Romeo and Juliet, is a play written by William Shakespeare in the 16th century. Throughout the play Shakespeare will explore multitude of themes, such as Forcefulness of Love, Love as a Cause of Violence, The Individual Versus Society, The Inevitability of Fate, Sex, Love, Violence, Youth and Fate. This play is about two families the Montagues and the Capulets, they are enemies, but one night, a group of masked Montagues risk further conflict by entering a Capulets party. Romeo, of the Montague falls instantly in love with Juliet one of the Capulets, who is due to marry her father’s choice, the County Paris. With the help of Juliet’s nurse, the women arrange for the couple to marry the next day, but Romeo’s attempt to halt a street fight leads to the death of Juliet’s own cousin, Tybalt, for which Romeo is banished of Verona. In a desperate attempt to be reunited with Romeo, Juliet follows the Friar’s plot and fakes her own death. The message fails to reach Romeo, and believing Juliet dead, he takes his life in her tomb. Juliet wakes to find Romeo’s corpse beside her and kills herself. Throughout the essay I will explore how Shakespeare exposes female characters in the play depending on their social position, families and age.Juliet’s relationship with her family isn’t very close because there parents are in constant work and they can’t take care of her that is why the nurse (who had given birth at the same time as juliet’s mother, Lady Capulet) takes care of her. In the 16th century, a girl or women would barely ever make her own decisions, these would be made by her parents.In the play, Shakespeare places the character Juliet into a situation typical of the era: arranged marriage. At that time parents always chose a suitor for their daughter, regardless of her age or class. At this part in the play, Juliet’s mother enquires on her daughter’s “disposition to be married”. Here, Juliet behaves very uncharacteristically of the Elizabethan era, saying “It is an honour that I dream not of”, avoiding the proposal and demonstrating independent thinking. Lady Capulet has already made the decision for her daughter, and expects her to react dutifully as a daughter at that time would.Juliet says “.. no more deep will I endart mine eye Than your consent to make it fly. ” Now she appears to be a model daughter, however she still acts uncharacteristically because she has not given her mother a straight answer, again avoiding the subject. Arranged marriage still occurs today, but it is not as common as it was in the Elizabethan era, so although girls are still put into this position they are still expected to conform to tradition and obey their parents’ decision.Here Juliet seems to feel free to withhold her consent, which is definitely not customary of the 16th century. In the Elizabethan era, men had more power, opportunities and influence on society than women did. Women did not have equal rights and were seen as possessions not people. Just as a girl’s parents controlled her decisions and life, once the girl became and woman and was married, her husband controlled her. Husbands had expectations of their wife as much as parents had of their daughter; women were expected to behave accordingly, obeying their husbands.Their role as a wife would be to comply with their husband’s decisions and bear him a family. At this time, women knew no other way of life, and so generally women complied with the traditions, unlike today in which women are seen as equal citizens in society. In the play, Juliet was expected to marry Paris and become his possession, with no love involved. Juliet would have reacted normally to this idea, as many young women dreamed of the idea of love, and when proposed to, would create their own form of love for their husbands, usually respect.Many marriages were arranged by parents and were based on suitability, not love. Nowadays marriage is based on love alone, and parents have less influence over choosing a husband for their daughter. Lady Capulet’s role as a woman in the play is exactly what an upper class mother of that time would have been like. Lady Capulet was forced into marriage when still only young “And too soon marred are those so early made. ” After giving birth to Juliet at a very young age, she chose to employ someone else to nurse her child, which was also usual of a woman of that status.In the Elizabethan era it was commonplace to have a Nurse bring up the child, as a mother would today. The character of the nurse would have been a recognizable type to Shakespeare’s audience. A woman who had lost her own baby was an ideal source of milk for an upper-class infant whose mother preferred not to be troubled with doing her own nursing. Babies were weaned by having a foul-tasting salve smeared on the nipple “laid wormwood to my dug”. The bodily intimacy between Juliet and the nurse creates a close motherly bond between them.The character of Juliet was not a typical 16th century girl, as although she was faced with the same situations as a girl of that time, she reacted differently and did not conform to the traditions and expectations made of her. Shakespeare chose not to make the character Juliet conform because his play was a dramatic tragedy, written to entertain audiences. Juliet would interest an Elizabethan audience to watch as she was uncharacteristic of that time, and she reacted differently to what was expected.Shakespeare chose to develop the female characters’ roles in the way he did so that the audience could relate and recognise these characters, making the play more interesting for them to watch.
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