In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare presents Juliet as a crucial role in the text. Throughout the play, Shakespeare allows an audience to watch the characters development from a wide eyed girl to a self-assured young woman over a short span of time.
The nurse mentions in both the film and the book that Juliet ‘is not fourteen. How long is it now to Lammastide?’ insinuating that Juliet is thirteen. The fact that the nurse is aware of Juliet’s young age and her mother is not, infers that the nurse is more responsible for raising Juliet than the mother. This notion is supported in the film directed by Franco Zeffirelli, in Act One Scene Three, where the nurse holds Juliet in a warm embrace as if she were her own daughter. The concept of a child from a wealthy, aristocratic, family being raised by staff would be understandable and quite common. However, to a modern audience, even though we are living in an era with child-minder’s and babysitters, it would be seen as preposterous that a mother not know her own child’s birthday, and would evoke sympathy for the said child.
As a thirteen year old girl, Juliet is of an age that stands on the border between immaturity and maturity. This is apparent from her first appearance in Act One Scene Three, where she is portrayed as an obedient, sheltered girl. Zeffirelli brings this youthful appearance forth by casting an actress with a youthful glow about her. In her first entrance, Juliet runs in to respond to her mother’s call with light, hearty music playing in the background, which enhances the scene, enabling the audience to first see Juliet as sweet and cheerful. Although one could concede that music would have been used in the play also, it would not have been used as effectively. Being a live performance in an era with limited technology, there would have been no use of microphones or audio dubbing and so the music would have only been used where essential, for example, the party scene.
In Juliet’s first appearance, Juliet’s childlike nature is also illustrated with her discomfort when the nurse tells a sexual joke, and she replies with ‘And stint thou too, I pray thee, Nurse, say I’. This line was cut out of by Zeffirelli, and one can only assume that this was presumably on the premise to make Juliet appear more mature for her age. This is indicative of the modern era. In this time, the age difference of at least six years between Romeo and Juliet would have been frowned upon, and so the director attempted to have Juliet behave more mature.
In that same scene, Shakespeare uses the line in which Juliet responds to her mother’s request of a betrothal to Paris with ‘it is an honour that I dream not of’, to juxtapose Juliet’s youthful entrance, and show a more mature, tactical side of the character. The line allows the audience to acknowledge that Juliet courteously avoided accepting her parents’ request, while also not denying them, or throwing a tantrum, and this subtle move...