The play of Romeo and Juliet is still very popular today. The themes of love, feud and tragedy are very interesting which makes it have a lot of suspense; furthermore, it makes the play very exciting, as it has universal themes. The position of women in society was very different to men. Women were supposed to be obedient, quiet and done whatever a man wants them to. There was a lack of women’s rights, for example, women were not allowed to make their own choices, about who they could marry.
Despite the fact that at that time, England was ruled by a female monarch, women had very little control over the direction of their life. Families during this time centred on the traditional patriarchal paradigm – that of domination and submission. The father was the head of the household and rule over his wife and children. This also meant that the father would choose his daughter’s future husband; this means the father would arrange the marriage. In those days marriage was a way of inheriting money and land, “shall you this night inherit at my house.” Women were merely a tool for whatever a use a man wanted them for. The focus of my work will be on Juliet and how she interacts with the other characters to make the play dramatic for the audience.
Juliet is a young, 14 year old, who is the daughter of Capulet and Lady Capulet. She is an only child of Capulet, since all of the other children have passed away, “earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she.” Her social situation means she should behave in a certain way. She should be quiet and do exactly what her father expects her to. She is supposed to marry according to her social status, whoever the father finds and only if he thinks the man is appropriate. In this case, the father Capulet has chosen Paris to marry Juliet, “We have wrought so worthy a gentleman to be her bride?”
In act 1 scene 3, she learns that her father has found a husband for her, “think of marriage now” so how she behaves in act 2 scene 2, is really shocking for the audience. In act 2 scene 2, is when Juliet first sees Romeo, it is love at first sight, in this scene she behaves very differently. They are at a party, at the Capulet’s mansion. Romeo loves Juliet from the first moment he sees her, she falls instantly in love with him. Lines 92-105, when the lovers first meet, are written like a sonnet. Sonnet writing was a popular and highly esteemed activity at Queen Elizabeth’s court. Furthermore, Romeo compares Juliet to a shrine or saint. Religious imagery runs through their conversation, “profane”, “faith”. Romeo uses religious imagery; he is trying really hard to show Juliet that it is not lust that he is feeling but love. He is trying to say that he worships the ground that Juliet treads on. He uses his words very carefully so that he does not disrespect or “profane” her. Romeo’s language is different from how he spoke earlier in the play. He is more passionate, romantic and caring, “my lips two blushing pilgrims ready stand”, rather than upset and angry, which he had been in previous acts because he was upset over the rejection of Rosaline’s love, “sad hours seem long”.
After this scene, Juliet starts to question her thoughts. She has found out by the nurse that Romeo is a Montague, “my only love sprung from my only hate,” and then she later questions herself about her feelings she has for Romeo and whether she should tell him, whether he will think she behaves like this around all men, “or if thou think’st I am too quickly won”, even though he is a Montague. Juliet questions why a name should matter, “what’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet” and it is after this that Romeo also expresses his love for her. This is also linked with another of the main characters, Friar Lawrence.
He plays a major part in what happens to Romeo and Juliet. Act 2 scene 3 is where we first meet him. In this scene, Friar Lawrence agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet because he believes their marriage will end the feuding of the Montagues and the Capulets. However, would changing someone’s and something’s name make a huge impact? This is not likely. Although if Juliet was found out, this would have caused a lot of uproar, confusion and sadness, as a Capulet would become a Montague, which would make the family very unhappy. Juliet is very polite towards her mother, ” I am here madam, what is your will?” however in act 1 scene 3, she shows she can be very diplomatic if she ever needed to reject anything, “it is an honour I dream not of”. On the other hand, Capulet is certain that Juliet will obey him, “I think she will be ruled in all aspects by me, nay more, I doubt it not”, but in act 3 scene 5 this is not the case.
Foreshadowing is a dramatic technique used by Shakespeare, “I would the fool were married to her grave”, ironically, this is spoken by her mother about Juliet; as the audience already knows her fate is death, it is a way of startling, and reminding, them. Moreover, Juliet makes the play very dramatic, for example act 3 scene 4 is full of dramatic irony, eg even as Capulet plans Juliet’s marriage, she is eagerly awaiting her husband in her bedroom. This makes the audience feel a lot of suspension as to what will happen next. It makes them use their judgement on what the characters should do, to question if Romeo and Juliet are right to do what they are doing, if they are in love or whether it is wrong, as family honour should come first.
Act 3 scene 5 begins the morning after their wedding. Juliet tries to persuade Romeo that it is not yet dawn, and not time to leave her. At first he says he must go, but then resolves to say “to stay and face capture and death,” Juliet then reluctantly accepts this and they say their good byes. Then the nurse warns the lovers that lady Capulet is coming. As Romeo leaves, Juliet’s words are filled with foreboding. When lady Capulet arrives, she instantly mistakes Juliet’s tears for Romeo, as grief for Tybalt’s death. Juliet’s replies strengthen her mother’s mistaken belief, and she threatens vengeance, promising to have Romeo poisoned in Mantua. Lady Capulet tells Juliet she must marry Paris on Thursday. Juliet appalled, refuses to do so. Capulet then comes in and mistakes Juliet’s tears for sorrow for Tybalt’s death as well. Capulet flies into a towering rage on hearing the refusal to marry Paris. He then insults her and threatens her. This scene is very important. Shakespeare uses a lot of dramatic effects, the way the characters act and the language is also very important.
Just before act 3 scene 5, Capulet is organising the marriage of Juliet and Paris, not knowing that Romeo and Juliet are upstairs in her bedroom. At this point, Shakespeare is using dramatic irony, to build up the suspense in the audience, which makes the next scene even more dramatic. Also the position of this scene is very important, because after this scene Juliet turns to Friar Lawrence for advice on what to do. But if act 3 scene 5 hadn’t have existed, then she wouldn’t have gone to see Friar Lawrence and therefore the story wouldn’t end the way it does.
In act 3 scene 5, Romeo and Juliet laugh about death, “let me taken, let me be put to death.” Shakespeare makes the play dramatic by putting words into characters’ mouths, which then later on happen. When the scene begins, the two characters talk about birds. “It was the nightingale”; “it was the lark.” The birds could be use to symbolise the situation that they are in, for instance, the lark is said to divide people, so in this case it would be dividing Romeo and Juliet. The lark is described as making “straining harsh discords and unpleasing sharps,” which could be symbolising what is going to happen, which is that is upsetting to hear, and which could potentially divide the family. The nightingale is described as being good; even though Juliet wants the bird that she hears to be a nightingale, as this represents sweetness, Romeo realises the reality of the situation, which is not sweet at all.
There is such an overwhelming amount of secrets and lies that in act 3 scene 5, it becomes breaking point, so anger and rage flares, even though the characters are oblivious to what is actually happening. It is in this scene, Capulet finds out that Juliet refuses to marry Paris, which is the cause of the massive argument between the characters. In the arguments we can see the social statuses of the characters, for example it is Capulet that said the most, it is him that is ‘allowed’ to insult whom ever he wants, he calls Juliet names; “tallow face”, “young baggage,” this is the mildest insult. The reason for this could be that Capulet feels disappointed or embarrassed that his plans have now been spoilt; it could also be the acting as the “patriarch,” Capulet is the ruler of the family, and he is demanding his daughter to marry Paris but she does not want to. He wants complete obedience, silence and consent. So when she does not comply he humiliates Juliet, “hurdle” and threatens her, “An you be mine.” Capulet’s language is exaggerated a lot; this is to show how upset he is feeling.
Shakespeare wants the audience to be very shocked by this; it was certainly unheard of for a daughter to behave like this. It would have made all the fathers in the play very angry with her. During the argument we see that lady Capulet doesn’t say very much. This is because women were not allowed to because of the patriarchal society they lived in. She does however; try to calm down Capulet, “you are too hot”, but she has very little effect in the argument. After the argument, Juliet asks her mother for sympathy “is there no pity”. She also asks her will she delay the marriage, which then Shakespeare uses dramatic irony, “or if not, make the bridal bed in that dim monument where Tybalt lies.” But Lady Capulet is not willing to contradict Capulet, and therefore said, “Talk to me not, for I’ll not speak a word.” After this Lady Capulet exists, leaving the nurse and Juliet alone. Juliet then tries to get sympathy and advice from the nurse, “oh nurse, how shall this be prevented”.
She then gets very annoyed with the nurse, as the nurse said she should marry Paris, “I think it best you marry with the county.” Juliet then becomes rude and demanding, like she is taking her place in the paradigm society because of her social status. She then tells the nurse to tell lady Capulet that she is going to Friar Lawrence for advice. In the end of act 3 scene 5, Juliet is left on her own, she is angry and wants to blame God for what has happened and what is happening, but she doesn’t and instead she goes to see Friar Lawrence. She is deliberately isolated away from the other characters. This is done by Shakespeare, to ensure that Juliet goes to Friar Lawrence, who plays a major part in their fate. As Juliet pleads the Friar Lawrence for advice, he devises a plan to prevent Juliet’s marriage to Paris. Juliet declares she will do anything to escape the wedding. Friar Lawrence explains that he will give Juliet a potion to make her seem dead. She will then be placed in the Capulet vault, where Romeo will be with her when she awakens to take her to Mantua. However, Romeo hears that Juliet is dead, so he buys poison from the apothecary, and said he will kill himself that night in the tomb with Juliet.
Paris comes to the tomb to lay flowers and mourn. But his page whistles to warn him someone is coming. Romeo, determined to force open the tomb, dismisses Balthasar on pain of death. Balthasar then plans to stay and watch. As Romeo begins to force entry, Paris steps forward to challenge him. Paris tries to arrest Romeo, but is slain by him instead. Romeo is dismayed to find whom he has killed, decides to grant Paris’s dying wish, and lays his body beside Juliet’s. Romeo drinks the poison. Entering the vault, the Friar finds the dead Romeo and Paris, whilst Juliet begins to awaken. Friar Lawrence, fearful of the discovery, leaves the tomb, begging Juliet to go with him. She refuses, and stabs herself because she prefers to join Romeo in death. This shows the audience that this isn’t a simple love story; and raises the question about the way love works when everything is decided by men struggling for possession of women. Also, how can a woman, like Juliet, ever get what she really wanted in a patriarchal society, where they aren’t supposed to speak.
Juliet dies by her own hand, after she discovers Romeo dead. An important difference in their deaths, Is that Juliet dies, knowing the truth. This puts her in a heroic light. To conclude, Shakespeare makes Juliet’s characters very dramatic by using a lot of dramatic affects. The most commonly used effect is dramatic irony. Juliet has a big impact on the audience; because even though she had previously shocked the audience before with her rebellious behaviour, the audience’s final impression of her is someone of has had a problematic and helpless life, who has had an inevitable tragic fate of that of death. On the other hand, Juliet’s character is interpreted in various ways. For instance, in Romeo and Juliet (1996), this is a contemporary view of the play, and Romeo and Juliet (1968), this is an old fashioned view of the play, so therefore the character of Juliet comes across differently. She is presented like a spoilt little girl in Romeo and Juliet (1968).
On the other hand she seems to be a genuinely nice person in Romeo and Juliet (1996). The way she was presented was effective as even though in act 3 scene 5 she was presented as being disobedient and rebellious, in the end she showed that maybe what somebody wants for someone else is just not meant to be. That trying to control everything can have traumatic affects, a cause a lot of trouble and in this case death. In fact this still happens today.