The Treatment of Women in Romeo and Juliet

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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 ki...

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...t will accept his proposal. Lord Capulet takes it for granted that his daughter will do what he tells her, saying ‘I will make a desperate tender / Of my child’s love’, taking responsibility away from Juliet and perhaps suggesting that she can’t decide for herself. Juliet’s parents appear understanding of her grief at first, but then plan the wedding in only 3 days, not giving her time to grieve.
Capulet is shown to be very authoritative over his wife, asking her to ‘Go you to Juliet’ and ‘Prepare her’ for the wedding. This shows us that Capulet has no doubt his wife will do what she tells her, and the use the imperative verbs such as ‘go’ and ‘prepare’ imply that women were forced to obey their husband’s instructions. We are also shown that the role of the mother was to prepare her daughter for her wedding day.

Works Cited

Romeo and Juliet sparknotes shmoop
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