juliet for nearly fourteen years, but he must find a suitable husband who will care for her for the remainder of her life. Juliet, as a young woman and as an aristocrat in general, cannot support herself in the society of her day, her only available career choices are either wife or nun. Thus it falls upon her father and her husband to support her.

Count Paris would be an excellent match for Juliet. He, too, is an aristocrat and of a higher social order. He is a well-established and wealthy business/government person who could support and provide for Juliet rather well. He is also, most probably, well connected politically, making him a good family contact for Capulet and his wife. This probably means that he is quite mature being at least twenty-five years old, while Juliet has not yet turned fourteen. Nevertheless, within the historical context of the play, there is nothing peculiar in their age difference. Though the typical age of marriage for Italian men in this period was 29 and women was about 25, for the higher class, including the aristocracy and wealthy merchant class, arranged marriages were common during the teenage years.


Although Paris is not as developed as other characters in the play, he stands as a complication in the development of Romeo and Juliet's relationship. His love of Juliet stands as he overthrows Romeo's impetuous love.[8] In Act V, Scene III, Paris visits the crypt to quietly and privately mourn the loss of his would-be fiancée, before approaching Romeo whom he thinks has returned to Verona to vandalize the Capulet tomb. After refusing Romeo's pleas for him to leave, Paris and Romeo draw their swords and fight. Romeo eventually kills him during the sword fight, and his dying wish is for Romeo to lay him next to Juliet, which Romeo does. This scene is often omitted from modern stage and screen performances as it complicates what would otherwise be a simple love story between the title characters.

"Rosaline and Paris...are the subtlest reflectors of all...they are cast like a snake's skin by the more robust reality of Romeo and Juliet."

—Ruth Nevo, on the Rosaline-Juliet, Paris-Romeo comparison[8]

Men often used Petrarchan sonnets to exaggerate the beauty of women who were impossible for them to attain, as in Romeo's situation with Rosaline. Capulet's wife uses this sonnet form to describe Count Paris to Juliet as a handsome man.[9] When Romeo and Juliet meet, the poetic form changes from the Petrarchan (which was becoming archaic in Shakespeare's day) to a then more contemporary sonnet form, using "pilgrims" and "saints" as metaphors.[10] Finally, when the two meet on the balcony, Romeo attempts to use the sonnet form to pledge his love, but Juliet breaks it by saying, "Dost thou love me?"[11] By doing this, she searches for true expression, rather than a poetic exaggeration of their love.[12] Juliet uses monosyllabic words with Romeo, but uses formal language with Paris.[13] Other forms in the play include an epithalamium by Juliet, a rhapsody in Mercutio's Queen Mab speech, and an elegy by Paris.[14]



  1. Moore (1937: 38–44).
  2. Hosley (1965: 168).
  3. Moore (1930: 264–277)
  4. Act V, Scene III
  5. Grey, Zachary (1754). Critical, historical, and explanatory notes on Shakespeare. 2. London: Richard Manby. p. 265. OCLC 3788825. Grey lists ten scenes where "County" is used, but a wordcount using Kindle results in a total of nineteen individual deployments
  6. "county, n2". Oxford English Dictionary (2 ed.). 1989.
  7. de Somogyi, Nick (2001). Twelfth Night. London: Nick Hern Books. p. 160. ISBN 1-85459-622-5. ‘County’, an alternative form of ‘count’, to restore the metre, … as for example in Romeo and Juliet ‘Mercutio’s kinsman, noble County Paris’
  8. 1 2 Nevo, Ruth. "Tragic Form in Romeo and Juliet". Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 9.2 (April 1969): 241-258.
  9. Halio (1998: 47–48).
  10. Halio (1998: 48–49).
  11. Romeo and Juliet, II.ii.90.
  12. Halio (1998: 49–50).
  13. Levin (1960: 3–11).
  14. Halio (1998: 51–52).
  15. Edgar (1982: 162).


External links

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