Examine the similarities and differences in the ways Shakespeare presents Juliet and Romeo.
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Engl 111, Past Masters, 2007 Assignment 2: Essay Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet Question One: Examine the similarities and differences in the ways Shakespeare presents Juliet and Romeo. Due Date: 21/05/07 Extension Granted by Tatjana to 25/05/07 Charlotte French 300075543 Word Count: 1423 Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is a tragedy about love. But, more specifically it is a tragedy about young love. Shakespeare presents both he characters of Juliet and Romeo as being particularly young and youthful. But he gives each of them different characteristics that form this picture. These characteristics are often contrasting, but all build up the picture that emphasises the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet: that the love they experience is so short-lived, and they die so early in their lives. Juliet has an undoubtable youthful innocence about her. She is only just coming towards the verge of woman-hood. In many ways she is still a child at the outset of the play. At the beginning of the play her father, Capulet, asserts this to Paris her potential suitor, saying: "My child is yet a stranger in the world, / She hath not yet seen the change of fourteen years;" (1.2.8-9). When Lady Capulet enters with the intention of expressing her desire to see Juliet marry Paris, Nurse reminisces of some sweet thing Juliet did as a small three-year-old child, emphasising that not much time at all has passed between then and the present moment: "And since that time it is eleven years," (1.3.37).
Throughout the play, Juliet grows as a person. The loss of her innocence, both emotionally and sexually, assists this and she passes into what seems to be the beginning of her womanhood. Juliet becomes a lot more street smart with regard to the adults around her during this time. Juliet meets Paris when she goes to see Friar Laurence, and she skilfully wards off his advances while giving the appearance of just being coy. She is smart enough to play on her own innocence and use it as a tool. Similarly, when Juliet repents to her father for her disobedience, she says exactly what she knows he wants to hear. She has learned what her parents expect from her, and she uses this knowledge to her advantage. Juliet also has a level of maturity that surpasses her years. Her capacity to love with such an intense passion is a factor of this maturity. But while she loves with passion Juliet does not act hastily, she plans. Juliet spends some time in the play protesting her impatience at having to wait, both for Nurse and for Romeo. But she does actually wait; she does not act with the impatience she feels. Juliet matures, but Shakespeare presents her in a way that still reminds the audience of her youth. With regard to Romeo, Shakespeare presents the lovers' youth in a different way.
It is Romeo's haste that also gets him into trouble, when he rushes into things without thinking about the consequences. He kills Tybalt to avenge Mercutio's death without thinking how it might make matters worse for his infant marriage. He rushes away to Mantua to save his skin from the possibility of execution without first coming to any arrangements with Juliet. When Balthazar tells Romeo of Juliet's apparent death, Romeo does not wait for any more news, but procures a poison draft and rushes back to the danger of Verona. And when he sees Juliet in the tomb, he takes the draft immediately, when if he had waited a few minutes, Juliet would have woken up and prevented the imminent tragedy. While Juliet grows up as a person during the play, Romeo also grows, but in a less apparent way. He grows out of his state of constant melancholy and lust into a more mature and spiritual lover. He is now more interested also in getting Juliet's love back in return, rather than his past pining over Rosaline's indifference. With Juliet and Romeo, Shakespeare portrays the idea of youth in different, sometimes complementary, but often contrasting ways. Juliet's youthful innocence is in contrast with Romeo's reckless melancholy. Her obedience becomes a sign of her ability to think things through, relatively mature when contrasted with Romeo's haste and impatience. The emphasis Shakespeare puts on the youth of the two lovers, coupled with the way Romeo's haste speeds the plot towards their untimely deaths, intensifies the tragedy that is Romeo and Juliet.
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