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How Does William Shakespeare use the characters of Romeo and Juliet to challenge Elizabethan views on patriarchy?

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Introduction

How Does William Shakespeare use the characters of Romeo and Juliet to challenge Elizabethan views on patriarchy? In the famous play of Romeo & Juliet, written by William Shakespeare, two teenagers decide to challenge the views of the strong patriarchal society that was lived in over 100 years ago. Patriarchy means that men were in control of women; women had no way of standing up to them. They were used as slaves and to reproduce. Patriarchy was just another way of life in Verona, in Shakespearian times; men were the dominant sex. Women were treated like they were just a piece of meat, often struck to the ground whenever they spoke out of place. Romeo and Juliet's relationship challenged patriarchy because Juliet was dominating Romeo in some ways; by challenging him he was confused, when Juliet was doing this she tried to show Romeo that men and women are equals. This was the first that any woman had decided to try and dominate a relationship. If many women challenged their relationships just as Juliet did, then the world patriarchal society could be changed forever. The relationship between sexes in Act 1 Scene 1 is not very romantic, it is abusive and women are shown as mediocre (lesser) to men because they were seen as weak. Shakespeare shows this by using the sexual violence between them with the 'thrust'. Sex and violence are used together in this scene as Sampson say's 'When I have fought with the men, I will be civil with the maids, I will cut off their heads'. ...read more.

Middle

This would have also shocked the Shakespearian audience because Juliet is trying to dominate a relationship in the patriarchal society. Romeo uses his own body to try and persuade Juliet for a kiss as he says 'O, that I were a glove upon that, that I might touch that cheek!' this is challenging patriarchy because he is showing himself as weak to try and kiss Juliet. He is giving her control over the relationship instead of being angry at the woman or bossing her about like all the other men would do in that situation. There are three moments in Act 1 Scene 5 where Juliet has socked the Elizabethan audience with her advice to Romeo about how to get control over his life. One of these was that Juliet decides to be clever and uses Romeo's words against him to argue and fight for the first kiss. Another was that it gets to the point where Romeo has been convinced that both of them are equals so he admits 'despair'. This is showing very different behavior to the patriarchal society which the audience was introduced to in the very beginning of the play where men were controlling and abusing women. Juliet then shows that her body is hers so if Romeo tries to kiss her lips then he is trespassing, so she decides when and where she wants to kiss. He realizes that he would be committing a sin if he kisses her and she doesn't want to. ...read more.

Conclusion

This shows that when she stands up to patriarchy she is looked at as evil and corrupted; almost as if she was against the will of God. Lady Capulet at this time says nothing until Lord Capulet gets violent, she tries to pull him off of Juliet as does the nurse but he just strikes his own wife to the ground feeling no shame about it. When he leaves in rage, Juliet asks for help and forgiveness from her mother, but she just says that Juliet is no daughter of mine. This showing that there are also women against women in this patriarchal society. Verona was a place which was used to death, violence and power. Romeo and Juliet's suicide exposes and challenges the foundations of the patriarchal society they were introduced to when they were born. When he saw Juliet he killed himself in the name of 'love'. Juliet's suicide has great representative value in the sense that she uses a 'dagger' to kill herself. This weapon has been shown to be only used by men, so when she used it on herself it showed masculinity and power. She takes control over her own life for once as uses that power to kill her self to be with the one she loves. When he saw Juliet apparently dead he took his own life. This showed that a woman could control the destiny of a man which was fundamentally against the patriarchal society of Verona. ?? ?? ?? ?? Mark Cooke English Course Work Romeo & Juliet Mr. Bryant Page 1 Of 7 8/19/2008 ...read more.

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