More than a Pretty Face
A young thirteen year old girl stands in a room with her mother, nodding affirmatively.
Her eager mother talks about a Count’s love and asks the young girl to consider marriage. This adolescent girl known as Juliet, the charming daughter of the affluent Capulets, begins her journey as an obedient yet immature girl. However, she begins her transformation into a grown woman when she meets Romeo, the handsome son of the Montagues. Regarding this transformation into a state of maturity, one expert, John Mac Naughton, says, “Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself.” As suggested by this quotation, Juliet’s great concern and love for Romeo propels her to a state of maturity and teaches her to make decisions more independently. Juliet wants to express her love for Romeo openly; however, the enmity between the Montagues and the Capulets prevents her from doing so.
The climax of the play occurs when Juliet refuses to carry on the ridiculous feud by rejecting her family’s views towards the Montagues. Because of her loyalty to her beloved Romeo, she cuts herself off from her family and even her motherly Nurse, choosing instead to forge her own independent way. The development of Juliet’s character from an immature, reserved girl to a loyal, realistic woman marks her dramatic transformation into a state of maturity. In Shakespeare’s most well-known couple, Romeo is the romantic one while Juliet is more practical, often helping Romeo make the correct decisions in his life using her common sense. To Romeo, Juliet is a legitimate object of passion and his unyielding love for her takes full control over him.
In the famous balcony scene, he is content to speak poetic words of love; while the more realistic Juliet worries that Romeo will be murdered if he is found in the Capulet garden. Furthermore, she is the one who does the planning to set up their marriage and plots their means of communication. Unlike Romeo, she prefers short statements to flowery promises, and her practical nature leads her to worry about the suddenness of her passion. Juliet struggles between the need for caution and an overpowering desire to be with Romeo; she worries that Romeo may prove inconstant or false, or will think Juliet too easily won over. (Gill “Juliet Capulet”) However, using her common sense, she checks if his love is true by saying, Well, I do swear. Although, I joy in thee, I have no joy in this contact tonight.
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden, Too like the lightning, which doth cease Ere one can say “It lightens.” Sweet, good night. (2, ii, 123-127) Although Juliet is younger than Romeo, her realism far exceeds that of his. When Romeo blindly agrees to spend the day with Juliet and die for her, Juliet quickly asks him to leave in order to save his life. (Sauder “Juliet”) “It is, it is.
Hie hence, begone away.” (3, v, 26) In addition, though Juliet intensely loves Romeo, she is able to criticize his rash actions and his tendency to romanticize things. After Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished, Juliet does not follow him blindly. Instead, she makes a logical and heartfelt decision that her loyalty and love for Romeo will act as her guiding priorities. Guided by her passion and practicality, she tempers her extreme feelings of love with sober mindedness. Thus, she is rational, for she can look past romance at certain instances and think logically better than Romeo.
Unlike Romeo who idealizes Juliet and ignores their considerable obstacles, Juliet thinks of Romeo as an individual rather than the latest object of passion proving her as more loyal to her beloved from the start. (Gill “Juliet Capulet”) Leaning out of the window, unaware of Romeo’s presence below, she confesses her love for him which overrides her family’s hatred of the Montagues. She says that if Romeo were not “Romeo” or a “Montague,” he would still be her beloved. O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I’ll no longer be a Capulet. (2, ii, 36-39) Through the intricate use of language between Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare symbolizes their union and shows that Juliet can easily match Romeo in her wordplay. She is also confident enough in Romeo that she does not automatically believe what is said about him.
For example, later in the play, when Romeo assumes that Juliet thinks of him as a murderer because he killed Tybalt, Juliet sends word and a ring through her Nurse to show that she still loves him and believes in his goodness despite what may have happened. “Here, sir, a ring she bid me give you, sir” (3, iii, 172-173) This depicts that Juliet upholds her loyalty to her husband rather than to Tybalt, her cousin. During the course of the play, Juliet experiences a number of tragedies that have a profound effect on her but ultimately make her a more thoughtful and loyal woman. Moreover, her understanding of love grows and she is ultimately ready to face all the obstacles of society, fate and religion just to be loyal to her love. During the four span of the play, Juliet, the heroine of the play, matures from an adolescent girl to a woman of remarkable strength and resolve in pursuing what she wants.
In the beginning, Juliet seems just another girl infatuated with a boy. However, by the end, she proves to be the true hero of the play, acting as a sounding board and a balance against the impulsive Romeo. In the beginning of the play, when Lady Capulet mentions Paris’s interest in marrying Juliet, Juliet dutifully responds that she will be a dutiful daughter and try to see if she can fall in love with him. I’ll like to look, if looking liking move. But no more deep will I endart mine eye Than your consent gives strength to make it fly. (1, iv, 103-105) Juliet’s response seems determined yet childish in its obedience and immature in its conception of love.
However, her meeting with Romeo changes everything. This is evident in the confrontation with her parents, after Romeo’s banishment. Juliet dominates the conversation with her mother who cannot keep up with her agile but veiled intelligence and therefore has no idea that Juliet is proclaiming her love for Romeo under the guise of saying just the opposite. Nevertheless, her father notices a change in his daughter and is exasperated with her. He even threatens to disown her if she refuses to consent to his will.
Hang thee, young baggage, disobedient wretch! I tell thee what: get thee to church o’ Thursday, Or never after look me in the face. Speak not; reply not; do not answer me. (3, v, 166-169) Juliet’s determination makes her father angry to see his young girl rebel against his wishes. Furthermore, Juliet clandestinely subverts her family’s wishes, a truly rebellious action for a lady in the traditional Italian society of that time. In addition, Juliet’s decision to break from the counsel of her Nurse and to exclude her from any part in her future decisions marks another step in her development.
Having a nurse is a mark of childhood; by abandoning the Nurse and upholding her loyalty toward her husband, Juliet steps out of girlhood to begin her life as a woman. These actions and the choices establish Juliet as a far more evolving character, developing from an immature, naive girl to a capable, self-assured woman, than her family or even Romeo Through the course of the play, Juliet transforms from an innocent adolescent to responsible adult; her loyalty to Romeo, her mature character, and her realistic view of life depict an individual who is more than a match for her society. Romeo and Juliet involves the lovers’ struggles against social institutions that either explicitly or implicitly oppose the existence of the blind passion of their love. (Sauder “Juliet”) The enmity between the Capulets and the Montagues coupled with the emphasis placed on the loyalty to their kin creates a profound conflict for Romeo and Juliet, who must rebel against their own families to be with each other. Through the eyes of Juliet, it is possible to see the human nature struggling to keep up with the responsibilities and actions demanded by the social institutions and those desired by them.
Juliet’s appreciation of the night, with its darkness and privacy, reflects her desire to escape the public world. However, on the other hand, she can neither stop the night from becoming day nor can she revert back her destiny. Her suicide brings the ultimate night, the privacy that she wishes for. Shakespeare uses Juliet to depict the ability of a young girl to fight against traditional societal norms and take her future in her own hands. Furthermore, Juliet is a message to all the young girls to breach the male patriarchal social fabric that guides family structure and take control of their life. Bibliography: Shakespeare, William.
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington Square Press, New York, 1992. Sauder, Diane. “Juliet” PinkMonkey.com. 1997.
1 August, 2004 ;http://www.pinkmonkey.com/booknotes/monkeynotes/pmMacbeth01.asp; Gill, Jeff. “Juliet Capulet” towson.
edu, 1999. 20 September, 2005. ;http://pages.towson.edu/quick/romeoandjuliet/juliet.htm;