Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in the 16th century, at a time where the role of the woman was to be subservient to men and act as a wife to their husband and a mother to their children. Women were expected to conform to the expectations of society, and were seen as possessions by their fathers and husbands. Fathers arranged their daughters’ marriages, usually for financial or social gain for the family. In Romeo and Juliet, the unfair treatment of women is conveyed through characters such as Juliet, a young girl who is growing into the expectations of society, and Lady Capulet, who represents a traditional side of love and values social position rather than men themselves.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet centres on the relationship between two young protagonists, but much of what occurs during the play is as a result of the inequality between men and women. Juliet’s arranged marriage with Paris, as well as the ancient feud between Capulets and Montagues eventually contributes to the deaths of their children.
In Act 1 Scene 2, Paris asks Capulet, ‘But now, my lord, what say you to my suit?’ which shows that Capulet and Paris are discussing Juliet’s possible marriage without consulting her, perhaps implying they think she is too naïve to decide on her future. They are arranging her marriage for her, which implies that men were very controlling of women’s lives, especially those of their daughters. The scene establishes how Juliet is subject to parental influence, and how she is very constrained since her father can force her to marry whoever he wants. Juliet’s status as a woman leaves her with no power or choice in the decision of whom she should marry.
Throughout the scene, we are given the impression that Capulet is kind-hearted, because he wants his daughter to marry for love and wants Paris to ‘woo her’ and work hard to ‘get her heart’, although we are still aware of his power to force Juliet into a marriage if necessary. Capulet treats Juliet well and appreciates her wishes, not wanting to marry her off too soon because he wants her to be ready in mind and body, unlike Paris, who says ‘Younger than she are happy mothers made’, which suggests that Paris is quite forceful about marrying Juliet and having children with her, and has no regard for her youth. Young women could also be harmed if they were not ready to bear children, which shows that the treatment of women was harsh and that their ability to produce children was more important than their health.
Capulet is very complimentary to females, and calls them ‘earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light’, using a beautiful metaphor and contrast between dark and light to show he appreciates women. This shows us that Capulet is very admiring of attractive females and compares them to nature.
In the opening lines of Act 1 Scene 3, it is implied that there is a stronger bond between Juliet and the Nurse than Juliet and her own mother, from the fact that Lady Capulet calls on...