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    Women in Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

    Intense, impassioned lovers do not lead their happy lives in Romeo and Juliet. When I first read Romeo and Juliet during the 9th grade, I never fully grasped why Juliet felt transfixed by Romeo’s sight, I felt that her love was misplaced and foolish. Romeo would not be the savior that she looked for, and although I realize now that Juliet did not only love Romeo, but romanticized the idea of leaving her familial traditions behind and breaking the legacy of the Montague and Capulet feud.

    In the first edition of The Hunger Games, the characters Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen nearly attempt suicide with poison berries rather than let one win over the other through murder. They choose death together rather than life alone and the idea of love blinds them, yet I found it touching how they would risk their reputation to marry.

    In a time where the family name may be the most important in determining the future, they directly turn from that notion. It gives a sense of rebellion where people don’t need to necessarily follow piety just because it has been “tradition”. 



    In the first act of Romeo and Juliet, I saw how Romeo couldn’t respond to Rosalind’s unrequited affections. He loved her, but she couldn’t reach him. Looking back, I find that his frustrations are more applicable to Juliet’s personality.

    Romeo states, “Love is a smoke made with the fumes of sighs / Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes (1.1197-199).” The groans of two lovers together produced a thick smoke that doesn’t go away. Should the love be returned, they can finally get rid of the smoke, but if the love did not work out properly, then tears flow down from their eyes. 


    The Balcony

    A captivating scene that stands out to me occurs when Juliet stands on her balcony, crying out against the fates that let her fall in love with Romeo. She exclaims, “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? (2.2.36).” Although she doesn’t see Romeo down below, she actually wonders why she loves him.

    Romeo’s first name doesn’t pose a problem, but his family name threatens their relationship. Had she fallen in love with another boy, it would not be a problem to the family. She doesn’t love him because of his Montague name, but because of who he is despite it. 


    Theme of Fortune

    Romeo seems to realize the fate they are destined towards, especially when he references Fortuna. He exclaims, “O! I am Fortune’s Fool! (3.1.142).” When Tybalt and Mercutio fight, Romeo receives a warning that he may be fated towards death. Should Prince Paris catch him with Juliet, then he would be dead.

    Destiny reappears in this play constantly, and none of them can fight it. Romeo finds it difficult to believe that after receiving wedding vows his time with Juliet may cut short. I never knew the double meanings that may be hidden, such as within a flower. The flower can be both poisonous and lovely, yet they are applied in different situations.

    Their deaths lead to heartbreak, but also a new beginning. The Friar attempts to wed the two, yet his kindness results in their deaths. Any action may induce another event, which constitutes the butterfly effect. One small action can result in effects larger than one anticipates. 


    Family Loyalty

    While Juliet adores Romeo, her most likely possibility includes marrying Paris. Paris arrogantly believes that she would marry him and Juliet doesn’t return the favor. The prospect of marrying Paris means she has to obtain the sleeping potion to fake her death.

    She tries her hardest to avoid marrying Paris, and decides that suicide from jumping off a cliff would pose a better alternative: “O bid me leap, rather than marry Paris, From off the battlements of any tower (4.1.78-79).” This showed the pain that she felt, she can’t fight it as the “star-crossed” lovers.

    During Shakespeare’s time, star-crossed meant that fate opposed a path from happening. When Romeo saw her lying in the tomb, he thought she had died and took the potion. Juliet woke up to see Romeo pale and in less than five minutes, she killed herself with a sword. In less than ten seconds, the life of both young lovers ends. 


    Tradition Is not Always Good

    Prince Escalus suggests the cause of their deaths lay on the families. For he exclaims that, “Where be these enemies?- Capulet, Montague, / See what a scourge is laid upon your hate (5.3.301-302).” As expected, the book ends in tragedy with the two star-crossed lovers.

    Escalus pointed out the real issue with their feud. If the families had forgiven each other earlier, then these deaths would not have happened. After reading this play with more maturity, I understand how heavy the burden of family loyalty can be. As I grow older, the choices I make not only affect me, but also those around me.


    For more theatrical pieces including strong women, click here to read more from our GirlSpring contributor Sherrod Wilbanks!