About this sample
About this sample
Words: 1238 |
7 min read
Published: Aug 31, 2023
Words: 1238|Pages: 3|7 min read
In Act 1, Scene 3, Shakespeare introduces Juliet onstage as an obedient child to her mother when she advertises the idea of marriage to the County Paris, and to her father in Act 1 , Scene 2. The scene inaugurates Lord Capulet as a ‘fair’ father who approves of the County Paris’ declaration of marriage to Juliet should she ‘consent’ to it, framing it as something in which she may have agency over, highlighting the interplay of Romeo and Juliet's fate or choice theme. In fact, an Elizabethan audience may conjecture his intentions as that of a protective father, as the ‘Earth’ has already ‘swallow’d’ all his other children but ‘she’, proving he is reluctant to lose her.
Alternatively, in Act 1, Scene 3, while inside the Capulet home, Lady Capulet relies on the Nurse’s ‘counsel’ when proposing the idea of Paris as a potential suitor to Juliet, and is shown to defer to the Nurse when she is caught eagerly reminiscing crucial life events concerning her daughter; it was uncommon for a servant to wield that degree of authority. But, a modern interpretation may argue Shakespeare intentionally writes Lady Capulet as an ancillary role in the play to connote her subsidiary involvement in Juliet’s upbringing, which is perhaps an allusion to the context in which people of high social affluence would regularly employ wet Nurses to tend to their children from birth. Furthermore, Lady Capulet questions, ‘What say you?’ when addressing her daughter to look fondly at Paris’ marriage proposal despite the fact she is ‘not fourtneen’ to create a demanding as well as staccato tone that implores Juliet to comply, thus, her unaffectionate nature towards her could be indicative of her being a ‘mother much upon these years’, and has therefore already internalised the patriarchal view that Juliet serves only the purpose to ‘beautify’ Paris, rendering her advocacy of him as false idealism, through an extended metaphor constituting 11 lines.
It can, of course, be argued, Shakespeare deploys double entendre when Lord Capulet delivers the words ‘earth’ and ‘hope’ in Act 1 scene 2 , conveying the same purport of his children’s bereavement ‘but she’ to suggest Juliet is the only child whom he pours all his love for, in addition to being the only heir to ‘inherit’ his lineage. In effect, Shakespeare composes Lord Capulet’s dialogue in verses to connote class distinctions, foreshadowing Lord Capulet’s nature as an autocratic patriarch in Act 3, scene 5, through the subsequent decision of Juliet and Paris’ marriage without Juliet’s assent, effectively signifying the shift in Lord Capulet and Juliet’s relationship.
The death of his nephew, Tybalt, at the hands of Romeo, a Montague, in Act 3 scene 1 urges him to neglect Juliet’s ‘scope of choice’, even threatening to ‘drag’ her when she states her obstinate refusals to marry Paris, a relative of Prince Escalus; likewise Lady Capulet is unsympathetic and vows to ‘not speak a word’ to Juliet. Her lack of choice is metaphorised earlier, when hesitantly agreeing to observe Paris at the party, by an arrow that her parents will ‘endart’ upon with their ‘consent’, depicting Juliet as a ‘poor prisoner’ to Paris’ pursuit of marriage, the plosive alliteration denoting the restrictive conventions she must accept. Modern critics would note Tybalt’s end to a Montague shows how the idea of Juliet’s courtship with Paris may pose advantageous against the interminable feud between the Capulets and Montagues, illustrating Juliet is little more than a pawn to her parents for larger, dynastic ends.
At the beginning of the play, The Chorus explains Verona is a city divided by a civil war between two noble families with an ‘ancient grudge’: the Capulets and the Montagues. When Romeo, a Montague intrudes upon Lord Capulet’s ‘old accustom’d feast’ in Act 1, Scene 5 and eyes Juliet for the very first time, he refers to her as a ‘jewel’, a metonym for beauty, which coinciding with the theatricality of the ballroom music would naturally serve onstage to enhance the sense of harmony felt by the audience, suggesting that their relationship may have the capacity to transcend conventional courtly trappings notwithstanding of their affiliations.
When Juliet appears aloft on a balcony in Act 2, Scene 2, Shakespeare’s use of soliloquy articulates Juliet’s lament over the meaningless convention of a ‘name’ to stress the obstruction that the two families present, encapsulating her own autonomy and the moment Romeo counterposes her family, upon falling in love with her mother and father’s ‘enemy’ by association. ‘‘Tis but my name that is my enemy’. Fear and delight are mingled in Juliet’s heart. In Romeo she has found ‘dear perfection’, but she knows well his name is her enemy. Romeo is one of the family names of the Montagues. She expresses her anxieties about this new relationship, ‘it is too rash, too unadvis’d, too sudden’, however she quickly forgets this worry, either that or her love has become too strong she cannot restrain herself. Suddenly Juliet makes a proposal to her new lover, ‘If that thy bent of love be honourable, Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow’. Juliet has forgotten her obedience and duty to her parents and thinks only of her future with Romeo.
When Lord Capulet discusses Paris’ desire to marry Juliet he warns, ‘too soon marr’d are those so early made.’ Shakespeare utilises the adjective ‘marr’d’, which although outwardly denotes concern, actually highlights Lord Capulet’s role as a patriarch, reinforcing the importance of female chastity and purity, a 16th century obsession that permeates the play. In this manner, any hope for a modern reader is undermined when Juliet is later denied any ‘scope of choice’ in her father’s arrangements suggesting her worth is that of a mere ‘child’ to her family. This overt infantilisation of Juliet’s character by her parents contributes to Juliet subsequent decision to challenge ‘old accustom’d’ conventions that her family propagates.
This is contrasted in Act 4, Scene 5 when the discovery of Juliet’s fake death is made and a general lamentation pervades the atmosphere. However, the audience cannot share the emotions expressed by her family, for there is a some semblance of dramatic irony in the fact Juliet is not actually dead, but Lady Capulet’s rhetoric over what she believes is the ‘dead’ body of her ‘child’ on the bed is that of helpless panic, as she experiences denial that does not occur upon Tybalt’s death, wherein her desire for revenge was overwhelmingly powerful.
It is indisputable that Juliet’s death does signify the death of her family line, therefore no act of revenge can mitigate the loss of her ‘but one, poor one, one poor and loving child’; even more so when the ‘enmity’ ends at the denouement of Act 5, scene 3 and Juliet is actually discovered dead alongside ‘her Romeo’. Lord Capulet ascribes monosyllables to abruptly declare ‘Death is my heir’, envincing he is not weeping for the loss of his child, but rather, he has no descendent to ‘inherit’ his wealth, and consequently cannot escape his role as a patriarch even upon seeing his daughter’s lifeless body. Some hope can be attained through the ironic conciliation of the two feuding families to suggest it was all part of Friar Lawrence’s overarching, yet benevolent plan to put an end to their civil war.
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