How does Shakespeare make the audience feel sorry for Juliet in the second part of Act 3 Scene 5?

At the beginning of Act three, scene 5, Romeo and Juliet have just spent their first night together. Romeo has to leave for Mantua, because it’s morning and if he was found in Verona he would be killed. Juliet, though she doesn’t want him to leave, says goodbye to Romeo and is left feeling unhappy. Her father, thinking she is still mourning her cousin Tybalt’s death, announces that he is moving her marriage to Paris forward. He expects her to be happier because of this, however when Juliet refuses the marriage, he loses his temper and threatens to throw her out.

At the end of the scene Juliet is left with a dilemma, whether she should stay faithful to Romeo and het thrown out of her home, or follow her father’s wishes and marry Paris, betraying Romeo in the process.

Shakespeare uses contrasting atmospheres for the two halves of the scene. In the first half of the scene, having spent her first night with Romeo, Juliet is content and happy.

She doesn’t want Romeo to leave her as shown in the line, “It was the nightingale and not the lark.” This shows her desire for Romeo to stay, she is so desperate for him not to go that she lies and tries to convince him it is still night time. In the first half of the scene, Juliet feels wanted and loved by Romeo, shown when he says, “Come death, and welcome. Juliet wills it so.” He is prepared to risk being caught and put to death by staying with Juliet as she wishes.

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Even though Juliet would feel frightened that Romeo wanted to put himself in danger, she would be happy that he loved her so much that he would be willing to die for her.

In the second half of the scene however, the mood quickly changes. Now Romeo has gone and Juliet feels alone. She is then shunned and abandoned by both her parents and even her nurse, who she is closest to. This is shown especially clearly when her mother says, “Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.” This shows that Juliet’s own mother doesn’t want anything to do with her and this would make Juliet feel let down and upset. This is because no one wants to support her or be on her side and Romeo, the only other person who could console her, has gone to Mantua. Shakespeare also makes the audience feel sorry for Juliet through foreboding. Even Juliet herself can tell something bad will happen because she says, “Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low, as one dead in the bottom of a tomb.” This shows that she feels that Romeo may die and this gives the audience one of many clues scattered throughout the play, of what will inevitably happen at the end of it. The audience feel even sorrier for Juliet because her family don’t support her and turn on her when she needed them the most. If they had been more supportive, the tragic ending of the play might have been averted.

Shakespeare could have also wanted these contrasts to reflect the wider theme of the play. Romeo and Juliet is about love and hate and the conflicts they cause with each other. For example the love Romeo and Juliet have is constantly juxtaposed by the hate and violence which occurs between the Capulets and the Montagues. The scene shows how the blissful peace Juliet has with Romeo is shattered almost immediately, which the mood changing to sadness and anger as she is faced with getting thrown out of her home. The contrasting halves of the scene would make the audience feel sorry for Juliet. The audience like Juliet would also have been surprised by the abrupt change of mood and atmosphere.

They would also be shocked at Capulet’s change in behaviour. He had previously been portrayed as caring for Juliet. He’d told Paris that he thought Juliet was too young and had even said he would only agree to the marriage if Juliet agreed to it herself. This decision to let his daughter choose would have been quite rare in Shakespearean times because most girls and even boys from rich families would have had their marriages chosen for them by their parents and would have had little say in the matter. Shakespeare could have chosen to show Capulet allowing Juliet to have a say in the marriage because this might have represented his views on marriage. He might have believed that marriages could be arranged but those chosen by their families to marry should still have the final say on the going ahead of the marriage.

However the audience might not be shocked at Capulet’s sudden anger. This is because earlier on in the play, Capulet had become furious at Tybalt when he tried to disobey him. Maybe Capulet began to be seen as a man who doesn’t like people defying him. So when Capulet lost him temper with Juliet, the audience would not be surprised because they had seen him act similarly like that with Tybalt. On the other hand, Capulet may have still been grieving for Tybalt, and Juliet going against his plan to move the wedding forwards may have made him angrier than he would have been had he not be grieving.

Another way Shakespeare makes the audience feel sorry for Juliet is by the way she is treated by both her parents. In Elizabethan times, children from rich families weren’t very close to their families. A wet nurse was employed by the family to breastfeed and look after their children from birth. This meant the child’s mother didn’t see very much of their children. This resulted in the nurse being closer to the child than the birth mother. This is why Lady Capulet is portrayed as being quite cold towards her own daughter. Though she may care for Juliet in her own way, Lady Capulet doesn’t know her daughter very well due to the fact she had little contact with her. This is explicitly shown earlier in Act One, scene 3 when she tells the nurse to, “come back again.” after asking the nurse to leave in an attempt to speak to Juliet alone. She feels awkward being alone with her daughter and acknowledges this by calling the nurse back; this shows the nurse is much closer to Juliet than Lady Capulet is to her daughter.

As well as this, Elizabethan society was very patriarchal, with the men having the most power and making the important decisions. One of these decisions was choosing a suitable match for their child to marry. Marrying for love was almost unheard of in rich and noble classes, though in poorer families, young men and women were free to choose who they wanted to marry. However arranged marriages in noble families were important so that the family could raise their status or maintain their respectability and wealth. Finally the children of Elizabethan England were expected to be seen and not heard they could not answer back or disobey their parents.

One of the techniques Shakespeare uses to make us feel sorry for Juliet is the unpredictability of Capulet her father. For example when he first appears in the scene, he is cheerful and in a good mood. He even uses imagery to do with water like “a conduit.” to exaggerate Juliet’s weeping as like a fountain, which could show the pity Capulet has for Juliet in comparison to her mother, who has less patience with Juliet’. However, Capulet could be frustrated and annoyed that Juliet was still crying about Tybalt like his wife was. This technique uses dramatic irony to make the audience feel sorry for Juliet. Capulet thinks that Juliet is upset because of Tybalt and doesn’t know the real reason she is upset due to Romeo being banished and having to marry Paris. The audience has seen how volatile Capulet can become as with earlier with Tybalt. They know how Capulet is likely to react about Juliet refusing to marry Paris and so feel sorry for her because she’ll be on the receiving end of Capulet’s anger

Another way Shakespeare makes the audience feel sorry for Juliet is the way Capulet uses pronouns to belittle Juliet. One example of this is when he says, “Have you delivered to her our decree?” This gives the audience the impression that by using the pronoun “our”, Capulet is showing that only his wife and himself can make decision of who Juliet can marry and makes Juliet look excluded and powerless. Decree means order, so a modern audience would feel sorry for Juliet because she has to follow every decision and will be punished for disagreeing with it. Capulet uses pronouns again when he continually refers to Juliet as “she”, for example in the line, “Will she none.”

He doesn’t call Juliet by her name, only using the pronoun, therefore making it look like he feels Juliet is beneath him and is degrading to her. He also uses, “you” rather than “thee”, which reinforces the fact that he is disrespecting her. And he uses “you” like she has become no better than a commoner. An Elizabethan audience may however be much less sympathetic towards Juliet. This would be because they would see Juliet’s behaviour as disobedient and would feel that Capulet was fully within his rights to threaten to throw Juliet out. They may think that Capulet could have forced the marriage on Juliet much earlier and the fact that he didn’t, allowing Juliet some time, meant that Juliet was being selfish by asking for yet more time when she could have been married off long ago without a choice.

Whiles Capulet trying to belittle Juliet may be seen as acceptable with the Shakespearean audience, a modern audience would probably think much differently. Women’s rights would be held more strongly in a modern audience and this would make them feel sorry for Juliet because Capulet doesn’t see any woman as his equal. This is again shown when he refers to Lady Capulet as “wife” and never by her actual name. The audience would see Capulet’s behaviour towards his daughter as unacceptable because in today’s society, women are not seen to be as subservient towards men as they were in Elizabethan times.

One other language technique Shakespeare uses to create sympathy for Juliet is when Capulet uses a metaphor comparing Juliet to an animal when he says, “Graze where you will.” Capulet comparing Juliet to an animal makes the audience feel sorry for her because he is insulting Juliet, making it clear he sees her as less than human. Shakespeare could have also used this to represent the status of Juliet. This is because animals cannot speak and neither can Juliet in the way that she has to do what her parents tell her to and be respectful and docile to them, a bit like a farm animal. Shakespeare is using Capulet’s line to emphasise that Juliet’s society prevents her from independently making certain decisions, she cannot choose who she wants to marry. This would make the audience feel sympathy for Juliet because she is similar to a farm animal in the way that her father is making decisions about what is essentially her future but she can’t speak up without being punished. Nevertheless, a Shakespearean audience would not be against Capulet saying such things, since in Elizabethan society, women were seen as the property of men and men were free to do with them what they chose.

One final way Capulet’s behaviour makes the audience feel sorry for Juliet, is his use of threatening language. He says “My fingers itch.” meaning he really feels like hitting his daughter at that moment. This would make Juliet feel scared and the audience frightened for her. A modern audience would feel the most pity for her because a modern society doesn’t tolerate abuse and many people would see hitting a child as going too far. On the other hand, a Shakespearean audience would feel more sympathy towards Capulet because in their time punishing a child for obedience by hitting them would have been seen as normal and acceptable.

They may in fact feel surprised that Capulet didn’t hit her and would think he was actually being kind to Juliet by not acting on his thoughts. Capulet also threatens to throw Juliet out of her home several times during the scene, for example, “You shall not house with me,” He has given Juliet an ultimatum, if she doesn’t choose to marry Paris then he will throw her out. The audience would feel sorry for her because if she stays faithful to Romeo then she faces poverty and having to fend for herself in the streets. An Elizabethan audience however may feel more sympathy for Juliet in this case since in those times women were supposed to be looked after by men and they were used to it. So Juliet would be in much trouble without her father supporting her.

Another way Shakespeare generates sympathy from the audience for Juliet is through the coldness of her mother Lady Capulet. For example Lady Capulet says, “I would the fool were married to the grave.” She feels Juliet is being stupid and would rather that she was dead and Shakespeare also uses dramatic irony which increases sympathy for Juliet because they know that Juliet will die at the end and her own mother seems to be foretelling her death. The audience would feel sorry for Juliet because Lady Capulet isn’t trying to support Juliet or even try to understand why her daughter doesn’t want to marry. She even says, “And see how he will take it at your hands.” This gives the audience the impression that Lady Capulet knows how Capulet is likely to react and is quite happy to let her daughter have that fate, She also refuses Juliet’s plea for her to convince Capulet to delay the wedding by saying, “Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.”

This would make the audience feel sorry for Juliet because her own mother doesn’t want anymore to do with her daughter and refuses to support her. A modern audience would also feel more sympathy for Juliet because she doesn’t have a very close relationship with her mother, talking to her very little during the play and when she does talk to her mother, it is almost always about marriage. As well as this, the fact that Juliet tells her nurse and not her mother about her marriage to Romeo shows the audience about her relationship with her mother, though some may argue that she tells the nurse about the marriage because the nurse herself doesn’t really have the power to act against the marriage.

However, a Shakespearean audience would feel Lady Capulet was right not to support her daughter because in Elizabethan society, women couldn’t really go against the decisions men made. If Lady Capulet had tried to stand up for Juliet, her husband may have turned on her instead. Capulet didn’t call his wife by her proper name at all during this scene, an example being when he says, “How now wife?” This shows Capulet doesn’t see Lady Capulet as his equal and his wife is resigned to this fact as she calls him “sir”, showing the Capulet clearly has the higher status in the household.

Another way Shakespeare creates sympathy for Juliet is through the behaviour of the nurse. Juliet and her nurse have a very close relationship since she was Juliet’s wet nurse when Juliet was a baby and looked after her as she got older. Therefore, Juliet sees the nurse as a mother to her because she has grown up with the nurse taking care of her and has spent more time with her than with her mother. That is probably why Juliet told the nurse about her decision to marry Romeo, because she trusted the nurse to keep it a secret. The nurse had earlier been very supportive of Romeo, saying good things about him and even helping him marry Juliet. But when Juliet asks her for some advice she says bad things about Romeo and tries to convince Juliet to marry Paris. For example she says, “O he’s a lovely gentleman. Romeo’s a dishclout to him.”

This would make the audience feel sorry for Juliet since she might have seen the nurse as the last person she could turn to and when the nurse said those things, she would be feeling let down and disappointed. As well as this, the nurse knew about Juliet’s marriage to Romeo and she didn’t try to prevent it happening. So the audience may feel the nurse is being hypocritical by encouraging Juliet to marry Paris after she condoned her marriage to Romeo. Adding to this, in Elizabethan times, women were supposed to be faithful to their husbands and had to be virgins when they married. The nurse advising Juliet to marry Paris may be seen by an Elizabethan audience as unacceptable since it would mean Juliet breaking her marriage vows and being unfaithful to Romeo.

On the other hand, the audience may feel more sympathy for the nurse because she did try to stand up for Juliet when her father was threatening to throw her out. An example of this is when she says, “You are to blame lord, to rate her so.” However, she is shouted down by Capulet who tells her to “Smatter with your gossips, go.” So she may have advised Juliet to marry Paris because she might have feared Juliet getting thrown out of her home if she didn’t marry Paris since she cared for her. As well as this, she might have thought a marriage to Paris would have been a more realistic choice for Juliet to make, since the likelihood of her seeing Romeo again are slim as he had been banished. They may also sympathise with the nurse because she might have been fearful for her job as if she lost her job she would have nothing to fall back on because she has lost her husband. She could also be regretting allowing Juliet’s marriage to Romeo to go ahead and she might question her earlier judgement.

Act three, scene five seems to highlight how Juliet has developed during the course of the play. For example, at the start of the play, she agreed to try and get to know Paris when her mother suggested a marriage to him. However in this scene, when her mother tells her that the wedding has been moved forward, she says, “He shall not make me a joyful bride.” Lady Capulet would be shocked by this change in behaviour, because Juliet had not disobeyed her before and she may also be angry since Juliet has undermined the authority she has. Though Juliet may have become stronger, the patriarchal society she lives in has caused her to fear and respect her father’s authority.

An example of this is when she says, “Good father, I beseech you on my knees.” She may have been dismissive to her mother, but she knows her father has the most power in the house, so she doesn’t attempt to disobey him, instead attempting to plead with him. The audience may feel sorry for Juliet because she has had a fall from grace; at the beginning of the scene, she is strong enough to be secretly spending time with Romeo with her parent’s knowledge and even talks to her mother almost like an equal. However, by the end of the scene, she is on the floor in front of her father, almost being rebuked for attempting to gain authority. The audience would feel sorry for her since she has become weak and helpless at her father’s whim.

Shakespeare could have show Juliet’s loss of control as part of his beliefs of women trying to gain power. He may believe that women should not try to become as powerful as men, or if they did try, they should be punished. This is shown with Juliet in this scene as well as the whole play. In trying to gain control over who she wanted to marry, she was punished by her father saying he would throw her out if she refused to marry. And in attempting to rebel in her society by pursuing a relationship with Romeo, she is punished by her tragic end in the play. An Elizabethan audience might agree with this viewpoint for the reason that they lived in a very patriarchal society, they would disapprove of women trying to gain positions of power. On the other a modern audience may feel Juliet doesn’t get punished in that though she does die, she does so never having conceded to her parents’ desire of her marrying Paris.

Juliet being left alone and isolated on the stage at the end creates sympathy from the audience because she has been let down by everyone she has turned to. Her father ignored her pleas even when she lowered her pride by falling in front of him. Her mother said she didn’t want anything more to do with her, and the nurse, who Juliet was much closer than with her parents, disappointed her by supporting the marriage. The audience would also feel sorry Juliet as her parents don’t know about the dilemma they have created for her. The nurse, if she does know of the dilemma, chooses to ignore it and acts like the decision is simple and straightforward when Juliet doesn’t see it that way.

The scene overall would leave the audience feeling a variety of emotions about Juliet and other characters present in the scene. Firstly, they would feel sympathy for Juliet because the whole scene has been full of bad events, from Romeo leaving since he was banished, to her facing homelessness if she did not marry. The person she had trusted the most, the nurse, has also let her down. They would also feel frustrated at Capulet and his wife for trying to force into a marriage she clearly does not want. They would also feel this because people in modern society are encouraged more to marry fro love and arranged marriages are generally frowned upon in modern England.

However, an audience in Shakespeare’s day may feel much less sympathy for Juliet than a modern one would. This is because they would think Juliet was being ungrateful for refusing the marriage, as Capulet says, “My care hath been to have her matched,” which implies that he has spent a long time finding her a suitable husband. They would think Juliet not wanting to marry as being extremely inconsiderate to her father, who cared for her enough for him not to choose just any man. Nonetheless, a modern audience and an Elizabethan audience would feel some pity for Juliet being essentially forced by her parents to betray Romeo.

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How does Shakespeare make the audience feel sorry for Juliet in the second part of Act 3 Scene 5?. (2018, Dec 27). Retrieved from

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