Major Theme in Romeo & Juliet – The Meaning of Gender
A major theme in Romeo and Juliet is the meaning of gender. Romeo and Juliet puts forward a myriad of points concerning masculinity. One example is Mercutio, who enjoys quarreling, fencing and joking. Mercutio is a character who enjoys showing off and displaying his authority and wit. He has definite ideas about what masculinity should look like. He criticizes Tybalt for being too interested in his clothes and for speaking with a fake accent. Similarly, he suggests that Romeo's love-melancholy is effeminate, while his more sociable self is properly masculine. Therefore, his happiest when Romeo rejoins his witty, crazy group of male friends: "Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art thou art, by art as well as by nature" Romeo's masculinity is constantly being questioned by Shakespeare throughout the course of the play. Following Mercutio's death, for example, Romeo fears that his love of Juliet has effeminised him: "Thy beauty hath made me effeminate/And in my temper soften'd valour's steel" so that his reputation as a man is "stain'd". In addition to this, the Friar accuses Romeo of being an “unseemly woman in a seeming man" and says that his tears are "womanish”. The play continually questions the correct role for men in the world. “Romeo and Juliet” seems to suggest that violence is not the way. In this respect, we must assume that the Prince is the best model of masculinity in the play, as he is impartial and fair, and he does not have the violent temper of Mercutio, nor does he have the passivity of Romeo. Great emphasis is placed on the fact that the Prince is not temperamental and detests civil violence.
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