Discuss the nature of the relationship between Juliet and her parents in Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet”

Life in the 16th century differs greatly from life now. The social status of families was of great importance when deciding the arrangement of marriage. Women were taught to be submissive and accept the choice of husband chosen for them. The wealth of a man was a distinguishing feature between social groups and status. A marriage between a daughter and wealthy man would bring the status of the daughter’s family up, so a father would try and marry his daughter into a higher social class.At the start of the play Juliet is obedient and plays a dutiful, respectful daughter. Her use of “Madam” when referring to her mother shows this. Juliet’s parents change in their maternal approach to their daughter. Capulet seems to be a generous and helpful father at the beginning of the play, giving Juliet a freedom of choice, something unheard of in the 16th century. He saw her as, “The hopeful lady of [his] earth.” Whereas in Act 3 he describes her birth as, “One too much.” His attitude towards her changes rapidly. This differs from her mother’s parenting, as Lady Capulet seems indifferent towards her daughter, merely not causing confrontation with Capulet and remaining the typical ‘submissive’ wife. Lady Capulet appears to not have a very close bond with her daughter, her need of a nurse in the room when discussing the proposed arrangement of marriage to Paris for her daughter shows this, “Nurse, come back again. I have remembered me.” (Act1 Scene3 Lines9, 10) This is quoted by Lady Capulet as she realises the distance between her and Juliet.Juliet appears to be mild mannered at the start of the play, yet her opposition to marriage discloses a more disobedient side to her. “It is an honour I dream not of,” (Act1 Scene3 Line66) this is an unusual statement for a girl in this time to make, as the ‘norm’ was to marry early, as her mother had.Capulet changes his mind about Juliet marrying Paris, this is as he believes she is upset about the death of Tybalt, “She loved her kinsman Tybalt dearly,” (Act3 Scene4 Line3) at this point the audience are aware Juliet is deceiving her parents, as she’s actually besotted with Romeo, and is awaiting the arrival of Romeo in her bedroom.The audience may see Capulet as slightly naive by this point as he thinks, “She will be ruled/ In all respects by me; nay more, I doubt it not.” Her father feels Juliet is disciplined and submissive to him. He does not realise her actual intention, this shows that their relationship is not a particularly developed one and they are not close.As Lady Capulet approaches Juliet’s chamber, Juliet pretends to her mother to be unwell, due to Tybalt’s death. “Madam, I am not well.” She displays this attitude towards her mother extensively; reserving her true feelings and disguising them with lies. This leads her mother to believe she is still sad about her cousin’s death. This is an indication of the distance between Juliet and lady Capulet.When Lady Capulet does deliver the news of her marriage to Paris having been arranged for her Juliet reacts instantly, although she does this in a respectable manner. Yet again she refers to her mother as, “Madam,” (Act3 Scene5 Line120) showing her very slight bond with Lady Capulet. Although Juliet is not rude whilst rejecting her mother’s proposal she does retaliate against the idea. Yet when she has to tell her father, Capulet, the thought of confrontation with him scares her. Juliet begs her mother to tell him for her, “I pray you tell my lord, and father, madam.” (Act3 Scene5 Line120″) She sees her father as a “lord” and cannot bring herself to refuse his wishes.When informing her father, Juliet’s language is pleading. This is reflected in the posture held by Juliet at Capulet’s knees. Juliet kneels down at Capulet’s feet, bowing her head to him. Visually the relationship between them is represented here; the high and low status of father and daughter. Capulet is above her with total control of Juliet.Capulet becomes insistent of Juliet marrying Paris as he is still unaware that she has fooled him, and still believes she is distraught over the death of Tybalt. He is bewildered at Juliet’s refusal, “Doth she not give us thanks?” He believes he’s provided his daughter with a, “worthy [a] gentleman,” (Act3 Scene5 Line195) and cannot believe she is ungrateful for it. When Capulet responds to her he is confused, “How, how chopt logic?” Suggesting he does not understand her minced words. He increasingly becomes angrier, showing his outrage. He regards Juliet as a, “Green sickness carrion!” and, “Baggage!”Lady Capulet is not at liberty to disagree with Capulet, as this is not typical of a 16th century woman. She is put in an awkward situation and has to neglect her daughter’s feelings, “Talk not to me, for I’ll not speak a word. Do as thou wilt for I have done with thee.” (Act 3 Scene5 Lines202, 203)Juliet feels alone and turns to the nurse, whom she is closest to. Juliet is told by the nurse that Romeo is a bad choice and Paris is a better option. With nobody to turn to, she resorts in going to the friar.At the end of the third scene, tension and worry must have dawned on Juliet as her options became increasingly slight. A Shakespearian audience may have felt Juliet needed consolation, yet, the tolerance of disrespect form girls in the 16th century was low, and regular Shakespearians would not have been used to the rebellion or deceit that Juliet had shown in these scenes. Also, as a patriarchal society, the disobedience towards her father would have been a rarity as they saw fathers as ‘masters’ and could have felt angry at Juliet’s response to Capulet.As Juliet realised her options were few, by the fourth scene, Juliet has ‘agreed’ to the wedding. Juliet still has no intention on continuing in the marriage and has devised a plan with the friar, yet her father is still unaware and she pretends to her father that she has learnt to, “repent the sin of disobedient opposition.” (Act4 Scene2 Line15, 16) During her statement of regret to her father, Juliet kneels down, again at her father’s feet. Once again visually enhancing the status of the father and daughter. Juliet does this in order to regain the trust of Capulet. Juliet and Capulet are reconciled, and Capulet sais he has a “wondrous light” heart, and believes that Juliet is a, “wayward girl..reclaimed.” This scene seems to be a reflection on the beginning of the play, with Juliet as Capulet’s wonder. He believes, yet again, that he has control over her and her decisions and is still oblivious to the fact she is still deceiving him. Shakespeare may have done this so as to reiterate the lengths somebody in love will go to in order to be able to have them, and enhance the fact that Juliet’s love for Romeo is so strong she will even go behind her father’s back in order to get him.As the audience are still aware of Juliet’s true desires, the naivety of Capulet is truly proclaimed in this scene, a typical Elizabethan audience would probably be mortified at the trickery Juliet still continues to play after begging her father for pardon. Capulet may have been seen as a bad father, due to the fact he could not control Juliet. A modern audience would possibly see this rebellion as a more normal part of adolescence, yet the betrayal would still be seen as ‘bad’ just not as shocking as it would have been found by the Elizabethans.Shakespeare presents the relationship between Juliet and her parents clearly, with the obvious fact that Juliet is not particularly close with either of her parents and closer to her nurse. This is shown through the secrecy Juliet has to both of her parents, solely confiding in the nurse. The arguments are defined with Juliet lowered to Capulet, as though he has a greater importance than her. Also, when talking to her mother she does not use informal language or tone, yet calls her mother “madam”. Shakespeare’s choice to write this play may have been significant to the changes in those times or the true emotion displayed throughout the play. Shakespeare’s works are known for the content of real emotion and “Romeo and Juliet” is a tragedy, with the lovers’ deaths only a resultant of their love. He may have written in order to show people the importance of choice, or perhaps just to challenge the belief of those times that what the parents did was what was best.

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