In Paris, we have a character from the higher echelons of society, adhering to patriarchal values, albeit not in an aggressive way. The audience first meets him convincing Lord Capulet to let him marry Juliet; though it is not entirely successful, he is unafraid to say what he wants, even to someone of a similar social standing and senior in age. He is a man of few words, in contrast to Romeo, clear in his language and approach (which links him with Prince Escalus, and Mercutio to some extent). He has no doubts that Juliet loves him in Act 4; why should he, being a good match at that time. The contrast shown is, in spite of his seemingly genuine feelings for Juliet, he believes he can get her hand in marriage via traditional means (through the father) rather than wooing her with his words and actions (as Romeo does).
Given that the audience is rooting for Romeo and Juliet, it is easy to view Paris as an antagonist. And yet he arguably does far less wrong than Romeo. He respects tradition to go to Lord Capulet and ask his permission. Even though he is at her house, he recognises that immediately following Tybalt’s death is no time for him to talk with Juliet; “These times of woe afford no times to woo.” Though there may be a degree of impatience in this, there is also respect. His comment that “Thy face is mine” in Act 4 may seem possessive, but it was how such relationships worked at the time, and he does seem concerned that she is unhappy. But most significant is the final encounter: the audience sees Paris come to Juliet’s tomb to weep and lay flowers there. He does not wish to be seen in such a state, having previously been so controlled. It is hard to dislike someone with such genuine feelings.
Shakespeare’s plays often bring a lot of assumptions with them, one being that Romeo and Juliet are a perfect match. In the final scene, Paris makes a pretty good argument for him being a better one. First we see him mourning Juliet’s death, showing his genuine love and affection for her (note that Romeo immediately thinks of how to kill himself). Even in death, he tries to defend her honour when Romeo, who he believes responsible for her death, appears. But does he immediately try and kill him, in the rash way that Tybalt, Mercutio and Romeo behave? “I shall apprehend him.” He tries to act within the law, in spite of his anger. Even in death, rather than raving in fury about the feud, he simply asks to be placed with Juliet. He may have the mark of patriarchal values upon him, but he has genuine love for Juliet and control over his actions.
On Juliet: “Younger than she are happy mothers made.” (Act I, Sc ii)
Lady Capulet and Nurse to Juliet;
Lady Capulet: Valiant Paris seeks you for his love.
Nurse: (…) Such a man/ As all the world- why, he’s a man of wax.
Lady Capulet: Verona’s summer hath not such a flower. (Act I, Sc iii)
Paris after Tybalt’s death: “These times of woe afford no times to woo.” (Act III, Sc iv)
On bringing the wedding forward: “I am nothing slow to slack his haste.” (Act IV, Sc i)
To Juliet: “Poor soul, thy face is much abus’d with tears.” (Act IV, Sc i)
“O! Bid me leap, rather than marry Paris,/ From off the battlements of any tower.” (Act IV, Sc i)
Juliet’s death: “O love! O life! Not life, but love in death!” (Act IV, Sc v)
In Juliet’s tomb: “Thy canopy is dust and stones;/ Which with sweet water nightly I will dew,/ Or, wanting that, with tears distill’d by moans.” (Act V, Sc iii)
To Romeo: “Condemned villain, I do apprehend thee:/ Obey, and go with me.” (Act V, Sc iii)
Final words: “O, I am slain! - If thou be merciful,/ Open the tomb, lay me with Juliet.” (Act V, Sc iii)