Life for women in Shakespeare’s day was not the easiest, they were second to men and had limited roles due to lack of contraception. Women had few rights, and were not aloud to vote. However if you were wealthy and you were a high class woman you could be lucky enough to get an education. If you were a girl growing up in Elizabethan times your parents would control you, and your father would have power over you, this occurs in the play Romeo and Juliet.
In the wealthy Capulet household Juliet is overpowered by her father, lord Capulet.
“My child is yet a stranger in the world;
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years”
Paris asked if he could marry Juliet, this quotation is lord Capulet responding to him by saying that Juliet is only fourteen and wont get married yet. This tells us that he has power over his daughter. He also decides who she marries.
In our society today, fathers don’t have much say in who there daughters marry, however in some father daughter relationships fathers do have power over their daughters. This could be due to religion or being over protective. This is different to Shakespeare’s day as every father had a say in what their daughter did and who they married.
If a man was to abuse a woman today it would be seen as an illegal offence. However it was seen normal for a husband to hit their wife in Shakespeare’s day. Also every girl is entitled to an education today, but in Elizabethan times it was very rare for a girl to have an education.
Shakespeare wrote various plays one of them being ‘A mid-summers nights dream’. This play links to Romeo and Juliet as it always contains context of fathers overpowering there daughters.
Egues: “as she is mine I may dispose of her which shalt be either to this gentleman
Or to her death according to out law immediately provided in that case”
This is a quotation from the play by Egues who is talking about what is going to happen to his daughter, this tells us that he has power over his daughter. Therefore it is blatant that it was a normal part of Victorian society for men to overpower and control women.
Romeo and Juliet is a play about two young people from rival families who are madly in love. Their love is so strong that the end up killing them selves because they not that if they are alive they can not be together due to there family loathing one and other.
Juliet Capulet is an average teenage girl growing up in the Elizabethan times. She is obedient and tries her hardest to please her parents at all times as it was expected for the Victorian youth to always respect there elders. She is a member of the wealthy Capulet family, who have an ancient grudge against the Montague family; however it is not included in the play why the families contain so much hatred towards each other.
We first meet Juliet in act 1 scene 3, while she is getting ready for the party which her family are hosting, she is very polite and shows respect when speaking to her mother and the nurse.
“Madam, I am here what is your will?”
This is Juliet asking her mother what she wants. The way in which Juliet specks to her mother is very polite and compliant. This tells us that Juliet is respectful towards her elders. Also in this scene Juliet talks very little and only speaks when spoken to, this tells us that she is quite timid and does not put her opinions across very strongly. This is what women were expected to be in the Elizabethan times as they were seen as second to men. Juliet appears to be a very well behaved daughter. She also cares about what people think.
Lady Capulet (Juliet’s mother) wants Juliet to get married.
“Well, think of marriage now;”
Juliet’s mother wants Juliet to get married because lady Capulet got married at a young age. It was also traditional for marriage to occur at a young age. I think Shakespeare has included traditional aspects of Elizabethan England to give little hints of how women were supposed to behave, which emphasises how shocking and disgusted people would have been when Juliet does rebel and do the opposite to a typical Victorian girl.
Juliet is politely saying that she doesn’t wish to get married however she is still disagreeing with her mother; however the way she acts towards her elders is still respectful.
In act 1 scene 3, lines 92 to 105 Shakespeare uses a traditional sonnet. A sonnet is a fourteen line, rhyming poem about love. It is typically known for men to write sonnets to women, and in Shakespeare’s time it would be frowned upon if a woman were to write a sonnet for a man, as women occupied lesser status than men. When Romeo is talking to Juliet he uses religious imagery.
“This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this”
I think Shakespeare does this to show that there love is pure and holy, however using religious imagery reflects society as religion was a major part of Elizabethan England.
In this scene Romeo and Juliet are talking to each other as equals. In Elizabethan times this would have been seen as unusual. As women had fewer rights than men, therefore men were of a higher importance so this affected how women treated and talked to men. Women were expected to keep there opinions to them selves, this is suggestive that men saw women as sex objects rather than human beings.
In this scene we start to see Juliet’s behaviour change from when we first met Juliet in act1scene3 as to when we first met the character of Juliet, she seems to be quiet and shy, she also doesn’t seem remotely interested in getting married.
“It is an honour that I dream not of”
This is what Juliet says when her mother suggests she should get married.
However in act 1 scene 5 Juliet seems quite the opposite as to when we first meet her. She acts confident and is not afraid to express her feelings.
“And palm to palm is holy palmers kiss”
This is Juliet talking about Romeo’s kissing, however girls of just fourteen were not expected to talk about kissing boys.
In this scene Juliet addresses Romeo as an equal,
“Saints do not move, though grant for prayers sake”
In my opinion Shakespeare has included this in his play to emphasise how outrageous their love is and how un-expected Juliet’s behaviour is. When this play was acted out on the Elizabethan audience they would have been very shocked at this scene, as it was not typical behaviour for women to act equally to men, however I believe that Shakespeare included this in the content of the play because he believed women should act and be treated the same as men.
In just fourteen lines, Romeo and Juliet fall in love. Juliet’s attitudes towards marriage suddenly change.
“Go ask his name. If he be married”
This is Juliet ordering the nurse to find out Romeo’s name and if he be married or not. Juliet does this because she wants to marry Romeo. This is odd because when we first meet Juliet she is not remotely interested in marriage, this is a blatant sign that Juliet has developed her feelings and the way she expresses her self. In this scene I expect Juliet is feeling rebellious.
The first meeting of the two lovers has been staged in many different ways. For example the Baz Luhrmann film version. In the film the lovers first set eyes on each other through a glass fish-tank, this is a modern day adaptation, therefore been interpreted according to aspects of the modern day, this is so the story of Rome and Juliet can continue being shown and understood. Changing the storey to make it reflect the modern day allows the society understand the play in a higher level but it also allows people of today relate to the storey.
When Juliet finds out that Romeo is a Montague he is very worried.
“Prodigious birth of love it is to me”
Prodigious meaning worried, Juliet is worried because she knows that loving the family’s emeny is wrong.
“My only love sprung from my child’s hate”.
Juliet knows what she is doing is wrong and will displease her parents, however she carries on loving Romeo. This is a strong sign of Juliet and becoming disobedient towards her parents.
In act one scene five Romeo and Juliet first set eyes on each other. If I were to direct this scene at the Shakespearian globe theatre, I would do it as follows. The scene would start at the Capulet household party. Romeo and Julie would be dancing on the main stage when they first spot each other. Juliet would then go through the main door to the back stairs up to the upper stage. Romeo would the follow her to the upper stage, they would the say lines 92-110. the nurse would then call Juliet from the main stage.
From this point Juliet recognises the strong obligation to why she shouldn’t love Romeo, she knows that if people were to find out about her ironic love towards Romeo that they would look down on her and her position in society would go down, however the fact that she carries on loving Romeo implies that she no longer cares about how about what others will think of her. This is clear sign that she is deeply in love with Romeo.
When Juliet talks to her mother about Tybalts death in act 3 scene 5, Juliet uses double meanings.
“Yet let me weep for such a feeling loss”
Juliet’s mother thinks that Juliet is sad because Tybalt is dead. However she is actually weeping because she thinks she will never see Romeo again. As she thinks he has been banished from Verona by the prince (ruler of Verona) because he killed Tybalt (Juliet’s cousin)
“God pardon him, I do with all my heart:”
This is Juliet talking about Romeo to her mother. Juliet is saying that no one hurts her heart as much as Romeo does, because she is in love with him. Lady Capulet thinks that Juliet is saying Romeo hurts her heart because he killed Tybalt.
When Juliet uses double meanings it implies that she is very intelligent and deceitful. She is also disrespecting her mother by lying to her. The double meanings add a lot of dramatic impacts, as the audience know what Juliet is really talking about, however Lady Capulet doesn’t know, allowing the audience to relate to the play in more depth.
In act 3 Scene 5, lines 141-145 lord Capulet refers to his daughter in the third person.
“How, will she none? Doth she not give us thanks?
Is she not proud? Doth she not give us thanks?”
Juliet is present while her father talks about Juliet as if she isn’t there however he purposely ignores her presence. This links back to fathers having power over there daughters, and the fact that Lord Capulet doesn’t have control of hid daughter infuriates him, this is why he pretends that she does not exist.
Juliet has disobeyed her parents by refusing to have an arranged marriage with Paris.
“He shall not make me there a joyful bride”
This is Juliet refusing to marry Paris, again going against her parents will. Juliet is bringing shame to her parents by dis-obeying them. She is also letting her position in society down. Juliet is a wealthy member of a wealthy and high class family therefore her parents expect her to act like a typical Victorian young girl. Therefore be respectful towards her elders especially her father as men were of a higher status to women.
If Juliet lived in the present day her reaction to being forced to marry someone that she doesn’t want to marry wouldn’t not be seen as unusual. Juliet reacts in a negative way as soon as she is told she has to marry Paris.
“Ere he that should be husband comes to woo”
In the world today it is very uncommon for arranged marriages, however in some religions e.g. in the Islamic faith arranged marriages do sometimes occur. But on the whole arranged marriages are very rare. Therefore Juliet’s reaction would not be seen as peculiar or be frowned upon. From Shakespeare’s time to the present day the way in which women are treated has changed dramatically. Women nowadays are equal to men, have the right to vote and also decide them selves who they want to marry. However this is most cases but not all.
Towards the end of act 3 scene 5 lines 204-242, the way that Juliet talks to the nurse is slightly sarcastic.
“Well, thou hast comforted me marvellous much.
Go in, and tell my lady I am gone”
This is Juliet pretending to agree with the nurse. The nurse is now saying that Juliet should marry Paris, and that she thinks Juliet would be happy in a marriage with Paris.
“I think you are happy in this second match”
Juliet feels angry with the nurse, as the nurse has turned against and no longer supports Juliet’s outrageous love for Romeo. Juliet has lost all trust and respect in the nurse, as the nurse used to be on her side even though she knew that what Romeo and Juliet were doing was wrong she still kept it a secret from the Capulet’s. However while the nurse was doing this she was risking her job and her life for Juliet. So now the nurse feels that Juliet should forget about Romeo, Juliet feels anger and hate towards the nurse therefore lies to her and shows sarcasm when talking to her. This shows us how Juliet’s behaviour has changed dramatically, especially when interacting with her elders.
In act 4 scene 3 the audience sees Juliet first deceive, she sends away the nurse and her mother. Then she takes the potion given to her by Friar Laurance. In this scene Juliet speaks a soliloquy. A soliloquy is a speech in a play when the character speaks to there self. It lets the audience know how the character is feeling. Soliloquies are effective in a play as it creates tension and suspense for the audience. It also lets the audience know something that other characters in the play may not know. This allows the audience feel special as they feel involved in the play.
A soliloquy is used to express how Juliet feels about taking the potion.
“I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins
That almost freezes up the heat of life”
Juliet is feeling anxious and scared about taking the potion given to her by Friar Laurance. This shows us that Juliet doesn’t trust Friar Laurance as she thinks that he may have given her a potion to kill her.
“What if it be a poison which the friar subtly hath ministered to have me dead”
This shows us that Juliet knows what she is doing is wrong, as she believes that people are plotting to murder her.
Another reason that Juliet may not trust Frair Laurance is because she trusted the nurse, but the nurse lets her down so she may find it hard to trust people due to this incident.
Shakespeare has used a soliloquy to show one of the most important parts of the play.
“Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! Here’s drink – I drink to thee”
This is a quotation from the part of the play when Juliet drinks the potion.
Shakespeare has used a soliloquy in several of his plays, one of them being Macbeth. The soliloquy in Macbeth is in act 1 scene seven, when Macbeth is thinking about killing the king.
“If I were done when tis done, then twere well it were done quickly”.
However in the end Macbeth decides not to kill the king. From Macbeth expressing his feelings in the soliloquy, the audience discover a lot about Macbeth’s character. They learn that Macbeth is indecisive, therefore he is unsure of him self and lacks confidence. The soliloquy allows the audience to discover several characteristics about Macbeth, that may give the audience hints about forthcoming events in the play.
In conclusion I believe that Shakespeare wrote this play because he disagreed with the way in which Victorian women were treated. I also believe that Shakespeare disagreed with traditional notions of family duty. I think Shakespeare wanted to share his feelings with the Victorian society. He believed women were treated wrongly and unfairly, so he chose the character of Juliet to be the opposite of how Victorian women were expected to behave. He also disagreed with large family feuds. So he wrote this play to show that if families had so much hatred towards each other then it can result in very bad situations.
However some people may believe that Shakespeare thought that women should be less opinionated and should have little to say what happens in there own lives. So they think he wrote the play to make people aware that if women do not live second to men then it could lead to bad happenings.
Overall Romeo and Juliet is a dramatic love storey that had effected millions over the years. It contains themes such as hatred, death, suicide, betrayal and rebellion. At the time it was written many people would have been very shocked at the content, however it is now seen as normal for Juliet to act as she does. Throughout the play you see Juliet transform from a polite stereotypical young girl, into a deceitful, sarcastic, rude young girl. The supposed cause for these ironic changes…Love.