‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a tragedy by the playwright William Shakespeare which explores the journey of the fateful tragedies between a pair of two star-crossed lovers. The emotion of love conquers throughout the play and is particularly evident when investigating the growth and change in certain characters. Juliet Capulet, Lord, and Lady Capulet’s only living child approach the age of 14 years old, falling in love with the son of their rivaling family, Romeo Montague. Throughout the play, Juliet’s character undergoes a number of turbulent changes, not only within her relationships but also within herself. Her beliefs, values, and attitudes towards love gradually morph her relationships with her nurse and family upon meeting Romeo, and the audience is encouraged to think about the power of love.
Shakespeare presents love and romantic desires as Juliet’s driving force to overrule her parental guidance. Juliet’s character grows from being a courteous, obedient, compliant daughter who is willing to accomplish the wishes of her mother and father, into an independent, bold young adult. Her compliance is recognized when Juliet is called, “Madam, I am here, what is your will?” (I,3,7), showing her willingness to accommodate her parents and fulfill their commands. Juliet’s formal addressing of her birth mother as ‘madam’, presents herself eager to obey her wishes, likewise how a peasant responds to their master, clearly representing the hierarchy of a noble Elizabethan family. When Lady Capulet introduces Juliet to the idea of marriage, Juliet’s innocent and naïve response- “I’ll look to like, if looking liking move…” (I,3,100), willing to give County Paris a chance if it pleases her parents. Her language suggests that a request by her parents is expected to be satisfied. However, her first encounter of romance with the son of their family’s sworn enemy, Romeo, is a starting point where Juliet becomes defiant towards her parents. Juliet neglecting her parents’ desire of wanting the marriage with Paris and instead, proposing the idea of marriage to Romeo, “… thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow…” (II,2,150), determines that love has altered her beliefs values, and attitudes in making rational decisions. This goes against the expectations of a daughter of the noble Elizabethan family as she is showing her disregard for the aspects of her mother and father’s wishes.
Shakespeare presents the power of romantic love as having the ability to overrule familial love and its relationship. The romantic love between Romeo and Juliet is evident through the lens of infatuation and lust, unlike her attitude towards familial love which seems inferior to romantic love. At first, Juliet derides Romeo’s murder for Tybalt; however, she quickly questions herself, asking, “Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?” (III,2,101), and agrees to prioritize her family’s mortal enemy over the loss of her own blood, Tybalt, by claiming that Romeo’s banishment is ten thousand times worse than Tybalt’s death- “…the one word banished, hath slain ten thousand Tybalt’s.” (III,2,118). This depicts that Juliet’s interest and emotional investment are focused on Romeo’s banishment and only a bare minimum in Tybalt’s death. Her neglection is a clear embodiment of how courtly love has shaped Juliet’s beliefs and values to defy the traditional Elizabethan expectations. Romeo’s banishment places a strain on Juliet’s relationship with her family as she is unable to express her distress towards any members of the Capulet family. The honesty trait Juliet once carried is no longer present, especially incaging her feelings in a time of being overwhelmed, thus leading to an unfaithful relationship with her family.
Shakespeare expresses love’s ability to change people and their relationships, not only through Juliet and her parents but also through the lens of Juliet and her nurse. Juliet’s nurse is recognized as more of a motherly figure to Juliet than her birth mother. This can be evident in act one scene three when the discussion with Lady Capulet is dominated by the nurse, “Even or odd, of all days in the year, Come Lammas Eve…” (I,3,19), her tediously long speech expresses the closer familial bond shared, unlike her birth mother, who shows no interest in Juliet’s life. As her closest companion and confidante, Juliet confides to the nurse about her love for Romeo, in which she encourages the love between them, believing the feuding families will come to an end. At first, the nurse’s source of encouragement gives Juliet confidence into defying the family feud and wed Romeo; however, when Lord Capulet is enraged in Juliet’s disagreement in marrying Paris, the nurse glorifies the marriage with Paris instead which is felt like an act of betrayal. Juliet’s fury and sadness bring an end to the relationship of Juliet and her nurse, she manifests the betrayal by vowing to never listen to the nurse: “Ancient damnation! O most wicked fiend!” (III,5,246). Betrayal plays a big role in the effect of Juliet and the Nurse’s relationship bringing anger, sadness, and distress.
Shakespeare highlights the personal growth and change of Juliet through the impact of love after the meeting of Romeo. She has a significant development in her character affecting her relationships with her family and nurse. He presents Juliet’s rebellious actions and emotions as a portrayal of how love has the ability to change paternal and familial relationships. Shakespeare expresses that love is hard to sympathize with in the Elizabethan era through the nurse’s actions. His depiction of love is evident through the change and growth of Juliet.