The play is based at a time when society was very patriarchal. This meant that men were seen as the heads of the family and the providers, whereas women were expected to cook and look after the house and have children. This is why the situation of Romeo and Juliet being married without their parents knowing, Capulet (Juliet’s father) wanting her to marry the county Paris, Romeo being banished for killing the Capulet’s kinsman and Juliet’s cousin Tybalt so much more difficult for Juliet to handle. Her status in society as a woman is mirrored by her status in her family. Capulet and Lady Capulet see Juliet more of a possession which will eventually work in their advantage when they will want to marry her off to someone rich (Paris). We see this lack of respect for Juliet in Act 3 Scene 5 when Capulet says “I’ll give you to my friend”. It’s like he doesn’t even care what she wants just what he wants matters and he treats her more like his possession then a daughter. This whole experience of falling in love with Romeo, marrying him, losing him, changes Juliet dramatically through the play.
The first time we see Juliet in the play is in Act 1 Scene 3. Juliet is alone in her room when Nurse and Juliet’s mother enter. From our first impression of Juliet we get to see this subservient obeying daughter, “Madam, I am here, what is your will?” This shows that Juliet and her mother don’t exactly have a very close relationship but one where Juliet does all her mother asks and is obedient. Juliet is then asked by her mother whether she will marry Paris. This is a quite a strange question for Juliet as it is out of the blue. She replies “It is an honour I dream not of”. This is almost a way of letting her mother down in an easy way. This shows she does not want to disappoint her mother. She is simply not ready to get married. She is being cautious because of her inexperience.
We then see Juliet in Act 1 Scene 5. This is when she first meets Romeo at the Capulet party. She falls in love with him at first sight which is a new experience for her. She keeps her cool though and engages in a short romantic conversation in which she automatically connects with Romeo. “You kiss by th’ book” is Juliet’s response to Romeo’s kiss. As the audience we know this is probably Juliet’s first experience of kissing a member of the opposite sex. This shows Juliet is maybe a bit desperate to make herself look more experienced then she really is. This however already gives a hint of her passion to the audience as oppose to this obedient, well brought up girl we see just a couple of scenes prior.
In Act 2 Scene 2 we have the balcony scene. This is a very key part of the story. Romeo climbs into the Capulet courtyard after the party because he wants to see Juliet again risking his own life in the process. Then Juliet appears on a balcony and begins to speak but is not yet aware that Romeo is there listening. Juliet then says “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.” Juliet is wondering why his name must be Romeo and why he must be a Montague. She also says that Romeo should not acknowledge his father but if he cannot then Juliet will refuse to be a Capulet. She is already in love with Romeo and is cursing her luck. However although her head is perhaps in the clouds a bit by saying “my love is deep” , at such an early stage in their relationship, she does seem to be the more mature of the two. Romeo is trying to hint that he’d like to enter Juliet’s room but Juliet is not allowing him, keeping her ‘sexual frustrations’ under control. She is however very keen on marrying Romeo when it was less than a day ago that she rejected Paris’ offer claiming she is not ready. Not only does she accept Romeo’s proposal but she is the one trying to make it as soon as possible, “Thy purpose of marriage, send me word tomorrow, where and what time wilt thou perform the rite”. She shows her susceptibility to falling in love which shows this vulnerable side of hers.
In Act 3 Scene 2, we have Juliet speaking about Romeo and saying how much she loves him and wants to see him again. She wants the night to come because Romeo said he would be with her on the first night of their marriage “Come, Night, come, Romeo, come, thou day in night, for thou will lie upon the wings of night.” Juliet does not know yet about the fight between Romeo and Tybalt in which Romeo slew Tybalt. Through this we see a very in love Juliet who can only at that particular time dream of how much she and Romeo love each other and that nothing else matters in the world besides that. But then the Nurse comes bearing some bad news. Juliet’s primary reaction is to interrogate nurse on the whereabouts of her husband, showing full devotion to Romeo. Nurse then tells her that ‘someone’ is dead and immediately Juliet thinks it is Romeo. But then eventually nurse clears it up by stating that it was Tybalt who is dead, Romeo who killed him, and that Romeo is now banished. Juliet then seems somewhat relieved even though her cousin has been slain.
She tries to protect Romeo saying that had he not killed Tybalt, Tybalt would probably have killed him. Nurse is not pleased with this “Will you speak well of him that kill’d your cousin?” But Juliet still cannot speak badly of him as he is the man she loves and married. She is still however heartbroken at the thought of Romeo being banished. This scene is very intense and has a good pace to it. It is a pivotal scene as it changes Juliet’s character dramatically. For a 14 year old girl, she manages to approach the situation with such maturity by standing up for her man not allowing this to break them up. She does not just decide to ditch Romeo and move on, it is her love which drives her to forgive Romeo and work to fix the mess showing a very passionate and loving side of her advancing her character that slight bit more to that of a passionate lover.
Scene 5 in Act 3 still is a very important scene as it is the first time Romeo and Juliet see each other after the Tybalt is slain, and the last time they see each other before they die. It is an emotional scene as they have to say their goodbyes after literally just getting married. Romeo then has to leave and Juliet’s mother enters the chamber. She then begins to lie to her mother which is a sign that Juliet has come a long way since the days when she would obey her mothers every command. She claims she is grieving for her cousin and when the conversation turns onto Romeo Juliet seems to agree with her mother that Romeo is a villain and agrees he is a traitor. Everything seems to be going fine with Juliet and her mother until the conversation about marriage comes in to it. Juliet’s mother tells her Juliet that she is marrying Paris in a couple of days. Juliet is shocked by this news. She loses her perfect obeying child persona and rejects this proposal of marriage. Capulet then enters and is told that Juliet has rejected this proposal of marriage. He also loses it and shouts at Juliet. He eventually disowns Juliet unless she marries Paris. He then basically orders Juliet that she will marry Paris “I’ll give you to my friend”.
He then leaves and when Juliet tries to reason with her mother, her mother also refuses to speak to her. This puts Juliet in a very vulnerable situation where she needs her Romeo back; she has lost her bravery and doesn’t know what to do. This scene is a very good example to show what Juliet’s character is like, for she shows three sides of it. One when she is with Romeo, she seems strong and loving and convinced everything will work out for the best, boasting her passionate lover persona. Then with her mother she shows this defiant, rebellious side where we see her lie to her own mother who in the past, she would not dare lie to. But when the question of marriage is placed on the table she loses it and finds herself alone. She loses the will to fight and cannot argue with her father. At the end of the scene we see a very desperate Juliet “I’ll to the Friar to know his remedy; If all else fail, myself have the power to die”. This is a very dramatic line as it is Juliet, this innocent Juliet who is actually considering killing herself already if she cannot be with her love. Utmost love is shown adding to her passion for Romeo.
The next day, Act 4 Scene 1, Juliet visits the Friar and complains to him and get to the stage where she is ready to kill herself, “Do thou but call my resolution wise, And with this knife I’ll help it presently.”. Friar Lawrence is now very desperate to come up with something to help Juliet. He gives Juliet a drinking potion which he claims will make Juliet seem dead for about 42 hours so her family will think she is dead. For Juliet to accept this, it directly emphasises her anxiousness.
The next key scene is Act 4 Scene 3 where Juliet has her soliloquy before she takes the potion. She is afraid of what will happen if it does not work and if it kills her. She thinks this might be Friar’s plan as he does not want to marry Juliet to Paris. “What if the poison which the Friar Subtly hath minister’d to have me dead.” She then begins to panic and wonder what will happen if she wakes before Romeo comes and is locked in a shrine with her ancestors. “How if, when I am laid into the tomb, I wake before the time that Romeo come to redeem me?” This is a very worried Juliet who does not know what to do. But it is her love for Romeo which gives her hope that it could work. She eventually takes the potion and falls asleep.
The potion does work and Juliet escapes marrying Paris and is given a funeral and left in a tomb. Romeo however does not hear word of the plan and when he hears Juliet is ‘dead’, he buys some poison and takes it by Juliet’s body and dies. When Juliet does wake she is shocked that Romeo is dead. Out of her love for Romeo she cannot stand living without him so she picks up a knife and finishes herself of alone. “O happy dagger, This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.” She kills herself, proving her undying love for Romeo.
As a conclusion I will just add that Juliet’s character has changed dramatically and she has most certainly become a passionate lover as she has actually killed herself in preference to living without Romeo. Her passion however does show courage, bravery, determination but above all love and devotion, to her husband, Romeo.