Lady Capulet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
A woman during the 16th century did not have the freedoms that a woman today enjoys. During Shakespeare’s life wives were not allowed the independence they take pleasure in today. Therefore, the role of the mother for Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is not commanding or authoritative because of the time period Shakespeare lived.
The role of a wife must be looked at in order to understand and appreciate Juliet’s mother. When a couple was married during the 16th century, Susan Amussen said it was the beginning of a partnership, but not one of equal proportions. The husband is awarded all the power in the family. He represents the family to the outside world and keeps the peace within the household. The wife is only an assistant. Her duties included feeding and running the household smoothly. Helping with the family business is another duty the wife has to carry out (86).
Lady Capulet abides by these rules when dealing with her daughter. She knows her husband is planning to marry their daughter to Paris. It is she that must prepare Juliet for the news because one of her duties is to take care of the household. However, Lady Capulet has no say of who Juliet should marry, because that is left to the husband who is lord of the manor.
Instead it is the wife’s duty to inform her child that she must prepare herself for marriage. Lady Capulet was married at an age younger than Juliet is. She says, "By my count I was your mother much upon these years that you are now a maid" (1.3.73-75). It is time Juliet leaves her nest and adds to the family’s fortune. The mother is the one to tell Juliet this news because she was put into the same situation as her daughter. During the 16th century, according to Angela Pitt, women did not choose their mates. The decision was left to the father of the daughter because a marriage could mean great acquisition of wealth and status among the elite (14).
As a woman, Lady Capulet can relate to how Juliet feels when she is told she is to marry Paris. However, as a wife, she cannot voice an opinion of who or when Juliet is to marry. She is experienced, and asks Juliet, "Speak briefly: can you like of Paris’ love" (1.3.98). Because she is the caretaker, she respects Juliet’s feelings, but she can do nothing, even if Juliet does not learn to love Paris. Perhaps she asks this question because her own mother never asked it. She may want to know her daughter’s opinion, because until a woman is married, she has all the rights of a man according to Pitt. However, the father ruled over his daughter, and it was virtually impossible to remain unmarried while the father held all the decision making (14).
An ideal wife during the 16th century, according to author Barnaby Rich is, "A friend for pleasure, a servant for profit, a counselor to advise him, a comforter to cherish him, and a companion to solace him" (115). That is exactly what Lady Capulet is to her...