‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a play written by William Shakespeare and is possibly his most renowned piece of work. The play is set during the Elizabethan period when daughters had to marry according to their parents’ wishes; males were potentate. A girl was ready to be married as soon as she hit the first stages of puberty. Being considered brash and immature in this fickle stage of their life, it was the fathers’ responsibility to choose a suitable individual who could support their daughter and would fit into the family well.
If she was to refuse her parents’ decision, she would be considered rude and disrespectful and would probably severe any connection between her and her family. There was little a girl could do to refuse marriage and life was extremely unfair in this rudimentary, patriarchal society. At the start of the play it is clear that the relationship between Lord Capulet and his daughter Juliet is that of a loving one.
This is portrayed in Act I Scene 2 Line 13-19. When asked for Juliet’s hand in marriage Lord Capulet states that she is too young and that Juliet is: “The hopeful lady of my earth.
The use of the term “earth” suggests that Juliet is his world and his life. Using this line it can be inferred that Capulet is very protective and cautious of his daughter as she is his last hope left. Act 3 Scene 5 is all about Lord Capulet telling his daughter that she has to marry Paris and Juliet refusing to do so.
When Capulet sees Juliet crying he metaphorically compares her tears to a shipwrecking storm. He uses phrases such as “ebb and flow with tears” and “tempest-tossed body” to display his affection and concern for his daughter.
Additionally the harsh alliteration of the letter ‘t’ demonstrates Capulet’s lack of control in the situation. Along with this, Capulet refers to Juliet as “little”, suggesting that he still thinks of his daughter as a child who needs guidance and protection from an elder, further emphasizing the fact that men were the ones in control and women were seen as inferior. Until now, throughout the play, Capulet has been portrayed as a calm and affectionate father who is caring and possessive of his daughter, presenting a strong relationship between Juliet and Lord Capulet.
Following this, in Act 3 Scene 5, Shakespeare utterly shatters whatever belief the audience has had in Lord Capulet and presents him from a completely different perspective. When Juliet refuses to marry Paris, Capulet’s rage bursts forth like an inferno. We witness a sudden transition from a loving father to a nefarious, uncompassionate tyrant, who uses derogatory, pejorative insults such as “Baggage! You tallow-face! You green sickness carrion! ” to undermine his daughter. This vituperative language, along with the constant use of exclamation marks expresses Capulet’s raging ferocity and the severity of the situation.
Additionally, Shakespeare implements dramatic irony to further embroil the spectators. The fact that the audience knows that Juliet is already clandestinely married, but her father does not, makes the audience feel sympathetic towards Juliet. They suddenly change their perception of Capulet and are left flabbergasted. However, an Elizabethan audience might have actually supported Capulet, understanding the importance of male dominance in a typical household. Furthermore, Juliet’s mother, Lady Capulet, has a miniscule role in the play.
It is clear from the way Shakespeare presents her, that she does not share a strong bond with her daughter. When Juliet is being scolded by her father, all Lady Capulet does is make short, curt comments such as “Fie, fie, what, are you mad? ” and “You are too hot” to ineffectively try and abate Capulet’s anger. This demonstrates the fact that Lady Capulet is unacquainted with Juliet’s persona and therefore, is not ready to openly defend her. However it is important to note that living in a patriarchal society, Lady Capulet would also be afraid to further infuriate her husband by speaking out of turn.
When she hears Lord Capulet approaching, she dismisses Juliet’s plea to not marry Paris by stating: “Here comes your father, tell him so yourself”. This shows us that she wants to rid her hands of Juliet’s problems and let Lord Capulet deal with it, furthermore proving that Lady Capulet does not have a strong relationship with Juliet. Furthermore this can also be extrapolated through how much closer Juliet is to the nurse than her mother. This fact is exemplified in Act 1 Scene 3 where the nurse mentions how Juliet: “laid wormwood to my dug”, referring to how she weaned Juliet.
Also, the fact that the nurse addresses Lady Capulet as “madam” but speaks to Juliet in an open and informal manner further validates how close of a bond Juliet shares with the nurse. Additionally, Capulet’s sudden transition from a well-wishing father to an almost cynical tyrant is overwhelming for the audience. After Juliet’s refusal to marry Paris, Capulet feels like she has dishonored his name. This can be seen through the punitive insults he hurls at her; “minion” and “curse”. Personally, Capulet believes that he has achieved something and done Juliet a good deed by finding her a husband like Paris.
This is demonstrated in Act 3 Scene 5 Line 143-145. Along with this Capulet’s sudden change to speaking in the third person such as: “Is she not proud? ” shows us that he is trying to distance himself from her. Furthermore, the severe threats that Capulet uses in an attempt to convince Juliet are exceptionally abysmal to the audience. He states that either she marries Paris or “never after look me in the face”. After witnessing the events in Act 3 Scene 5 aspire, the audience is very biased to the fact that the relationship between Juliet and her parents is very insecure and distant.
In conclusion, it is evident throughout the play that Shakespeare has portrayed the relationship between Juliet and her parents as perplexing and convoluted. At the start of the play, Capulet demonstrates concern and protectiveness for his daughter by refusing to let Paris marry her at an early age. However later on in the play when Juliet refuses to marry Paris he loses all sense and becomes livid, temperamental and callous. Juliet, on the other hand, is forced to refuse the marriage because she is already in love with Romeo, and feels distraught when she is compelled to decline her father’s offer.
At the end of the play when Juliet dies, her father is grief-stricken and distraught. He speaks in hollow metaphors such as: “Death is now my son-in-law” and “Ready to go, but never to return” demonstrating the excruciating pain he is experiencing. With this information in mind in contrast to Capulet’s behavior in Act 3 Scene 5 it can be induced that Capulet really did care about his daughter’s well-being; he just wanted to give her the best life conceivable. It can be established that throughout the play, the relationship between Juliet and her parents is that of a loving one, however so in an intricate and indistinct manner.