Exploring the Way the Women are Portrayed in Romeo and Juliet
Romeo And Juliet Coursework
Exploring the way in which the women are portrayed in Romeo and Juliet
The main female roles in Romeo and Juliet are: Lady Montague, Lady Capulet, the Nurse, Juliet and Rosaline. They are all portrayed in different ways and they are each from different classes. Lady Capulet, Lady Montague
Lady Montague is Romeo’s mother and is married to Montague. She has a good lifestyle as she is the top of the top, in Verona, in the Montague family. In Act 1 Scene 1, she seems to mock her husband when he wants to go out into the battle, “Thou shall not stir one foot to seek a foe.” By doing this she seems to be a character who is in control of Montague as she can say things like that to him in private. She never seems to speak in public, which shows her to be a quiet character who is being kept under control by Montague.
Lady Capulet is Juliet’s mother and is Capulet’s wife. Lady Capulet, herself married young, she is eager to see her daughter marry . She is an ineffectual mother, relying on the Nurse for moral and practical support. She also mocks her husband in Act 1 Scene 1 when he wants to go and fight the Montague’s, “A crutch, a crutch! Why call you for a sword?” She agrees with Capulet and never argues with him or disagrees. This could mean she is weak and Capulet is the stronger person in the relationship. Lady Capulet’s relationship with Juliet is very distant. Even though she is actually Juliet’s mother it does not get portrayed as that in the play. She seems to be very unsympathetic and uncaring towards Juliet. It is almost as if it is the Nurse’s job to support and bring up Juliet. Juliet talks to her mother as if she is superior, even though her mother does not properly care for her; it seems as if Juliet has a lot of respect for her mother. “Madam, I am here, what is your will?” Lady Capulet hardly talks to Juliet in Act 1 Scene 3, although it was Juliet she wished to talk to, instead she spoke mostly to the Nurse. (Juliet speaks 7 lines out of a whole 100 in the conversation.)
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The Nurse is Juliet’s surrogate mother. She plays a very strong character and has her own mind and opinions. She is Juliet’s confidant, Juliet can tell the Nurse anything:
“JULIET Go ask his name. – If he be marrièd,
My grave is like to be my wedding bed.
NURSE His name is Romeo, and a Montague,
The only son of your great enemy.”
This quote proves that Juliet can confide in the Nurse because she asks about Romeo. Also in Act 2 Scene , the Nurse has gone to talk to Romeo on behalf of Juliet. “Gentlemen, can you tell me where I may find the young Romeo?”
She helps keep Romeo and Juliet’s relationship secret and helps them organise it. She makes a lot of sexual puns, “Now by my maidenhead at twelve year old…”, showing that she is from a lower class but says what she is thinking and does not care who hears what she says. She is a strong character and is quite important in showing how the women are portrayed as she appears to be the only female character in Romeo and Juliet who is not afraid of speaking the whole truth no matter the circumstance. Especially in Act 1 Scene 3, “A room in Capulet’s mansion” when Lady Capulet, Juliet and the Nurse, are all talking about Juliet and her ‘marriage’ to Paris. The Nurse, at times, appears to be the most sympathetic character in the play. But for all her friendliness, and her close relationship with Juliet, her advice to marry Paris seems like a cold-blooded act of betrayal. This ultimately leaves Juliet feeling lonely. This shows that the Nurse believes Juliet should marry Paris and it leaves Juliet feeling betrayed.
“NURSE …An eagle, madam,
Hath not so green, so quick, so fair an eye,
As Paris hath. Beshrew my very heart,
I think you are happy in this second match,
For it excels your first, or if it did not,
Your first is dead, or ‘twere as good he were
As living here and you no use of him.
JULIET Speak’st thou from thy heart?
NURSE And from my soul too, else beshrew them both.”
Juliet is the daughter of and . She starts off as a beautiful naïve fourteen year old. She has thought little about love and marriage, but she grows up quickly upon falling in love with , the son of her family’s great enemy:
“My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen and unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me,
That I must love a loathèd enemy.”
The quote shows how much Juliet feels for Romeo, it shows that she knows he is the family’s great enemy but it does not make any difference to her. She has fallen in love with him, and will do anything to be with him. She defies her parents and the rest of the family, by arranging for the Nurse to go and see Romeo and tell him she wants to be wed. She is the stronger person in this part of the relationship as she is the one doing all the arranging and makes the preparations. She is under more difficulty to be involved in this marriage than Romeo, because she does not have as much freedom. She also has a lot more to lose if anybody finds out. She shows courage and defiance when she trusts her entire life and future to Romeo, even refusing to believe the worst reports about him after he gets involved in a fight with her cousin. Juliet is a strong character as she is only fourteen, and goes against her Nurse, her parents, and her social position in Verona just to be with Romeo:
“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”
This quote shows that she is willing to do anything to be with Romeo no matter the consequences, which ultimately lead to death. Juliet’s development from a wide-eyed girl into a self-assured, loyal, and capable woman shows that Shakespeare can show off his most confident and rounded treatments of a female character.
Rosaline is the woman who Romeo is infatuated at the beginning of the play. Rosaline never appears onstage, but it is said by other characters that she is very beautiful and has sworn to live a life of chastity.
“BENVOLIO Then she hath sworn that will still live chaste?
ROMEO She hath, and in that sparing makes huge waste;
For beauty starved with her severity
Cuts beauty off from posterity.
She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair,
To merit bliss by making me despair.
She hath forsworn to love, and in that vow
Do I live dead, that live to tell it now.”
The females all get portrayed as immature, weak characters. Like they are all possessions of the men for them to do as they please and nothing else. They are ornaments. They can not speak their mind openly and nor can they make their own decisions. The women are in the men’s shadows.
Juliet is a strong character who sticks up for what she wants in life, even if she would lose her family name and status. She loves Romeo and wants to be with him so that’s what she is going to do. She defies her parents by arranging the marriage to Romeo. Juliet begins the play as an innocent, sweet fourteen year old who does not show any interest in marriage nor love, but when she meets Romeo she grows up quickly and has an interest in love and marriage. This shows her maturity and how she is becoming like her mother and father. She is a strong character and she makes her own choices and does whatever she wants to do even if her parents disapprove.
Both Lady Capulet and Lady Montague have a lot in common, they both want all the brawls and conflicts to stop in Verona. They are both the leading ladies of Verona and want to live in peace. Their husbands seem to think they are the strongest characters but in fact the women are stronger as the men are under their thumbs.
The women have all been portrayed as dependent characters, but in fact they have inner strength and are a lot cleverer in the subtle ways that make them seem superior to the men.