Comparison of the Female Characters in Romeo and Juliet
In William Shakespeare’s classic play Romeo and Juliet there are three main female characters, Lady Capulet, her daughter Juliet and their Nurse Angelica. They are all very different in their approaches to various life situations; this is partly because they are from different social status, with different backgrounds and outlook on life. In particular their views on love and marriage are very different.
Romeo and Juliet was written in the Elizabethan period, during this period going to the theatre to watch a play was a very popular thing, so Shakespeare’s plays had to fit in with what people of that time wanted to see. Romeo and Juliet was a prime example of what they wanted to see. Many of Shakespeare’s characters reflect the time period in which the play was written, for example Lady Capulet's age of getting married and having Juliet (around 13) was very normal at that time, but that is extremely young by today’s standards.
All of the women are different in every one of these categories, except of course that Lady Capulet and Juliet are both upper class. Therefore they have very different characteristics and mannerisms although they do have some similarities. This makes for a very interesting ‘clash’ of personalities in the story.
The nurse is very much lower class and common and it was the usual thing for someone of that social standing to be a nurse for a rich family. The Nurse obviously had quite a deprived family background, her parents were probably poor but they raised Angelica to be a very happy, outgoing and exuberant lady. Lady Capulet probably had very rich but rather unfeeling and distant parents and this has imprinted itself on her, as you can see in the way that she treats Juliet.
The Nurse has looked after Juliet ever since she was born and she was her wet nurse for a while as well. This means that they formed a very special relationship while Juliet was very young; Lady Capulet was never there at the early and the most important stages of Juliet’s life. This was because Lady Capulet wanted to enjoy her life and not be tied down by having to look after a child – this was a typical upper class female attitude of the time. For this very reason Lady Capulet – although very confident and controlling – finds it very hard to talk to Juliet by herself so she never forms a proper relationship with her. This is displayed when Lady Capulet first introduces the idea of marrying Paris, she cannot talk to Juliet by herself:
‘This is the matter nurse, give leave awhile,
We must talk in secret. Nurse, come back again,
I have remembered me, thou’s hear our counsel’
Lady Capulet is also not very close to her husband as she was a victim of an arranged marriage where love was not at all important only money and status. Arranged marriages were very typical of the time and they were to be the fate of many upper class teenage women. This is exactly what Lady Capulet wants to do with Juliet, marry her to Paris because he is rich; this just shows how cold and distant Lady Capulet is.
The nurse was first employed because she had her own daughter – Susan – so she would be able to breast feed Juliet, unfortunately Susan and Angelica’s husband died so she was employed full time. This is a good thing for Angelica because otherwise she would probably not be able to survive without the Capulets’ continued employment.
The nurse unlike the other two women is very funny and loud, she always talks about sex and she makes many sexual innuendoes for example in Act 1 scene3 when she says:
‘No less, nay bigger; women grow by men’
This is a clever play on words; she means that by marriage women grow in status but also in size by becoming pregnant! She is always very exuberant and outgoing whereas Juliet only occasionally is and Lady Capulet never is. The nurse always tries to give Juliet good advice but it isn’t always such good advice, this is...
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