‘Romeo and Juliet’ was written by Shakespeare at a relatively early juncture in his literary career, most probably in 1594 or 1595. It is a tragic story of forbidden love. The whole episode of Romeo and Juliet’s meeting, falling in love, marriage, and tragic end, takes place within five days.Around the time when Romeo and Juliet was written, people were beginning to question traditional beliefs about rank and social order, and ideas that people should be superior just because they were born into wealthier families, or that those in power should always be obeyed without question.
Perhaps this is shown in ‘Romeo & Juliet’ when Juliet does not follow her father’s ruling that she should marry Paris and embarks on a risky plan to get away with Romeo. Elizabethan women were raised to believe that they were inferior to men. The church believed this and quoted the Bible to ensure the continued adherence to this principle. Elizabethan women were also dominated by the male members of their family.
In Juliet’s case, she is dominated and subjugated by her father. Juliet, the only child of the Capulet family means she is first priority to her parents. Along with this came a responsibility and choice for Juliet to either obey or contradict her upbringing. This being true; in her best interest; her father tries to give her a life which he thinks she will be happy in. Throughout the play we relate Juliet to be a nurtured little girl, having many adults around her to ensure that she is brought up protected and educated about life.
The Nurse’s relationship with Juliet focuses attention on Juliet’s age. Juliet is still a young girl when the play begins, not yet fourteen, as we learn in Act I, Scene 3, the Nurse repeatedly asserts that Juliet has not yet had her 14th birthday. In contrast to Juliet’s youth, the Nurse is old and enjoys complaining about her aches and pains. “Fie, how my bones ache!” By the Nurse: “Even or odd, of all days in the year, Come Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen”(18-19).The Nurse knows this date very well because she had a daughter who that same day died at birth therefore; she raised Juliet perhaps as she would have raised her own child. The Nurse’s main purpose within the play is to act as a go-between for Romeo and Juliet, and is the only other character besides Friar Laurence to know of their wedding. The Nurse, despite being a servant in the Capulet household, has a role equivalent to that of Juliet’s mother and regards Juliet as her own daughter.Juliet sees the Nurse as a friend, confidante, and appreciates the help the nurse has given her. Throughout the play, Juliet relies on and trusts the Nurse in most of her endeavours and undertakings. Each time Juliet needs to get in touch with Romeo the Nurse is there, helping her in any way she can. However When we first get introduced to the Nurse, we interpret her as a coarse and loquacious, but well-intentioned woman, without affectation, and having Juliet’s best interests at heart.At last we discover, as Juliet does, that the Nurse does not really understand Juliet’s love for Romeo and her faithfulness. She doesn’t share Juliet’s idea of love; for her, love is a temporary and physical relationship, so she can’t understand the intense and spiritual love Romeo and Juliet share. The Nurse, often repeats herself, and her vulgar references to the sexual aspect of love set the idealistic love of Romeo and Juliet apart from the love described by other characters in the play. The Nurse is shown to be relatively lewd and promiscuous. Juliet’s frustration at having to rely upon the Nurse as her messenger is used to comic effect in Act II, Scene 5, when Juliet is forced to listen to the Nurse’s complaint and ailments while trying to sweet-talk from her, the news of her wedding plans.”O honey nurse, what news? /Now, good sweet nurse,–O Lord, why look’st thou sad?” When the Nurse brings Juliet news of Romeo’s wedding arrangements, she focuses on the pleasures of Juliet’s wedding night, “I am the drudge, and toil in your delight, / But you shall bear the burden soon at night” (II.5.75-76). This clash in outlook manifests itself when she advises Juliet to forget the banished Romeo and instead marry Paris, betraying Juliet’s trust by advocating a false marriage. Act 3 Scene 5 “I think it best you married with the County. O, he’s a lovely gentleman. Romeo’s a dishclout to him.” (218-220). Juliet can’t believe that the Nurse offers such a course of action after she praised Romeo and literally helped bring them together. The nurse’s social position places her in the serving class; she is not empowered to create change around her.Her maternal instinct toward Juliet sustains her to aid Juliet in marrying Romeo; however, when Capulet becomes infuriated and enraged; the Nurse retreats quickly into submission and urges Juliet to forget Romeo. The nurse’s reaction toward Juliet’s death is genuine and natural. “O woe, O woeful, woeful day! Most lamentable day, most woeful day. That ever, ever I did yet behold.” This shows how close her relationship with Juliet was despite her advising Juliet to marry Paris instead of her true love Romeo. It could be argued that she reacted the way she did because she felt guilty of letting Juliet proceed with her plan to meet Romeo once again. Either way this shows she had Juliet’s best interest in mind.Lady Capulet, Juliet’s biological mother only tells her what to do, and has never been personally close with Juliet. When Juliet comes of age to get married, Lady Capulet wants her to marry Paris, and does not care how Juliet feels about it. When Lady Capulet comes to tell Juliet the news about her arranged marriage with Paris, Lady Capulet mistakes Juliet’s tears for Romeo as grief over Tybalt’s death. Juliet’s replies strengthen this belief, as they were deliberately ambiguous; to hide her feelings for Romeo as Lady Capulet threatens vengeance; promising that Romeo will be poisoned in Mantra. Juliet tries to talk to her mother, and tells her that she does not want to marry Paris, but Lord Capulet walks in and angrily tells her that she will go and marry Paris even if he has to drag her there.Juliet again pleads with her mother to delay the marriage even for a week, but Lady Capulet shows no remorse and affection to help her daughter so instead she only responds with, “Talk not to me, for I’ll not speak a word. Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee” Act 3 Scene 5 (214-215). This line interprets how lady Capulet would rather chose not say a word; to help her daughter’s situation, than undertake and live with her husbands’ reaction because she is too scared to speak out against him for fear of his rage.Even if the bride’s mother cared for her daughter’s feelings, she would seldom intervene, firstly because she would not be particularly close to her daughter, as the child would be raised by a wet nurse, especially among the richer families. Secondly, wives had no power against their husbands, as is shown in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Lady Capulet herein demonstrates that she has never had to deal with a wilful child. Only when Juliet pretends to go along with the arranged marriage to Paris does she win back her mother’s attentions. In this scene Juliet, only moments after being together with Romeo, is in a difficult situation. At first she tries simple disobedience, as she is still a young child.At the same time she uses irony, saying things that have a different real meaning from what appears on the surface. “Yet let me weep for such a feeling loss.” But she is also resourceful and ultimately very brave. Lady Capulet at first seems concerned for her daughter, but when Juliet defies her, she passes the problem on to her husband. Towards the end of the scene lady Capulet says “I would the fool were married to her grave!” This is a use of dramatic irony because the audience knows that what Lady Capulet had said is actually going to happen and that the married couple Romeo and Juliet will die. Towards the end when Lady Capulet believes that her daughter Juliet has died her feelings and emotions towards her have changed dramatically and visibly.It is almost as if Lady Capulet has shown her only daughter her most concern and sympathy when she thinks she is dead. “O me, O me, my child, my only life! Revive look up, or I will call thee help, help! Call help.” Lady Capulet’s reaction is again, ambiguous. She grieves for her lost Juliet, and yet her final words suggest a kind of self-concern. “O me! This sight of death is as a bell. That warns my old age to a sepulcher.”Lord Capulet has a philosophical and idealistic perspective and wants the wedding to go ahead on time. Lord Capulet changes his mind about when Juliet should get married; this is because he has had time to consider Paris’ proposal and now believes that he has Juliet’s best interests at heart. He thinks Juliet will obey him and ‘be ruled in all respects’ by him. He hasn’t consulted his daughter about marriage to Paris but believes, foolishly, that she will obey him.He may believe that by marrying her to Paris her grief for Tybalt will be forgotten and she will become happy once again. With such a sudden change in Lord Capulet’s behaviour; it influences our view of him as a father in many aspects; he is now portrayed as a father who wants to be in control and have power over his daughter and her life. Before knowing that Juliet does not agree with his decision for her to marry Paris he tries to comfort her when he intervenes and mistakes Juliet’s tears for her grieving over Tybalt’s death. “What, still in tears? Evermore showering?In one little body Thou counterfeit’st a bark, a sea, a wind; For still thy eyes, which I may call the sea, Do ebb and flow with tears; the bark thy body is, Sailing in this salt flood; the winds thy sighs who, raging with thy tears, and they with them, without a sudden calm, will overset thy tempest-tossed body?” In this quote Capulet is confused as to why Juliet is crying, and he is reassuring her with a meaningful and expressive speech. Commonly this would be classed as a loving parent trying to reassure his daughter. The reference to the bark (boat) is a metaphor; Lord Capulet is describing Juliet as a ship tossed in a storm. This also shows Lord Capulet to be concerned about Juliet. The audience know that the tears she is shedding are for Romeo as he has been banished from Verona. However Lady and Lord Capulet do not know about her love for him.In Act 3, Scene 5 lines 64-203 Lady Capulet follows her husband’s orders and goes to tell Juliet of her marriage to Paris in three days time. Lady Capulet tells Juliet of her marriage to Paris on Thursday. Juliet is appalled and refuses. Upon finding out that Juliet does not want to marry Paris, Capulet threatens her “Hang thee, young baggage, Disobedient wretch! I tell thee what, go to church o’ Thursday, Or never after look me in the face.” Capulet is threatening to throw her out of the house, unless she goes to the church on Thursday to marry Paris. He says he will disown her if she does not do this.He insults her but the nurse protects Juliet causing Lord Capulet to become enraged. Capulet then abuses her with many rhetorical questions which show a build-up of fury “How? Will she none? Doth she not give us thanks? Is she not proud?” By use of rhetorical questions, we see how annoyed Capulet is. We further see this when he starts repeating words that Juliet has said to him in her defence, as this shows sheer disbelief that his daughter is defying him. Capulet is tempted to hit Juliet; his “Fingers itch”; he has to refrain from hitting her. His anger starts to show more as he states that it was a “curse in having her.” Lady Capulet watches on as he threatens his own daughter with being disowned.This would be a frightening prospect for a 13 year old girl even today, as no 13 year old girl could survive alone on the streets. Juliet has to endure her father’s terrible rage whilst no one is there to protect her; this proves her loyalty to Romeo even though under so much pressure. He seems very harsh towards Juliet and proves to be more interested in keeping his word to Paris than his own daughter’s feelings. Lady Capulet tells Juliet what a “Careful father” he is, and the marriage to Paris would give her much joy.Marriages could often be arranged at short notice, and neither be much unexpected “nor I looked not for” as Juliet says in surprise when told of her marriage with Paris. Often there was no attraction, and there would be no courting, and it was not uncommon for the bride not to see her husband until her wedding day.Capulet’s character goes under complete reform between Act1 Scene 2, and Act 3 Scene 5, as he goes from saying “My will to her is but a part” meaning that he will do whatever Juliet will want to do, to telling her she must marry, or “Die in the streets”. This sudden change in Capulets character reflects on the how a father should bring up his child. “Fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next.” Says Capulet to his daughter, yet this is a rhetorical question because he will make her go there whether she wants to or not, dragging her “on a hurdle thither”.What is particularly surprising about this quote is that Capulet uses such harsh language against his only daughter and the fact that she is 14 doesn’t stop him from attacking her with verbal threats and abuse. A further example of weddings having less to do with love and more to do with money is the fact that in ‘Romeo & Juliet’, before Juliet’s marriage with Paris, all the time is spent making food and preparing music, rather than concentrating on Juliet and that it will be her last night unmarried. This shows that they have no concern for her and she feels as if she doesn’t have caring and concerned adults surrounding her.Friar Lawrence is presented as a holy man who is trusted and respected by the other characters in the play. The centrality of the Friar’s position suggests a noteworthy failure of parental love. The Friar’s role as the friend and advisor to Juliet highlights the conflict between the two parents and their children within the play. Romeo and Juliet can’t tell their parents of their love because of the quarrel between the two families. In their isolation, Romeo and Juliet turn to the Friar who can offer neutral advice.At first, the Friar can’t believe how quickly Romeo has abandoned Rosaline and fallen in love with Juliet, so he reminds Romeo of the rapidity of his decisions. However, he agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet in the hope that their marriage will settle the rift between the Montague’s and the Capulet’s. His decision to marry the lovers is well-meaning but indicates that he is inexperienced in his assessment of the feud and hasn’t reflected on the insinuations of Romeo and Juliet’s clandestine and concealed marriage.Friar Laurence sees that Juliet’s willingness to kill herself means that she will endure any danger rather than marry Paris. He uses this for her advantage and helps her. Friar Lawrence is very much a wayward religious character, as it is he that comes up with the idea that is “as desperate as an execution”. This is quite an ironic thing to say, as it suggests that if she decides to go ahead with his plan she could get killed in a very painful death like an execution, and his language here seems desperate.”Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished” Act 5 Scene 3. Throughout the play Juliet has seen many sides of the adults who care and are concerned for her. Her death ended the ‘ancient grudge’ of both families. She was responsible for what her plan was to cause. Everyone in Juliet’s life has a part to blame including Juliet herself. Her parents, Lady and Lord Capulet were partly responsible for keeping the feud going.They had authority over their household, and could have stopped the quarrelling if they wanted to. They should have paid more attention to Juliet’s wishes and listened to her opinions. They were too hard on her when she refused to marry Paris. Lord and Lady Montague, like the Capulets, were also responsible for keeping the feud going. If they had been more understanding, Romeo would not have felt he had to keep secrets from them. The nurse is at fault as much as Juliet’s parents.The nurse; knowing that Juliet confides in her more than she does her own mother; should have taken much more responsibility over Juliet. In my view it is ironic that what is to be blamed for the death of Romeo and Juliet can not be punished nor pardoned. The tragedy was not the fault of any one individual but fate played a part in this tragic ending of Romeo and Juliet. In modern times, and in the Elizabethan era, fate played an important role in people’s lives. Many people believe it to be written in stone, and unchangeable. Many others believe it to be controlled by a person’s own actions. In Romeo and Juliet, fate is one of the main themes, described ashaving power over many of the events in the play. Fate is often called upon,wondered about, and blamed for mishaps. However, where fate is blamed in theplay as the ultimate cause for a mishap, there is always an underlying action,or combination of them, on the part of human beings that decides theconsequences. The play Romeo and Juliet brings out a theme of fate, which turns out only to be surface deep. Behind each instance of ill fate is an underlying weakness on the part of one or more persons that dictate the results. Finally,almost all of the ‘ill fated’ instances are easily traced to Friar Laurence, who himself represents the idea that fate does not exist, giving the conclusion that human weakness, the loss of self-control, is the force behind ill mishaps, not fate.