Do you feel any empathy with these three women

In the scenes with Lady Capulet, Juliet and the Nurse, Shakespeare presents his audience with a true-to-life set of relationships. Do you feel any empathy with these three women?”Nurse, where’s my daughter? call her forth to me.”. This begins our relationship with Shakespeare’s three principal women of this play, Romeo and Juliet. We cannot always sympathise with these women, we can see why they are feeling the way they do. We can empathise with these women because their relationships are a reflection of real life situations.One of the most obvious traits of these relationships is the fact that Juliet’s relationship with her mother is distinctly formal. Juliet replies to her mother’s call with, “Madam, I am here, what is your will?”, she refers to her mother as ‘madam’ and from the outset seems desperate to please her, immediately asking what is wanted of her. Perhaps Juliet is slightly scared of her mother; she clearly does not know her very well and maybe she would be threatened with physical violence if she did not do what her parents asked of her. Again, when Juliet and Lady Capulet discuss marriage, Juliet answers her mother with,”I’ll look to like, if looking liking move;But no more deep will I endart mine eyeThan your consent gives strength to make it fly.”Juliet is always trying to please her mother and say the right thing to her, appeasing her mother with the assurance that she will try to like Paris, but at the same time reassuring her that she will not stray from her mother’s will. An alternative and perhaps more modern interpretation of this aspect of the play would be to have Juliet portrayed as a ‘stroppy teen’, who is in a constant state of exasperation with her mother and whos apparent will to obey could be turned into venomous sarcasm. Perhaps Juliet could be angry with her mother for not raising her and leaving all the bringing up to the Nurse. Juliet could be resentful that she does not know her own mother. However, this would only work in a modern context, as in Shakespeare’s day, this formal mother-daughter relationship would be normal etiquette.In almost the complete opposite vein to Juliet’s relationship with her mother is her relationship with the Nurse. These two are clearly comfortable with each other and know each other very well. The Nurse even tells a sexual joke referencing Juliet in front of her mother, something that clearly makes Juliet uncomfortable, as she interrupts the Nurse with, “And stint thou too, I pray thee, Nurse, say I.”. This discomfort is understandable due to her distancing from her mother. The Nurse is clearly very fond of Juliet, calling her with, “What, lamb! What, ladybird!” This imagery portrays Juliet as innocent, young and sweet. The Nurse has raised Juliet, and is more like a replacement mother figure for her than just a nurse.In contrast, Lady Capulet is distinctly less familiar with her daughter. This is made obvious when she wants to discuss marriage with Juliet and says, “Nurse, give leave a while, we must talk in secret. Nurse, come back again,” demonstrating that she considers this topic too delicate to tackle alone with Juliet, and realises that the Nurse has a stronger knowledge of Juliet. But maybe, Lady Capulet is slightly jealous of the Nurse’s closeness with her daughter. Particularly in the line “Thou knowest my daughter’s of a pretty age”, emphasis on the word ‘my’ could put across a wish from Lady Capulet to assert her possession of Juliet as a daughter.Alternatively, this could be seen as acceptance of the Nurse’s friendship with Juliet, or pride for her daughter. The Nurse is perhaps a bit too forward and informal considering that she is employed under Lady Capulet, but this is probably because she was raised in a very different way. The Nurse has lost her own daughter, as we find out in the phrase, “Susan and she – God rest all Christian Souls! – were of an age.” Perhaps her relationship with Juliet is compensation for this.In Act 1 Scene 5, our faith in the relationship between Juliet and the Nurse is briefly but strongly reinforced. Juliet shows no hesitation in revealing her love for Romeo. The fact that Juliet trusts the Nurse with this dark secret clearly demonstrates a strong bond between these two women, particularly as Juliet’s parents are present but she chooses to confide in the Nurse. This could be due to the Nurse’s lesser part in the family feud and also the fact that the Nurse knows and loves Juliet and is much less likely to react badly to the situation.This aspect of their relationship is developed as in Act 2 Scene 5, the Nurse teases Juliet as Juliet tries to flatter news of Romeo out of her. The Nurse has seen Juliet grow up and clearly wants happiness for her, after all she is going back and forth on behalf of Juliet’s love for Romeo. Just how dire this situation could turn is hinted at when the Nurse breaks her talk of Romeo with “Where is your mother?” If Lady Capulet were to find out that the Nurse had been keeping things from her, she would not hesitate to fire her and jobs like this would probably be rare, and would be especially hard to find after the Nurse had been fired for being untrustworthy in a previous job. This means that it is very important for the Nurse to keep this a secret and keep her job. Also, due to her deep bond with Juliet, she would not want her to be in trouble with her mother.However, we see the first real rift begin to develop between Juliet and the Nurse in Act 3 Scene 2. When the Nurse speaks badly about Romeo, Juliet scolds the Nurse and herself. She attacks the Nurse with “Blistered be thy tongue for such a wish!” and she scolds herself with “Oh, what a beast was I to chide at him!” Juliet now values Romeo above all other relationships including that with the Nurse. When the Nurse questions Juliet’s support of Tybalt’s murderer, she responds with, “Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?” a remark that would surely shock the Nurse. The Nurse has always been used to being the central figure in Juliet’s life. However she still appears to want happiness for Juliet. When she comforts Juliet with “Hie to your chamber. I’ll find Romeo to comfort you.” She is taking a lot of risks only to please Juliet. But she only does so when Juliet threatens to kill herself, and I believe it is in this scene that Juliet and the Nurse begin to drift apart.In Act 3 Scene 5 we see conflict between all three women. This starts with Lady Capulet seeming exasperated by what she thinks is Juliet weeping for Tybalt, and tries to comfort her by saying, “We will have vengeance for it, fear thou not.” Insinuating that she will have Romeo killed. This is of course the wrong thing to say to Juliet and demonstrates just how little Lady Capulet knows about Juliet. When this fails, Lady Capulet delivers what she considers to be wonderful news, the news of Juliet’s marriage to Paris. But Juliet seems almost angered by this, casting off the proposal with “He shall not make me there a joyful bride,”This seems to make Lady Capulet see red. She is happy to have arranged something like this for Juliet, but when Juliet shows no gratitude Lady Capulet perhaps feels let down, even betrayed by her daughter. She will no longer act as a go between for Juliet and her father with such disobedience, saying “Here comes your father, tell him so yourself;” Perhaps Lady Capulet does not like her marriage and does not wish the same for Juliet, hence her joy at Paris’s proposal. But if Juliet is not going to cooperate, Lady Capulet seems finished with her in the phrase “Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.” She is impatient and quick to anger at Juliet.This scene also sees the demis of the Nurse and Juliet’s informal, friendly relationship. The Nurse does not seem to understand the strength of Juliet’s love, suggesting that the best option would be to marry Paris, and seeming to think this is the option that would make Juliet happiest. “Speak’st thou from thy heart?” is Juliet’s shocked response to this betrayal, as it is in her eyes. She sends the nurse away with “Go in, and tell my lady I am gone,” She is now commanding the Nurse, and treating her as a servnt rather than a friend. Comparing this stiff conversation to their jolly chat earlier in the play, it is clear that Juliet has grown up a lot and perhaps replaced the anchor of the Nurse with Romeo.And finally, in Scene 5 of Act 4, we see that despite her formality and commanding nature, Lady Capulet was very attached to her daughter. “O lamentable day!” she cries, when she believes Juliet to be dead. Perhaps, she had been surpressing a motherly instinct towards Juliet to obey the etiquette of the time. Things are perhaps even worse for the Nurse, who thought Juliet would marry Paris and things would, at last, go well.This aspect of the play has a lot of social significance, because the relationships translate into real life, and in empathising with these three women we can empathise with people around us. Also, in comparing the set of relationships at the beginning and end of the play, we can see how easy it is to turn a stable situation on its head. This play would probably have been even more significant at the time it was written, when the etiquette and relationships were even more relevant to real life than they are today.

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