In the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare, the protagonist, two weeks before her fourteenth birthday, matures from a child to a young woman in order to fight to hide hers and Romeo’s love for each other from their feuding families. At first, before the two lovers meet, Juliet is obedient and compliant to her family’s demands and expectations. However after having met and fallen in love with Romeo she becomes rebellious and audacious. Her new found experience with love ages her and thus she drastically transforms from an inexperienced immature child into a defiant and courageous young woman which eventually leads to her ‘violent end’
We first hear about Juliet in Act 1 scene 2 when Paris asks Capulet if he may marry Juliet. Capulet replies ‘my child is but a stranger in the world, she hath not seen the change of fourteen years’ demonstrating that Capulet is conscious of his daughter’s immaturity and how she has no understanding of the real world. Paris then responds ‘younger than she are happy mothers made.’ which in Shakespearean times is true as arranged child marriages of young girls were routine from the age of twelve. Adolescence was not a defined age range until the 1950s; children made the swift change from child to adult in their mid teens and had to take on jobs and responsibility from then on with no preparation. This is echoed later in the play when Lady Capulet reveals she was married at a similar age herself. The fact that Capulet is resisting Paris’s proposal shows that Capulet is concerned about how Juliet is young for her age and needs more time to grow before being married despite that he is naturally also keen that his daughter should find a considerate husband and Paris, being kinsman of the Prince would be a very wise match.
In Act 1 scene 3 the women of the Capulet household discuss Paris’s proposal of marriage. In this scene it is obvious that Juliet often confides in the nurse, depends on her and treats her as a mother figure and that the nurse also treats her as a child by calling her a ‘lamb’ and a ‘ladybird’ and a ‘pretty fool’. Juliet is more confident to the nurse as demonstrated when the nurse makes a joke in line 54,’A bump as big as a young cockerels stone’ and Juliet tells her to stop as she believes she is too young to hear this and is embarrassed.
Lady Capulet is at this point anxious to impress on her daughter that Paris’s offer is a very attractive one and is very excited by the prospect of this marriage. When she asks the blunt question ‘How stands your dispositions to me married?’ Juliet answers ‘It is an honour that I dream not of.’ Informing us that she had never even thought of it before as she and everyone else thought of her as being a child, too young, with lack of comprehension to have even considered marriage. But in answer to her mother’s later question ‘can you like of Paris’ love?’ she replies obediently ‘…But no more deep will I endart my eye, Than your consent gives strength to make it fly.’ Juliet knows her mother’s superiority and she respects it by trusting and agreeing to whatever her mother asks her to do; she says effectively ‘I’ll try to please you by liking Paris as deeply as you want me to.’ Acting as a compliant, respectful and naï¿½ve child, whose sole purpose is to please her mother.
Romeo and Juliet first meet at the party at the Capulet mansion, Act 1 scene 5. Neither yet knows they belong to feuding families when Romeo says he wants to kiss her. At this point she is hesitant and unsure and says they should hold hands instead, this is a sign of her innocence. Though then, she changes her mind and he kisses her. This is her first kiss but she says ‘you kiss by th’book’, this is another sign of her inexperience as she does not know the reality and this is only what she has imagined.
The beginning of Act is a turning point in the play in the case of Juliet’s maturity. She starts to worry about the practicality of the relationship, how dangerous it is for them to be together when their families are sworn enemies, and when Romeo tells her he had climbed over the wall she warns him that he may be being too hasty and that he will be killed if her family see him, a personal threat. She shows maturity by showing caution to the situation which is a contrast to her childlike nature. However also in the same scene, line 42, she says ‘what’s in a name?’ illustrating that she values the person over the name which is different to the rest of their families and that she can detach status and the person. This shows great understanding and maturity that she does not share her family’s views on this matter. This is her first time in the book she is alone with her own opinion. This is a step closer towards detachment and hints at where the book is leading.