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Examine the role of women in Romeo and Juliet, and explore the role of women in 16th century society

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Introduction

Examine the role of women in Romeo and Juliet, and explore the role of women in 16th century society Shakespeare wrote the play Romeo and Juliet in the 16th century, a time in which the role of women was not to be a person in their own rights, but to be a wife to their husband and a mother to their children. Women had a specific place in society, and they were expected to conform to expectations of their positions. Women were owned by their husbands, and had little to no freedom from their spouses or parents. In the play, Shakespeare depicts this situation through the character Juliet and her relationships and role in society, a young girl growing into the expectations of women at that time. The theme of this essay is to examine the role of women in 16th century society i.e. Juliet, and contrast it to the role of women today. ...read more.

Middle

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. ...read more.

Conclusion

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. ...read more.

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This student has consistently answered the question thoughtfully and with some skill. They show a clear and developed knowledge of both social and historical attitudes and knowledge of the play.
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Marked by teacher Paul Dutton 07/06/2013

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