Explore the relationship between Juliet and her parents in Romeo and Juliet Essay
Romeo and Juliet, written by the world famous playwright, William Shakespeare, around 1595, is one of the most well-known plays in the world; it follows the story of Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet – both teenagers who matured and changed during the play, but Juliet’s changes standing out the most. In this essay, I am looking at the relationship between Juliet and how it changes with her parents, focusing particularly on Act 1 Scene 3 and Act 3 Scene 5. There are many events in the play that support the idea of Juliet’s change, most of which interact with her mother. I am going to respond to the essay title by looking particularly at Juliet’s attitude before and after the ball (where she met Romeo), her parent’s attitude towards their daughter and its relevance to society today.
During the Elizabethan times, men were placed much higher than women in status; women were expected to do what they were told and it was frowned upon whenever a woman tried sharing an opinion or idea. Children were expected to nearly worship their parents and do whatever their parents said; this was even more pronounced with the power fathers seemed to have over their daughters. It was very uncommon to hear about a child disobeying their mother or father and if ever there were a case like that, the whole family would feel ashamed or even humiliated. Society today is somewhat extremely different but still the same in some ways; nowadays it all depends on the attitude the family possesses towards matters such as religion and values.
In Juliet’s first scene (just before the ball), she is talking to her mother and the Nurse; her Mother brought up the topic of marriage and Lord Paris. This is when we first see a young girl who has just begun to grow up. She replies with the fact that she hasn’t considered marriage yet saying “It is an honour that I dream not of”. Most girls of her age would have been wives by now, so it was slightly uncommon that she hadn’t even thought of her marriage. Her mother talks to Juliet about marriage and children, as she believes her daughter is now fourteen. She says to the nurse “Thou know’st my daughter’s of a pretty age… She’s not fourteen”. The nurse has to then correct Lady Capulet by telling her Juliet is only thirteen. Also in this scene, we see Juliet’s willingness and obedience, when she does not object to her mother’s thoughts of her marrying Lord Paris soon.
When her Mother asks her if she could love Paris, she replies, “I’ll look to like, if looking liking move. But no more deep will I endart mine eye than your consent gives strength to make it fly.” This more or less means she will try to love him, but she will not look deeper than her mother wishes, meaning she will do what her mother “wills”. She reminds me of a mouse in a way, meek and a pushover, but this soon changes as the play goes on.
Later when Juliet is at the ball, she meets Romeo, and falls in love at first sight. Later Romeo follows her to her balcony where she confesses her love for Romeo to herself. Overhearing her, Romeo shows himself and confesses his love for her. Taken over by her first feelings of love and lust, she defies her parents just by speaking to him in that manner. Before this, which was only about five or six hours ago, she would not have spoken to him at all, let alone at that time of night. Romeo soon proposes to Juliet and she says yes, even though in medieval times marriage was not to be secret but held out in the open. Her parents have made it very clear that she is supposed to marry Paris. She disobeyed them greatly by making plans behind their backs, to marry an enemy of theirs. Also during this scene, Juliet’s nurse calls her a number of times, and Juliet probably would have hurried to the Nurse immediately but instead she kept on saying she would be right there: “I come anon” and “By-and-by I come”. Although not many there are already signs of change in Juliet’s personality and how she deals with her own feelings.
More changes begin to show when Juliet wakes up from her wedding night. After Romeo leaves her mother comes in and tells her that in three days she will marry Paris, “Marry, my child, early next Thursday morn
The gallant, young, and noble gentleman,
The County Paris, at St. Peter’s Church,
Shall happily make thee there a joyful bride”. When Lady Capulet tells Juliet she is going to marry Paris, Juliet is crying; There is a double meaning in Juliet’s grief because Lady Capulet thinks her daughter is crying over the death of her cousin, Tybalt, when she is actually crying over Romeo’s exile to Mantua. Moreover, in the beginning she said she would try to like Paris if her mother wished but after her mother gave her the news, she replied with: “Now by Saint Peter’s church and by Peter too, He shall not make me there a joyful bride! I wonder at this haste that I must wed ere he that should be my husband comes to woo. I pray you, tell my lord and father, madam, I will not marry yet, and when I do, I swear it shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate, Rather than Paris. These are news indeed!”. After saying that she has totally disregarded her family, even if her parents are trying to make her marry Lord Paris only because of his inheritance and position in society. In this part of the scene there is also an example of dramatic irony, where the audience know she has already married Romeo but she is lying to her parents when she also says “Indeed I never shall be satisfied with Romeo till I behold him–dead” but everyone knows that the last thing she wants is Romeo dead.
The situation with Juliet’s refusal to marry Paris gets even worse when her father enters the room; Juliet has never disobeyed her father, which is most probably why Capulet had such a bad reaction, resorting to physical abuse. Fathers practically owned their daughters in medieval times and for their daughters to disobey them was as humiliating as it was aggravating for them; when Capulet decided Juliet should marry Paris he had would have been mentally thinking that he would be more respected in Verona, but when he heard of his daughter’s refusal he immediately thought if people believed that he could not control his own family, how could he be a leader of Verona? He was selfish as he was only thinking about how his position in society would be affected and had no regard for his daughter’s feelings whatsoever.
Capulet uses extremely abusive language in this scene calling Juliet a ” disobedient wretch”, “green-sickness carrion” “baggage” and “tallow-face”. He is insulting Juliet to the highest degree as he tries to insert his male authority over his daughter, which was clearly failing. This enrages Capulet further and so he says “My fingers itch” which was his main threat in this scene, implying he wanted to hit Juliet or even strangle her. Capulet’s attitude was really only based on his pride and selfishness, and his ignorant attitude towards his daughter increased the whole suspense in the scene, as the truth came out about Juliet’s now unwillingness to marry Lord Paris, despite her father’s wishes.
Juliet’s attitude towards her mother is the most noticeable; in the first scene she refers to her mother as “madam” which shows that the relationship between mother and daughter is not very strong, Juliet seems more like a servant to her mother than a daughter. By Lady Capulet’s words “tell him so yourself” when Juliet first refuses to marry Paris, it almost suggests that she is scared of her husband’s reaction so puts the entirety of the situation on her daughter’s shoulders. She is being cruel in the way that she is prepared for Juliet to receive all of the abuse from Capulet and only let the nurse defend her.
The nurse’s attitude towards Juliet suggests that maybe she was more of a mother to Juliet than Lady Capulet ever was, seeing as she did not know her daughter’s age and the Nurse had to inform her that Juliet was not yet fourteen, but in the end she does advise Juliet to go along with the marriage as she wants to keep her job, “I think it best you married with the county”. Juliet replies by saying, “well, thou hast comforted me marvellous much”; this is another double meaning as the Nurse believes she has comforted Juliet when in fact she has not. Also when Lady Capulet says, “I were the fool that were married to the grave” it is shocking as she is saying Juliet might as well be dead to her and that is not what mothers are meant to say to their daughters.
The scenes relate to all three themes of the play: love in the way that Juliet would do anything for Romeo and the way that he parents are trying to force her to love someone else; death in the way that her parents are so out of tune with their child they believe Juliet is firstly crying over her cousin, Tybalt’s, death and the way that both Romeo and Juliet were willing to kill themselves for each other and finally, tragedy; Juliet defied her parents in her love for Romeo but only for her happiness to be short-lived when he killed himself when he heard of Juliet’s “death”, so it all backfired on her.
Overall, in Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet I think Juliet matured from being a weak little girl, to a dedicated strong willed wife killing herself for her husband. Juliet transformed in less than a week, which says she did not change much, but there is a definite difference in her personality from before she met Romeo to after she married him. Many events towards the ending of the play suggest she is very obstinate, which is quite different from the beginning of the play before Juliet even thought of marriage or defying her parents and family. Referring directly to the change in Juliet’s relationship with her parents, I believe that if Capulet and his wife behaved more like parents, Juliet could have been more truthful about her love for Romeo, and her defiance leading to her parent’s outrage could have been avoided. I also think if she had not killed herself and the play continued realistically she would have got over her lust for Romeo and gone back to that same sweet disposition. In the beginning she was a little less selfish also. The drastic changes that Juliet went through in such a short amount of time shows how powerful love is.