William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: Juliet’s Growth and Change throughout the Play Today William Shakespeare is recognized as one of the seminal writers in the Western literary tradition. His works span tragic meditations on human nature, such as Hamlet, as well as light-hearted comedies like A Midsummer Night’s Dream that explore the absurdities of life…
In examining these forms of characterization, this essay traces the way that Juliet grows and changes throughout the work. During the early part of the play Shakespeare depicts Juliet as largely naive to the romantic world around her. In these regards, there is the recognition that surrounding characters have first begun to express interest in Juliet. Notably, Paris speaks with Capulet regarding his desire to marry Juliet. Juliet herself, however, is recognized as largely oblivious to these advances. Juliet’s nurse asks her, “Tell me, daughter Juliet,/ How stands your disposition to be married?” (1.3.63-64). Juliet responds, “It is an honor that I dream not of” (1.3.65). Here Juliet is indicating that she has not thought marriage. Additionally, this scene demonstrates Juliet’s relative subservience to her Nurse, further attesting to Juliet’s stage of growth. Ultimately then this stage of Juliet’s characterization demonstrates that she is naive and has not thought of a suitable romantic suitor. As the text progresses, Juliet correspondingly experiences a greater level of growth and maturity. The next substantial stage of Juliet’s growth and maturation occurs at a costume ball that is thrown. The costume ball is attended by both Romeo and Juliet. While at the beginning of the night they have not met, they will eventually encounter each other and exchange romantic words. Romeo implements symbolism and figurative language in comparing himself to a pilgrim and Juliet to a saint. He then indicates that she must kiss him to rid of his sin. Eventually they kiss. The physical action of this kiss constitutes a significant stage of Juliet’s development as it partially heralds her entrance into womanhood. While before this kiss she indicated she had not thought of marriage, following this kiss there is a significant change in her outlook. Notably, referring to Romeo, Juliet states, “If he be married,/ My grave is like to be my wedding bed” (1.5.131). In addition to providing a strong foreshadowing of the play’s fateful conclusion, this statement directly opposes Juliet’s earlier statement that she had not even given marriage a thought. Ultimately, Juliet demonstrates rapid development in this scene as she not only enters into a physical show of affection, but she also demonstrates intensity in her lust for Romeo. As the narrative action in the play occurs in a relatively short period of time Juliet’s growth and development occurs rapidly. Following her interaction with Romeo at the costume ball, he comes to visit her window. This window scene has become a seminal aspect of Shakespeare’s writing for its masterful implementation of language. The scene additionally contains significant information regarding Juliet’s growth and development. In these regards, the scene begins to demonstrate Juliet understands the forbidden nature of the romance. While Juliet is a Capulet, Romeo is a Montague; these families are in conflict, such that their romance is not allowed. Juliet states, “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” (2.1.33-36). Here Juliet is asking why Romeo is a Montague. She then asks him to give up his family name, and if he won’ ...
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