Throughout this essay, I will discuss the presentation of Juliet in Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet.” I will firstly discuss Juliet’s character traits, secondly her relationship with other characters, and finally, examine how Juliet’s character has changed throughout the play?
In act 2 scene 2, after meeting Romeo at the Capulet ball, Juliet seems to be cautious before she falls in love with Romeo. The repetition of Romeo’s name, “O Romeo, Romeo”, with the constant caesura shows her wonder of why she had to fall in love with an enemy; the Montagues. Also, this showing her intelligent trait, as she seems measured and considerable of the consequences, making the forbidden love more endearing. In addition to this, the tripling of “too rash, too unadvised, too sudden” suggests she is cautious and smart. A reason for this is that she is aware the love is dangerous physically and mentally, questioning whether it has been rushed. The simile using imagery of lightning, “too like lightning” suggests Juliet uses her intelligence to acknowledge the fact that their love may not be genuine and has come and gone too quickly like a bolt of “lightning”. Juxtaposing the cautiousness she has of their love; she is also a passionate lover as the metaphor “My bounty is as boundless as the sea” suggests her love and loyalty is never-ending and she continues to show her love towards Romeo nevertheless. However, she is rather controlling when it comes to the relationship considering the commanding imperatives “Hist, Romeo, hist! O for a falconer’s voice, To lure this tassel-gentle back again.” The imagery of bird-related to Romeo suggests Juliet has control over the relationship. This also suggests that love is brutal and is captive. Furthermore, Juliet seems estranged as she refers to the allusion of “Echo.” Therefore elucidating the impression that her character is lost and longing for something more; the greek mythology related to abandonment. The imagery of “a wanton’s bird” also suggests Juliet has a predominant nature; she keeps Romeo close to her in order to get what she wants.
Juliet is also very loyal. In act 4 scene 1, she has no other choice but to marry Paris, however, her passion and loyalty overrule this decision made by her parents; “O bid me leap, rather than marry Paris.” She frequently repeats the words “O bid” throughout her speech to emphasize her purity and being pure as a wife. Her hyperbolic nature of declaring her loyalty through “bid me lurk Where serpents are; chain me with roaring bears”; listing every possible danger she’d rather do than to be pronounced unfaithful to Romeo. In addition to this, in act 3 scene 5, Juliet marks her loyalty by announcing “If all else fail, myself have the power to die.” the emotive language, assonance, and caesura combined to give the audience a slower rhythm to express the sadness she feels for Romeo’s banishment. Considering she is willing to die for Romeo she emphasizes her loyal and passionate nature.
Secondly, her relationship with her parents; especially her mother, is quite distant and cold. Their relationship is very formal considering the discussion they have with each other in act 1 scene 3; with Juliet referring to her mother as “Madam” rather than mother and Lady Capulet rephrasing her command with the Nurse to be left alone with her daughter to discuss marriage only to remember the Nurse has a closer bond. Therefore elucidating the impression that their bond isn’t tight enough to have that discussion. Shakespeare deliberately juxtaposes the coldness from her mother with the affection and care from the Nurse as she refers to Juliet with appealing imagery “What, lamb? What, ladybird!.” the use of imagery suggests an informal relationship and a caring one as the nurse refers to Juliet as delightful creatures. Also, the exclamatory tone suggests she cares for Juliet’s whereabouts and; “God forbid, where is this girl?” Referring back to the formal relationship between mother and daughter, in act 3 scene 5 Juliet’s loving and passionate nature is replaced with cunningness as she persuades her mother that she is grieving over her cousin’s death. The rhetorical question used “Evermore weeping for your cousin’s death? What, wilt thou wash him from his grave with tears?” suggests the miscommunication between the two. The dramatic irony and metaphor of “thou wash him from his grave with tears” also suggests Lady Capulet misread Juliet’s tears because of course, she is grieving for Romeo being banished and that Lady Capulet makes a remark that Juliet is being false “some grief makes much of love, But to much grief shows still some want of wit.” Despite all this, her trust in the Nurse is lost after she tries to persuade her to marry Paris; the Nurse describes Romeo as “a dishcloth to him.”
It is clear that Romeo and Juliet share intimate feelings and express them with emotive and hyperbolic language. However, in act 3 scene 2, Juliet is conflicted between Romeo’s dual identity using oxymorons to identify his satanic qualities “O serpent heart hid with a flowering face” and “beautiful tyrant, fiend angelical! Dove-feathered raven, wolves-ravening lamb!.” All with a Biblical reference to satan; meaning Juliet doesn’t know Romeo as well as she thought due to his hidden identity. The oxymorons describing her physical attraction to him however his personality is hidden behind his innocent appearance. Nevertheless, her commitment overrides this as the beginning of the end in act 3 scene 5 states with emotive language to create sympathy, “If all else fail, myself have the power to die.” The foreshadowing of this creating suspense for the audience as they know Juliet’s loyal nature will be established in the denouement.
Lastly, Juliet’s character faces many challenges throughout the play forcing her character to change towards the denouement. In act 1, Juliet is very much an innocent girl who abides by her parent’s rules. She has no intentions of marriage at a young age, even though she has no choice but to do so; “It is an honor that I dream not of”. The variation of assonance, and I suggest Juliet’s tone varies and speed varies meaning she is miserably certain of her announcement not to marry. However she changes her mind and decides to try marriage as she is powerless; “I’ll look to like, if looking liking move.” The paraphrasing suggests acceptance to the offer and that Juliet will give her mother benefit of the doubt.
In act 2, there is a transition from an innocent young girl to an independent and intelligent young woman as she becomes more intimate with Romeo in Act 3. Her independence shows as she differentiates from a stereotypical lady in courtly love. The simplicity of “Dost thou love me?” suggests the rituals have overturned and that Juliet is the one declaring her love for Romeo. It also suggests fragmented deliberation of which she is confused about her feelings for him. Also, she refuses to fake love as she refers to courtly love rituals “I’ll frown and be perverse and say thee nay.” This suggests she is aware that courtly love is fake and she is sworn to honesty. She also differentiates by emphasizing her choice of opinion that cannot be changed “But trust me, gentlemen, I’ll prove more true.” the frequent use of caesura makes Juliet a more measured character by slowing the pace down making the audience take her seriously.
In act 5, it is evident that the challenges she faced have shaped her character towards the end being a more loyal and compassionate character for the audience to emphasize with. She uses emotive language towards the end to further convey her love “I will kiss thy lips, Haply some poison yet doth hang on them, To make me die with a restorative.” this makes the denouement more dramatic as she dies knowing they shared one last kiss.