How does Shakespeare present Juliet’s relationship with her father to the audience? What does this show about the role of woman of Juliet’s class in the society that Shakespeare describes in the play?’
William Shakespeare ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was written in the 1500’s. He lived from 1564-1616, his birth date is unknown. Shakespeare grew up in the Elizabethan Age, also known as England’s Golden Age. He lived among a time when woman did not have the same equal rights as men. Teenagers from the Elizabethan period were classed as adults from the age of ten, and from rich backgrounds would already be involved in an arranged marriage. Shakespeare shows in the play how woman from a different class society have different roles in life, and shows his concern over the division of men and woman. Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet fall deeply in love at the age of 14, regardless their rival families are enemies. Clearly, their families completely disagree to the concept and arrange Juliet to marry a family friend at the age of 16, which results in murders, and both Romeo and Juliet committing suicide. In this assignment I will look at how Shakespeare presents Juliet’s relationship with her father and what it tells us about the role of woman of Juliet’s class in the Elizabethan Age.
In Act 1 Scene 2, Juliet’s father, Capulet, talks to Paris about Juliet as he wishes to marry her. Shakespeare shows Capulet’s role as a father over Juliet, and how he thinks of her well-being by wording, “My child is yet a stranger in the world.” By saying this, it suggests Capulet role as a father to Juliet is respectful and caring, but protective. By saying ‘My child’ indicates he is protective over Juliet, as ‘my’ is a pronoun; it tells us Capulet sees Juliet as an object which belongs to him which emphasises his power over her. Furthermore, as the word ‘child’ is a noun, it also suggests Juliet is Capulet’s possession. It also insinuates she is too immature to marry. Shakespeare says ‘stranger in the world’, he does this as it indicates Juliet hasn’t experienced life enough to be involved in a marriage. Capulet is shown as an atypical father as not all fathers in the 1500’s would be like this.
The audience may be astonished by this, as they would not expect a father to treat his daughter in the way in which he does. Elizabethan people would have had a stereotype on all higher classed men, they would believe that they had full control over what their children do, especially their daughters. In the 1500’s girls from a rich background often married before those from a poor background, in their early teens. Shakespeare does the opposite in Romeo and Juliet; he makes Capulet an atypical father as he waits until Juliet has matured more for her to marry, if he was a stereotypical father Capulet would have forcefully made Juliet marry Paris without thought. Shakespeare shows Capulet to the audience this way as it shows Capulet and Juliet’s relationship as father and daughter is protective, but respectful. He is also showing the audience that Elizabethan people would have thought this was wrong as they stereotype different classes of people and gender. Cleverly, Shakespeare has showed his concern to the audience over what people in the sixteenth century believed was right and wrong in society.
To further emphasise my point, Shakespeare uses the words “She hath not seen the change of fourteen years”. Shakespeare uses this in his play as it illustrates Capulet is saying Juliet is not yet mature enough for marriage, as she is not even 14 years old. Although Capulet suggests Juliet is immature, he is respectful towards her as he is willing to postpone the wedding until she is old and wise enough to be involved. By saying ‘she hath not’ tells us Capulet is concerned about Juliet marrying at such a young age, as it means ‘she’s not even’. It indicates he cares about her youth and well-being, and further emphasises my point over Capulet being described as an atypical father. As Shakespeare does this; it clearly shows the audience that different classes of people in the Elizabethan period were treated differently and blatantly shows the division of power between men and woman in the sixteenth century.
To emphasise my point even further, Shakespeare words in his play, “Let two more summers wither in their pride, ere we may think her ripe to be a bride”. This clearly shows Capulet is only thinking of Juliet’s well-being. By saying, ‘let two more summers wither in their pride’ shows us that Capulet wants Juliet to mature more before she marries Paris. It tells us Capulet is caring towards Juliet, as he is making Paris wait two extra years to marry Juliet. Cleverly, by using the adjective ‘ripe’, Capulet insinuates he will let Juliet marry when she is fully developed, as ripe means ‘completely matured’. This further emphasises the words “too soon married are those so early made”, as this tells us that woman who marry early are spoilt too soon, as they do not fully understand the world a round them. Capulet says this as he wants to make sure Juliet is fully matured and emotionally ready to be involved in a marriage, as being married too young can damage her as a person. Shakespeare uses quotes like these as he is showing the audience how Elizabethan people have different stereotypes for different classes of people and also their beliefs over marriage and what affect it can have over a person of such a young age. Shakespeare shows his concerns over the division of classes of people and how they became to think such behaviour was approved in the 1500’s.
However, in Act 3 Scene 4, Capulet’s views on Juliet’s marriage have changed. Tybalt is now dead and Capulet is making drastic actions. Capulet’s tone has changed; he is still thinking of Juliet but being more eager about situations. Capulet says to Paris, “I will make a desperate tender of my child’s love”. By saying this Shakespeare is making Capulet seem controllable. Capulet is offering Paris to marry Juliet, without her consent by saying ‘desperate tender’. This makes Capulet seem dominant over Juliet and therefore suggesting he is more of a stereotypical father from the 1500’s. By using the adjective ‘desperate’, Capulet is indicating Juliet is in critical need for love, as it means ‘hopeless’ and therefore Capulet thinks he’s being considerate by arranging a marriage for her. This clearly shows Capulet’s views on the arranged marriage have changed, and that he is going to make sure Juliet does marry Paris.
Although he is still respectful towards Juliet, his actions are dominant over what Juliet does. It shows a turn in Capulet and Juliet’s relationship. The audience could start to relate to this behaviour as Capulet is beginning to turn into a more stereotypical father from the sixteenth century. It also shows Shakespeare’s concerns over society as he shows that men’s thoughts and opinions mattered more than a woman’s, and that they have a much stronger and important role in life as they can make decisions for woman.
Furthermore, Capulet also says, “I think she will be ruled in all respects by me”. This emphasises my point that Capulet is being more dominant over Juliet. It indicates that she will be told what to do by him and nobody else. By saying ‘ruled’ Capulet is insisting she will do as she is told, just like every other stereotypical woman from the 1500’s. Also, by using the noun ‘will’, meaning command shows us that Capulet is certain his daughter will do what he wants her to without a doubt. This shows Capulet is getting more demanding over Juliet, but still respects her. Also, proving my point further that Capulet has become more stereotypical, he states “…tell her, she shall be married to this noble earl”. Capulet is demanding his wife, Lady Capulet, to tell Juliet the arrangements of her marriage. He is ordering her to tell Juliet that she will marry Paris in three days time. By saying ‘tell her’ suggests he is giving Lady Capulet a command that could be done by himself, and by using the pronoun ‘her’ indicates Capulet sees her as an object or a possession of his own.
Capulet uses a strong verb such as ‘shall’, meaning ‘expects’, which tells us that he presumes Juliet will go through with the marriage, and he believes she will do so. This shows how Capulet has become more controllable since Tybalt has died, and shows that he wants only the best for Juliet as he describes Paris as ‘noble earl’. Shakespeare shows in this scene how consequences can change a person’s views. He shows the becoming of a stereotypical Capulet, and the audience can now relate to his behaviour, as men from the 1500’s were expected to behave this way. Although Shakespeare leaves a little touch of concern in Capulet’s voice, he still turns Capulet into a more dominant man over his daughter and wife. He has done this as Elizabethan people would expect him to be this way, and it shows Shakespeare’s concern over how society was between the division of men and woman in this era.
As Act 3 continues into Scene 5, Capulet’s relationship with Juliet has changed dramatically. Shakespeare displays a more demanding and aggressive relationship between the two. As Juliet refuses Capulet’s request to marry Paris, Capulet is forced to give Juliet an ultimatum. He states “But, an you will not wed… Graze where you will, you shall not house with me”. Shakespeare is showing a cold-hearted side to Capulet, he is blackmailing Juliet into something she does not want to do. Capulet is demanding Juliet to marry Paris, but if she doesn’t she is to move out on to the streets. Elizabethan people could relate to this as this sort of behaviour was expected in the sixteenth century. Also, to further emphasise my point, Capulet also says, “and you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend; and you be not, hand, beg, starve, die in the streets…”
By saying this, Capulet is indicating that if Juliet did respect him, she should go ahead and marry Paris, but if she doesn’t, she may as well hang herself or beg, starve and die in the streets. Shakespeare uses harsh, abrupt words to highlight Capulet’s anger, such as, hand, beg, die and starve, which conveys Capulet’s power. Capulet still sees Juliet as an object belonging to him, by making decisions for her and by also using the noun ‘mine’ shows us this is true. Shakespeare is now beginning to bring out the real stereotypical man from the 1500’s. He shows how behaviour like this is something to be concerned of and puts it through across his play.
Likewise, Shakespeare reveals Capulet’s aggression and selfishness even more when Capulet states, “my fingers itch”. Shakespeare words this in his play as it shows Capulet’s anger is increasing with Juliet, as she is not obeying his demands. By using the verb ‘itch’ tells us Capulet is getting irritated by Juliet’s reactions as it means ‘to annoy or irritate’. Shakespeare is suggesting Capulet feels like lashing out at Juliet, as her negative responses are making him feel uneasy and underpowered. This proves my point of how Capulet and Juliet’s relationship has dramatically changed throughout the play. It shows an angrier and dominant Capulet and a more matured Juliet.
Shakespeare shows their relationship this way as Elizabethan people would not expect Juliet to react this way. It shows Juliet’s behaviour with historical reference and how Shakespeare makes her an atypical daughter from the 1500’s. Capulet is surprised at Juliet’s reactions, as woman from the 1500’s were to do as they are told. Shakespeare reverses Juliet’s role as a stereotypical woman and therefore shows her as a woman with her own rights, what Shakespeare believes is right in society. Men had more power than woman in the sixteenth century, and Shakespeare makes the audience think Juliet’s behaviour is wrong by refusing agreement of an arranged marriage. This shows how Shakespeare is thinking about the division between men and woman of that era and obviously showing his concern as Elizabethan people would think Juliet’s reactions were wrong.
In conclusion, Shakespeare highlights the differences between gender and classes in the 1500’s. He proves there is a division between men and woman and classes in society. Capulet has become the perfect stereotype for men in the 1500’s. In my opinion, Capulet and Juliet’s relationship alters because of Tybalt’s death. Capulet realises how precious his family are to him and therefore has to take a stronger role towards Juliet and his family to make sure they do not get hurt again. It shows he still cares and respects Juliet, but he only wants the best for her so he tries to make her happy by making her marry Paris. Capulet is to blame over their aggressive and dominant relationship as his plan backfires as he doesn’t see what effect it is having on Juliet, which forces her to stray. An Elizabethan audience could relate very well to this play, as all men were like this in the 1500’s, they would have control over their daughter’s status and what they become of it. Although, in modern times, a modern audience would not tolerate this sort of behaviour, woman of our time have complete control over what they do with their life and no man could change that. Therefore, Shakespeare is proving how the division between men and woman and classes in society is wrong and showing the effects it could lead to. He has shown throughout the play his concern over how this was in the sixteenth century.