Ambiguity of Juliet's Character in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
William Shakespeare’s tragic play, Romeo and Juliet, is a story of
hatred wounds reopened through the love of between rival families,
where only death will bring a finale. This story of these town
teenagers is set in the 1500s, obviously the culture and general
behaviour was very different, and this has a significant effect on the
way the story is acted out by the characters.
Today, we expect children and teenagers to debate arguments, make
decisions for themselves, and be rebellious to their parents and
authority in general. But, in the 1500s this was far from normal
behaviour. The parents in traditional rich families would control the
children in their everyday activities – although the sons were
controlled to a lesser extent. Children and daughters especially,
would be treated like objects. Children were just obedient, there was
no real culture urged to rebel, argue or disobey with their parents.
Marriages in these families would also be initiated by the parents,
mainly for the daughters though. In fact Juliet in the play is from a
very early scene, arranged to marry Paris with Juliet herself, having
very little say. This arrangement was done in cases that would often
secure a good life for the daughter. Marrying an accomplished and
wealthy man would make life a lot better for the daughter.
The subject of love in plays previous to Romeo and Juliet had nearly
always been based around comedy. Never before had this subject of love
been seen as serious or tragic. Therefore, the creating of this new
way to look at love’s emotions was a dramatic device in itself.
Audiences of the play in the 1500s would have been shocked at the last
scenes of Romeo and Juliet in the chapel.
If we look at the aspect of the play that shows the parent and child
relationships, we can see hints of this play coming through into
modern age. The parent/child relationships – especially those between
Juliet and her parents – are very much anticipated of today’s
“Deny thy father and refuse thy name”
“Romeo is banished – to speak that word is father, mother, Tybalt,
Romeo and Juliet, all slain, all dead”.
This first quote has Juliet questioning herself, and her decisions.
She loves Romeo, she even quotes that to have Romeo banished is as if
slaying her whole family. This uncontrollable love for Romeo promotes
her realisation that she must pursue, and “deny thy father” - and his
wish to marry Paris, as well as hating the Montagues.
“For then I hope thou wilt not keep him long, but send him back”
Juliet expressing her will to see Romeo, although her family are all
teething at him for the murder of Tybalt, showing the single mind that
she has. With this single mind comes a strong character in Juliet. In