Love Changes Everything: Juliet’s Character

“Romeo and Juliet” tells the story of ‘death-marked love’ between a pair of ‘star-crossed lovers’. As the only living daughter of Lord and Lady Capulet, fated heroine, Juliet Capulet who approaching fourteen years old, falls in love with the only son of Lord and Lady Capulet, Romeo. An enduring feud between rivals Montague and Capulet, lasted many generations in the town of Verona.

Throughout this play Juliet undergoes many changes that change her outlook on life. Juliet develops from being an obedient, well-mannered, compliant daughter who respects her mother and father’s wishes, to a young woman who is independent and confident. An example of Juliets compliance is when she says “Madam, I am here. What is your will?” Act 1, Scene 3, this quote shows us that Juliet is willing to accomodate her parents. Juliets character develops in maturity during her first encounter with Romeo at the Capulet’s Ball. This first meeting is the point at which Juliet starts to become defiant towards her parents. After their encounter Juliet would have been feeling many emotions, such as confusion or despair, because she had just fallen in love with Romeo, so this would have been her first time experiencing this type of love, as she had never shared it with anyone before, making it even more special and yet knowing she would have to choose between Romeo, a Montague, and Paris, causing rebellion. During the balcony scene, Juliet develops further, as she becomes independent even proposing the idea of marriage she says “If that thy bent of love be honourable, Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow,” This act determines Juliet as a devoted, defiant character, this is heightened when she marries Romeo secretly. Juliets sense of rebellion is portrayed when she refuses to marry Paris and tells her mother “Now by Saint Peter’s church, and Peter, too, he shall not make me there a joyful bride . . .

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I pray you tell my lord and father, madam, I will not marry yet; and when I do, I swear it shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate, rather than Paris.” Act 3, Scene 5. Juliets maturity level is in a sense forced upon her; so she matured too quickly. Juliet is changed by the love she experiences with Romeo. This is because as the play progresses Juliets concept of love broadens from what she knew it
to be by the relationship between her and the Nurse and her relationship with her parents to her relationship with Romeo, she is more willing and open to the idea of it.

Juliet’s ability to love progresses from a point where she had no interest towards men. When her mother questioned Juliet to her thoughts on marriage she replied “?It is an honour that I dream not of” and “I’ll look like, if looking liking moves; but no more deep will I endart mine eye than your consent gives strength to make it fly” this shows that Juliet is willing to cooperate with her parents and does not question their authority, proving she is content. During the play Juliet’s attitude to love is questionable, as to whether she is just experiencing lust and sexual desire; as they both acted on impulse throughout the play; getting married, faking death, murder and lying, or if she really does love Romeo. However at the end she is willing to die for Romeo determining the intensity of their love.

Towards the beginning of the play, Paris asks Capulet for permission to marry his daughter, Capulet’s initial attitude shows him as a caring, protective father who wants what is best for his daughter, as he tells Paris that Juliet is “yet a stranger to the world” and “hath not seen the change of fourteen years” and so does not agree to her betrothal “Let two more summers wither in their pride,? Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride”. When Capulet’s authority is questioned during Act 3, Scene 5, when Juliet refuses to marry Paris, her father loses control and makes references to her being killed ‘hang thee,’ calls her a ‘disobedient wretch’, and directly threatens her, this acts as a turning point showing showing his true colours as a malevolent father who has his own intentions for his daughter’s future. In spite of that when Juliet later agrees to marry Paris his caring character initially identified returns.

As Juliet’s biological mother, Lady Capulet has never personally been close or had a relationship with Juliet such as the Nurse does. Juliet and her mother have a strained, typical Elizabethan family relationship between a mother and daughter, where in most cases the child is more familiar with their Governor or Governess. Juliet is being a dutiful child by formally speaking to her mother at all times, such as when the Nurse calls her and she addresses Lady Capulet as ‘Madam’. As the idea of marriage is proposed to Juliet but does not wish to proceed any further with this idea she asks the help of her mother Lady Capulet to delay the marriage, who responds with, “Talk not to me, for I’ll not speak a word. Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee” determining her relationship with Juliet, as a forced bond, in which Lady Capulet feels that Juliet is rebelling against her choice of life that she was subjected to when she refuses to marry Paris.

Juliet’s close relationship with the Nurse allows Juliet to see the Nurse as a friend, confidante, and in some ways a mother. The Nurse sees Juliet as her own daughter, knowing her exact birthdate “Faith, I can tell her age unto an hour.”. The Nurse knows Juliet better than her own mother, and has a closer, familial bond. This allows Juliet to take her into her confidence when she decides to defy the family feud and marry Rome so when later on in the play the Nurse becomes her co-conspirator by suggesting that Juliet should marry Paris and forget about Romeo this seems like an act of betrayal. Leaving Juliet feeling isolated and alone.

When Romeo first sees Juliet he is transfixed; Rosaline is no longer on his mind and he declares that he has never been in love until this moment. The first conversation between Romeo and Juliet is a dialogue laced with religious metaphors that level Juliet as a saint and Romeo as a pilgrim, through the use of these metaphors Romeo cleverly succeeds in persuading Juliet to kiss him when he says “Have not saint’s lips and holy palmers too?”. The religious overtones of the conversation imply that their love can be described only through the vocabulary of religion and in association with God and so in this way their love becomes associated with purity. When Romeo and Juliet meet they speak just fourteen lines before their first kiss. These lines make a shared sonnet that was a poetic form often used to write about love. However this Sonnet may represent a link between their love but it also foreshadows their fate and destiny as the prologue of the play was also a sonnet. During their conversation Juliet proves she is intelligent and witty yet did not instigate the first kiss. Shakespeare presents Juliet as being the aggressor, as she is more willing to go into their second kiss as she told Romeo to take away the sin he placed on her lips, when she said “Then have my lips the sin that they have took.” Throughout these words Juliet transformed into a mature woman from a shy timid girl.

During the Balcony Scene, Juliet shows the beginnings of increasing self-assurance and confidence that lead her to seek her own fate rather than a destiny imposed upon her by her parents. Juliet introduces the idea of marriage to Romeo linking her to a higher maturity level than when she first met Romeo. There are few religious references “follow thee my lord throughout the world” which foreshadow the lovers fate in the play.

There are many ways that Shakespeare interprets love. Shakespeare’s first portrayal of love is featured in the first act when Romeo is speaking of his love for Rosaline with Benvolio “Why, such is love’s transgression. Griefs of mine own lie heavy in my breast, which thou wilt propagate, to have it prest”. In this quote Romeo proves his infatuation of Rosaline, not necessarily love.The portrayal of Romeo’s love changes when, Romeo meets Juliet at the Capulet party, instantly forgetting about Rosaline “Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” When Romeo sees Juliet for the first time he begins to speak of Juliet’s beauty, saying “She doth teach the torches to burn bright,”. One interpretation of love Shakespeare wrote about was the love Juliet shares with her Nurse as a close, familial love, and the close friendships between Mercutio, Benvolio and Romeo. Shakespeare deals with yet another view of love, as something purely sexual. Mercutio and the Nurse were characters who repeatedly made references to sex, showing the difference between true love and lust. Love is depicted in many forms by different characters;

Romeo’s love for Rosaline as lust and infatuation; Mercutio’s suggestive and very physical view of love; the forced love between Lord and Lady Capulet; and the pure love that Romeo and Juliet feel for each other. Juliet, when we first meet her, is a 13 year old girl on the division of childhood and maturity. Over the course of the days that follow she advances into an intelligent, sharp witted woman because of the harships she has had to face. As the play progresses she develops as a women showing the qualities and traits most young girls would not have had in Verona; her rebellious sense of nature or the thought to question her elders authority.

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Love Changes Everything: Juliet’s Character. (2017, Feb 12). Retrieved from