How does Shakespeare develop Juliet's character

Romeo and Juliet was written in 1595 by William Shakespeare. The play was set around 100 years before it was written. It was based on a story, which Shakespeare has read which was called ‘The Tragical History of Romeous and Juliet’, by Arthur Brooke, which was published in 1562.The play was set in Verona, a city in Italy and the story had such an effect on Shakespeare that he adapted it to suit his own ideas and turned it into a play. It could be seen that he had written the play to underline the status of fathers and daughters at that time since at the same sort of time, he wrote ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’ which also involves a daughter wanting to marry someone against her father’s will.

This play, unlike Romeo and Juliet, is a comedy production.In Shakespeare’s theatre, his play would be staged on a large platform with seating and standing audience. The audience would rely mainly on language and voice tone of the characters to understand the jokes, puns and themes of the play.

They used few or no props, so strong emphasis was put on the actors to use their bodies and voice to tell the story. This way, the audience had to build pictures in their head. Scenery was basic and the audience had to use their imagination to build ideas in their heads and scenery for each different scene. Throughout the play up until this scene, Shakespeare has pointed out that Juliet is young and innocent, for example in Act 1, scene 3, the Nurse says ‘Come Lammas-eve at night she shall be fourteen,’ which means that Juliet will be fourteen on Lammas-eve, which was the 31st July, meaning that when she married Romeo, she was only 13 years of age, as the story of Romeo and Juliet spans only 5 days.

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When this play was staged, the theatre was seen as the ‘earth.’ Above the stage was known as heaven, where Juliet and Romeo would have acted out the scene in which they spend the night together. Then, in the morning, when Juliet’s mother comes into her room, Juliet would have to go down to talk to her. Underneath the stage was known as hell, where ghosts from Shakespeare’s plays would come up from. Shakespeare must have taken this into account because of the points aforementioned. He may have done this because he wanted us as the audience to see how much Juliet likes to be in Romeo’s company.At the beginning of Act 3 scene 5, Shakespeare tells us that Romeo and Juliet have spent the night in her room. Juliet says that Romeo does not need to go because it is not morning yet. The night is their friend because it allows them to be together. Romeo says that as more and more light appears, their sadness grows greater and greater as they know that they will have to part. Juliet says the birdsong she can hear is the nightingale and not the lark. When she finds out it is the lark, she says it sings ‘discords’ as they will have to part soon and the lark is pointing out the fact that it is morning.This is news that Juliet does not want to hear, as she wants to stay with Romeo. The animal imagery may be used to underline their feelings. Juliet doesn’t want the light to be a sign of daybreak because Romeo will have to leave for exile in Mantua. Romeo says he will stay if Juliet wants when he says ‘I have more care to stay than will to go…’ which as a result, he will meet his death if he does this. Romeo says ‘Let me be tane, let me be put to death,I am content so thou wilt have it so.’What Romeo means here, is that he is prepared to die for his love of Juliet. The audience will know how ominous and ironic these words are. This will give them a feeling of pity and fear for to two young lovers.When Romeo is leaving her room, Juliet says she has an ‘ill-divining soul’ and imagines that she sees Romeo dead in the bottom of a tomb. Both of them are pale and Romeo when says ‘More light and light, more dark and dark our woes!’ these are the last words that Juliet hears from Romeo.Images of darkness in the play stand for death, violence, sadness and secrecy. At the beginning of the play, Romeo says ‘being black, puts my mind they hide the fear…’ which means he seeks darkness as he is so sad, depressed and lovesick. Later on in the play (Act 3 scene 5) Romeo and Juliet welcome the night because it allows them to be together in secret. At the end of the play, the blackness of the tomb and the night around them outside is used to emphasise the sadness and tragedy of the lovers’ deaths. Images of light, whiteness or paleness in this play, often appear in connection with ideas of happiness, hope and love. Romeo says ‘what light through yonder window breaks?It is the east, and Juliet is the sun…’He is referring to Juliet is as the sun, which is a source of light and then goes on to say she is the light of a torch or the stars. Juliet talks about her love for Romeo as ‘pure’ – whiter than snow. Even in the darkness of the tomb at the end of the play, Romeo says that Juliet’s beauty makes the darkness light. Often the images of light and dark appear closely connected with images to do with eyes, looking, seeing or sight.When the Nurse comes into Juliet’s room to tell her that her mother wants to speak to her, Lady Capulet demonstrates her callousness towards her own daughter by thinking her grief is because she is mourning her cousin Tybalt. She is in fact crying because she has just parted from Romeo. Lady Capulet tells her daughter she is showing too much grief and would be better off to cry because Tybalt’s murderer Romeo is still alive. Juliet deliberately deceives her mother about the real reason for her grief. For example she says ‘I cannot choose but to weep the friend’ Juliet means she is weeping because Romeo has left but her mother thinks she is weeping because Tybalt’s murderer is still alive. These are the same people. We can see that the mature and calm way Juliet faces her mother is very much different from how she acted at the beginning of the play.Then Lady Capulet breaks the news to Juliet that she has an arranged a marriage for her and Paris to be man and wife. When Juliet hears this, she defies her parents by disagreeing to marry Paris, and they refuse to hear of her actions. Lady Capulet says a very cruel remark which is ‘I would the fool were married to her grave.’ Which means if Juliet doesn’t marry Paris, she wishes her own daughter was dead. This very quickly becomes tragically true and is another instance of the image of death as Juliet’s suitor coming to collect her and take her away.She used to be quite innocent and reliant upon others, and now she is acting totally independently. Rhyming the lines can create emphasis and help the audience understand the extremity of the play. Short words can be effective and can seem harsh and rejecting. For example, in Act 2 scene 5, Juliet is talking to her Nurse: ‘If good, thou shamest the music of sweet news…’ The words used her longer and the sentence is flowing. We can see that she feels close to the Nurse in the loving way she talks to her.However at the end of Act 3, scene 5 Juliet says to her Nurse ‘Go in, and tell my lady I am gone….’ These words are clearly shorter and more rejecting. We as the audience can see that she has rejected the Nurse, and to show this, she speaks to her in a cold and rather sarcastic manner at times. The short words can also be hissed or spat and have an effect on what the character has to say. We can see here how Juliet’s character has changed dramatically from the way in which she speaks to her Nurse ‘Well thou hast comforted me marvellous much…’The chorus has already told the audience of Juliet’s terrible fate when it says ‘A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life’ and audience knows it is referring to Romeo and Juliet because they are young lovers. This may make the audience see how Juliet cannot do anything to help herself and she is far away from ever seeing happiness again. This scene is probably the best illustration of the failings of parental love in this play. Even the Nurse, who has offered the equivalent of parental love, has turned against Juliet and let her down. This Juliet’s devotion to Romeo is more striking, as her independence is made clear to us: ‘Thou and my bosom henceforth shall be twain.’This play is full of overflowing passions and feelings of love. At the beginning, for example, the servants seem to feel it is their duty to fight each other, so they fight for no other reason. Tybalt is always bursting with aggression and determined to pick a fight, at any time of the day or night. Even Romeo feels he should fight when his friend he killed. Capulet is also extremely violent in his use of language. The violence in this play is set against the peacefulness of Romeo and Juliet when they are together. Love is an important theme in this play and appears in many different forms. Different characters talk about love from very different points of view. The love for example, between Romeo and Juliet is deep and passionate and is more powerful than hatred and even death.The use of language in the play can help the audience understand a lot, such as the oxymorons spoken by Romeo, in Act 1, scene 1. They help the audience grasp the concept that two completely different things can seem very similar, such as when Romeo says ‘O heavy lightness, serious vanity’. This echoes the message that Shakespeare may be trying to tell us; love and hate can be very similar, because Romeo and Juliet are meant to be enemies, yet they have fallen deeply in love and have got married. My opinion on Juliet is that before she marries to Romeo, she is rather young and reliant on her family and the Nurse. Yet now she is married, she gives us the impression that she doesn’t need the help of her Nurse anymore. We as the audience can see that she will not benefit from isolating herself, but the mixed emotions she is feeling are driving her towards her inevitable death.The language used by Lord Capulet in this scene is rude and aggressive towards his daughter and this can be emphasised to the audience by seeing his body language and hearing his tone of voice. The play is full of examples of different kinds of disorder. Imagery is used throughout the play to emphasise the danger of disorder. The images of the sea suggest unpredictable and uncontrollable danger. The disorder of life in Verona is emphasised by the use of imagery to do with sickness and disease. For example this society is full of ‘cankered hate’. Romeo’s mood at the beginning of the play is full of ‘madness’ and ‘sickness.’ Later, his love for Juliet needs the ‘holy physic’ (medicine) of the Friar. Images of sickness and disease are often connected with plants and the world of nature.The camera shots can help the viewers see the emotions of the characters. By zooming up on the actors/actresses’ faces, it can capture how they are feeling. For example when Lord Capulet says to Juliet; ‘and you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets…’ He means that if she refuses to marry Paris, he will disallow her to live in his house. The camera could zoom up to Lord Capulet’s face to show his utter fury and anger and take occasional shots of Juliet’s face to show the audience her reaction to what he is saying.This can be a very effective way of passing the message onto the audience. By using props, the actors can give the message if what is going on the scene. This is important because not everyone will understand the Shakespearian language spoken by the cast and body language is also important. When Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, he would write it in language that he was familiar with. So when it was staged soon after he wrote it, the audience would understand the puns, jokes and storylines.This may not be the case with an audience of the 21st century. In Shakespeare’s time, the fathers had a lot of say and were very powerful in the household. A 16th century audience would be surprised to see Juliet standing up to her father as most daughters were obedient and listened to their fathers. This could be seen as Shakespeare trying to emphasise how desperate or determined Juliet is. It can also underline the way in which Juliet’s strength of character is developing. Before this scene, it can be seen that Juliet is na�ve and somewhat youthful, but we can see her in Act 3 scene 5, how she is rejecting her family and the Nurse; a way in which we have never seen her act before.Lord Capulet is clearly furious with his daughter for not agreeing to marry Paris. The actor playing Capulet would have to make it clear that he was angry, and the audience and understand the extremity of his anger, with help from the camera. It can zoom right up to Capulet’s face and the audience would be able to see the fury he is feeling. By slowing down and speeding up the camera shots, it can underline the references to time and the dangers which bad timing can cause.Time and the sense of it passing too quickly or slowly are ideas, which are often repeated in the play. The speed with which the events happen is an important factor in the tragedy. At first, the time passes too slowly, and Romeo is saying that because he is in love with Rosaline, the hours are passing too slowly. Later, Capulet complains that the years are rushing by too quickly. Friar Laurence also says that the lovers are in too much of a hurry. The message about the Friar’s plan is delayed and he arrives at the end, just seconds too late to stop the final tragedy.Keeping in mind all these factors, the whole play just seems hurried. For example, characters rush into marriage, Romeo is banished for an impulsive action and Capulet cannot wait to get his daughter married to Paris. The play is filled with speed – speed to commit suicide whenever life seems hopeless and empty. Everywhere, there is anger. Lord Capulet shows his anger by asking rhetorical questions to ridicule Juliet. For example he says to Juliet: ‘So unworthy as she is that we have wrought so worthy gentleman to be her bride…?’ Here, Capulet asks why Juliet is so ungrateful for her father arranging her marriage. We understand why, but Capulet doesn’t.Yet, we cannot ignore the possible reason why he has said this- to ridicule Juliet. It could be seen that he thinks the embarrassment will cause Juliet to change her mind. This can be seen as way of Shakespeare trying to make us feel sorry for her. Lord Capulet is not the only one who turns against his daughter. Lady Capulet acts very neutral. This wouldn’t really surprise a 16th century audience because women were seen as the weaker sex, and so they wouldn’t have much say in the household. When Lord Capulet has left the room, Juliet’s mother says ‘Talk to me not, for I’ll not speak a word.Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.’ In response to Juliet’s plea, which is ‘O sweet mother, cast me not away!Delay this marriage for a month, a week,Or if you do not, make the bridal bedIn that dim monument where Tybalt lies.’Lady Capulet’s reply can be seen as a very cold remark to a 21st century audience, as mothers nowadays are closer to their daughters than in Shakespeare’s time. However, to a 16th century audience, the way in which Lady Capulet acted towards Juliet would come as no surprise, as mothers were not usually very close to their daughters. I think Shakespeare has made Lady Capulet seem distant from her daughter because he wants to emphasise how Juliet has no one to turn to now that she has isolated herself from the Nurse.The Nurse would have to make it obvious how she is turning away from Juliet and instead of acting warm, motherly and caring towards her, as she did before, she would have to act rejecting and somewhat cold. She would have to give the impression that she is trying to push Juliet away and discouraging her relationship with Romeo. She tries to persuade Juliet to marry Paris, therefore committing bigamy when she says ‘I think you are happy in this second match,For it excels your first, or if it did not,Your first is dead…’Bigamy was seen as a serious sin in Shakespeare’s time, yet the Nurse ignores the religious references. It is at this point which Juliet realises how alone she is. For example when Juliet says to her Nurse ‘Well thou hast comforted me marvellous much…’ the audience can see this as a cold and sarcastic remark, a way in which she has never spoken to her Nurse before.The Nurse can say her lines convincingly to tell us she is certain that she agrees with Capulet, for example when Juliet asks her ‘Speak’st thou from thy heart?’, the Nurse replies ‘And from my soul too, else beshrew them both.’ She is clearly very certain of what she is saying as she is making religious references to herself. This may be because she is looking out for the welfare of Juliet, as she thinks marrying Paris will makes everything easier, rather than remain married to the son of her family’s enemy. She is unaware of the fact that because she is rejecting Juliet, she has no one to turn to; therefore she is more likely to meet her tragic fate.Because the audience is able to relate to the Nurse, as she had previously used puns, crude language and one tracked humour to make us laugh, it is as if the audience are in a similar position to Juliet, as we feel we know the Nurse well, and we can feel a sense of betrayal when she turns against Juliet. Since she and Mercutio were the only comedic characters of the play and Mercutio had died, and now the Nurse is turning away from Juliet, this can underline the tragic and inevitable ending on the play. Juliet is quietly furious and calls her Nurse ‘a wicked fiend’ when she has gone. This shows the audience the severing of Juliet’s esteem and friendship with the Nurse. Both Romeo and Juliet are now left completely alone. Romeo is banished to Mantua and Juliet deserted by those whom she looked to for help and support.The audience can feel helpless and pity for the characters to see them meet such a terrible ending, and they cannot do anything to prevent it. When the chorus says ‘A pair of star crossed lovers take their lives…’ it can make the audience feel helpless as they see Juliet saying that she has a premonition that she will be a tragic end.Fate is an important theme in this play. From the very start, we know that Romeo are Juliet are a pair of ‘star-crossed lovers’ or fated to disaster. Romeo also says he feels his future is ‘hanging in the stars’ and he is ‘fortune’s fool. The overall structure of the play and the way the story unfolds produced a feeling of inevitability and certainty about the ending. Neither Romeo nor Juliet can really escape because just when things look as if they are going to improve, some new disaster strikes.Because the Nurse has betrayed Juliet we can understand how she feels as the Nurse is no longer providing the comedy and humour she did before. We as the audience can feel betrayed. Shakespeare could have done this because he may have wanted us to feel sorry for Juliet so he made us experience the feeling of betrayal. In this way, Juliet’s feelings can be understood easier. Shakespeare has developed Juliet’s character in such a way that we can almost feel how she is feeling and pity her. Now, only the Friar remains faithful, but even he will fail them at the hour of greatest need whilst they are in the tomb. Juliet says that she will try the Friar’s plan, but if it fails, she knows she has only one course of action left to her when she says ‘If all else fail, myself have power to die.’ Here the coming tragedy is signalled once again.Throughout the play, Shakespeare uses references to time. The message he may be trying to tell us is that wrong timing can lead to fatal consequences. I think the object of this play is to underline the moral and social issues in Shakespeare’s day and what we can do to prevent such tragedies taking place.

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How does Shakespeare develop Juliet's character. (2019, Jun 20). Retrieved from

How does Shakespeare develop Juliet's character
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