William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

A discussion of the character of Juliet as a woman/girl of her time
and an analysis of what extent her character changes and develops
throughout the play, and why this is so. How would you act Juliet or
direct the actor playing the part so that these ideas were clear to a
modern day audience?

William Shakespeare wrote and set the play "Romeo and Juliet" in the
fifteenth century, a time where society and families were run very
differently how they are today. In those times, young girls of
Juliet's age (about fourteen) would be married off to men of their
parents choice, usually someone that the family respected and got
along well with. It was quite unheard of for a young girl or boy to
refuse to marry the person of their parents' choice, this would
disgrace the family. Of course, this made young people's choices quite
narrow and for many young girls and boys, they might have felt quite
scared and helpless. Juliet was brought up in a large family, the
Capulets who had a constant history of quarrelling and rioting with
another large family group, the Montagues. In these days, it would be
a disgrace to the family even to be seen talking to a member of the
other family. This is just an example of how trapped you could be,
unable to make decisions even about who you could be friends with.

The first time the audience sees Juliet, she appears very innocent and
obedient, coming to her mother straight away- "Madam, I am here, what
is your will?" Juliet says that she would never do anything against
her parents' wishes-"But no more deep will I indent mine eye than your
consent gives strength to fly". The language she uses shows she really
respects her mother and her ideas e.g. she refers to her mother's idea
of marriage as "an honour". But in a way, Juliet appears like a child,
who has to do what her mother says because she knows that is what is

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expected of her. She seems to have no ideas of her own and not her own
mind. If you look closely at the scene you can also see Juliet's
hidden unhappiness. She expresses this in the line-"It is an honour
that I dream not of." Juliet seems a little too willing to go along
with what her mother wants like she cannot find her own voice. The
line could show that inside she feels secretly trapped and desperate
about her mother's idea of marriage. I think that when Juliet says
that line, she should emphasize it in her voice and show a little
panic and unhappiness on her face, like she doesn't know what to do. I
think this line should be emphasized so that the audience will have an
idea of what is going to come and they will understand Juliet's later
actions.

In the second scene we see Juliet, Act 2 Scene 2, her behaviour is
very shocking and confusing. She totally contradicts her actions in
Act 1, Scene 3, going against what she knows her parents want and
seeing Romeo. It is like she is playing on her freedom, doing what she
never would have dreamed of doing before. Romeo provides the perfect
opportunity for her to do this, so she takes it up and willingly
offers herself to him. We now realize Juliet is not as innocent as we
thought she was. In Act 1, Scene 3 she shows loyalty and respect for
her family but in this scene she seems to totally break this. It seems
like the falseness she was portraying in Act 1, Scene 3 has been
stripped off and now she is uncovering her true feelings. She starts
to admit that she hates being attached to her family and their
loyalties and secretly hates it and wants to get out-'Tis thy name
that is my enemy. Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. It also
seems that as she gets more involved with Romeo she starts to realize
the restrictions of being in her family and becomes more and more
frustrated-"O be some other name!" She appears very rebellious. I
think she is acting like this because maybe she has been thinking a
lot about her mother's idea of marriage and the more she thinks about
it the more she realises she doesn't want to go ahead with it and the
more she dislikes her parents and wants to rebel. She has never been
in this position before, but now she knows the proposition of marriage
is serious, she may realise she has to change and do something to
prevent it. She feels so strongly about it that she dives in at the
deep end and gets heavily involved with Romeo. She even admits herself
that she has been "too fond" A girl in that day would never dream of
doing what she had said if they did they would be heavily frowned upon
and seen as a disgrace. But Juliet just got involved with Romeo
without a second thought. Juliet can be seen as a little too easily
led at this point and quite young and naïve for letting herself been
drawn into such a dangerous position. She is just at the age of
adolescence and at that age, especially in girls, they seem to jump at
the chance of any romantic relationship. On the other hand, her
actions could not be so rash. You could tell in the first scene we saw
Juliet that she was unhappy about marriage but she couldn't speak out
about it. If this was so, she must have been agonizing sub-consciously
in her mind for a while about how she could get out of marrying and
Romeo seems the perfect excuse to disobey her parents. In this scene,
I would direct Juliet leaning over the balcony

desperately, like she wants to escape. I would make her say her words
with much meaning and expression in her voice using her hands when she
is speaking, especially when she is explaining about her family. I
would also act her with a look of frustration and helplessness on her
face. When talking to Romeo, I would act her smiling and like

she is all over him. I would do this to show that Juliet is not quite
mature but also look at him in that way of happiness because he is
providing a passageway of escape for her.

In Act 3, scene 5 you can clearly see more significant changes in
Juliet. She has

gone from doing and agreeing with everything that her parents say, to
finally taking the courage to tell her mother that she won't marry
Paris. Looking at what Juliet was like in the first scene we saw her,
eager to please her mother and very polite, she has changes an awful
lot and become a strong and stubborn girl, something you would rarely
see in those times. She has gone from a pleasant, always obedient girl
to someone who has gained a whole new level of strength and
assertiveness, making her quite a character. She puts across her
feelings totally to her parents, telling the of her unhappiness,
something she would of never have done before-"Is there no pity in the
clouds that sees into the bottom of my grief?" She is finally pleading
with her parents and telling them just how she is feeling-"Proud can I
never be of what I hate". She argues with her parents terribly, making
her look rebellious and very badly behaved-"I will not marry yet, and
when I do, I swear it shall be Romeo". She now seems very certain with
the idea that she wants to be with Romeo and her feelings have become
so strong that they have swayed and changed her character, making her
far more outspoken. This is a very surprising thing to happen in those
days, and it demonstrates how truly strong Juliet felt about it to
take such action. It seems the affair with Romeo was what changed her
the most. The night before she fights with her parents and rebels, she
spent a very passionate and intense night with Romeo. From the word
they say to each other, they seem like one and can't be parted-" I
must be gone and live, or stay and die". Their relationship appears
very strong. This could have just enhanced her feelings making her
positive that she would do anything to be with him. Her relationship
with Romeo could have been a lifetime experience for Juliet, with
feelings so intense that she changed completely. I would act Juliet
like she is pleading and desperate. I'd want to scream the words out,
portraying to the audience how strongly she felt. I would want her
body language and actions to show complete unhappiness and they're to
be hysterical tears in her eyes. I would want it to be so dramatized
so the audience would really get a feel of what Juliet was
experiencing and feeling and so they would realize how hard it must
have been for a young girl of that time.

In Act 4, Scene 3 Juliet does the most dramatic thing she has done in
the whole play. She has gone to such measures that she doesn't even
know if she will wake up, to be with Romeo. This seems crazy and
obscene, but maybe Juliet felt so pushed away by her family that she
had to do that. It seems as if Juliet has got too heavily involved
with Romeo. It has changed her completely and she has gone so far that
she is risking her own life. She is totally sad and helpless in this
scene-"My dismal scene I needs must act alone". The effect Romeo has
had on Juliet seems to be extremely powerful. Would Juliet of changed
so much if it weren't for Romeo? It is a hard question to answer
because you know that Juliet never wanted to marry Paris. But without
Romeo I don't think she would have taken the initiative to do
something about it. The change of character of Juliet is dramatic over
such a short period of time and shows how much her family's decisions
turned her against them but also how much of an impact Romeo had on
Juliet. I would direct Juliet to look very drained and worn out and
confused. I would do this so the audience would see what a tragic and
twisted thing has happened.
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