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A Modern Interpretation Of Romeo And Juliet

1481 words - 6 pages

In contrast to Romeo’s fierce love and immaturity is Juliet. Though she is only thirteen years old, Juliet seems to have the wisdom of someone much older, as she is the only one to question their whirlwind romance. Even though she is just as passionate as Romeo, she combines enough rational thought that she is able to be the voice of reason in the early part of the play. At the beginning, Juliet is presented as a young girl, dependent on her parents and her nurse to take care of her and find her a husband. She agrees to try to love Paris, though she has no idea what love really is. Halfway through the play, however, she becomes and independent young woman, such as when she directly refuses to marry Paris in front of her father (Gill 14).
During the Renaissance and medieval periods, it was very common for women to get married as soon as they could have children (Fallon 107). A woman’s identity was almost completely based on her relationship to males, especially in the context of marriage (Kern 254). This idea is spoken of by the chorus in the prologue of act 2: “And she {Juliet} as much in love, her means much less.” A woman even had to have permission to go to church on her own. Juliet had to lie to her parents, telling them that she was attending confession, in order to meet Romeo at the church for their wedding (Mabillard).
Friar Lawrence, the Franciscan monk who oversaw Romeo and Juliet’s secret marriage, is often thought of as the voice of wisdom and moderation. However, many critics think that Shakespeare’s intentions for this character were much different. During the time that Romeo and Juliet was performed, England was a Protestant country and was quite hostile to those who represented the Catholic Church. The Friars were often comic characters in Elizabethan drama. It is very realistic for Shakespeare to present Friar Lawrence as an expert in medicine and drugs, as friars often devoted their time to the church’s gardens and research. Church workers were forbidden from performing secret marriages, and they faced up to three years in prison if they broke this rule. Friar Lawrence encourages Juliet to lie to her parents more than once, which would be completely against the moral code of a friar. If a reader only looks at Friar Lawrence’s personality and intentions, viewing him only from an emotional or romantic viewpoint, the reader can clear him of any crimes (Bryant, 64-68). Hence, Shakespeare gives the Friar an appearance of good in the play.
Friar Lawrence seems to be a sort of mentor to Romeo because he encourages him to slow down in his relationship with Juliet. However, he eventually agrees to perform the secret marriage because he believes it is the perfect way to reconcile the two feuding families. The Friar remains optimistic throughout the play, even when Romeo is banished, and is forced to find a way to prevent himself from performing the crime of marrying Juliet to two different men (Gill). However, the modern critic...

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