Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet are from two prominent and feuding families who reside in the city of Verona, a real city in northern Italy. As far as the audience are aware, they are their parents’ only offspring, the only other ‘children’ in the family are Benvolio and Tybalt, cousins to Romeo and Juliet respectively. As only children, their parents are naturally protective of them – Juliet’s father, especially. Towards the beginning of the play, in Act 1, Scene 2, Paris asks Capulet for permission to marry his daughter. In Elizabethan times (when the play was written and performed), it was the job of the father to give away the daughter, as if she were a present or his property, rather than her own person. Rather than just give away his daughter to Paris, a young nobleman, kinsman to the prince, and someone who would be seen as a ‘good catch’ for a husband, he tells him: ‘But going o’er what I have said before, My child is yet a stranger in the world, She hath not seen the change of fourteen years, Let two more summers wither in their pride, Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride’ From this speech that Capulet is protective of his daughter, and whilst he wants her to marry a fine man (she tells Paris to come back in two years), he doesn’t want her to grow up too quickly. It would appear that he has her best interests at heart. In the following scene, we first see the relationships between Juliet and her nurse and mother. Her mother seems somewhat out of touch with her daughter, having to ask the nurse to find her… (‘Nurse, where’s my daughter? Call her forth to me’)
and doesn’t seem to be able to talk to her daughter, other than through the nurse or in her presence ‘This is the matter:--Nurse, give leave a while, We must talk in secret:--nurse, come back again; I have remember'd me, thou's hear our counsel. Thou know'st my daughter's of a pretty age..’ However, she does appear to have some consideration for her daughter’s feelings and wishes, as she asks her what she thinks of marrying the nobleman, and to start thinking about marriage; she also makes her speech a little more personal by putting in some of her own experience (that she was a mother at the age her daughter now is): ‘Well, think of marriage now; younger than you, Here in Verona, ladies of esteem, Are made already mothers: by my count, I was your mother much upon these years’ Whereas Juliet seems to respect her mother (first referring to her as ‘Madam’ rather than, perhaps, mum or Mother), she seems to be more at ease talking to her nurse .It would appear that Juliet and her nurse have always been close… even to the point of the nurse taking over the traditional mother’s job of breastfeeding her child. She makes a reference to this in the same scene: ‘And she was wean'd,--I never shall forget it,--Of all the days of the year, upon that day: For I had then laid wormwood to my dug,’…‘When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool, To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug!’ Above, the nurse talks of breastfeeding Juliet. This is, of course, very unusual in this day and age, but not quite unheard of in Elizabethan times. The fond fashion in which the nurse remembers this, however, seem to indicate that Juliet and the nurse have a strong relationship. The fact that she was breast-fed by her nurse rather than her biological mother hints that perhaps the nurse was (and is?) more of a mother to her than Lady Capulet. The nurse also seems friendlier than Lady Capulet – by saying things such as ‘Amen, young lady! Lady, such a man as all the world - why, he's a man of wax’ and‘ Go, girl, seek happy nights to happy days’, she seems to be more excited about Paris’s proposition than Lady Capulet. Act 3, scene 5 in some ways seems a distorted reflection of Act 1, scenes 2 and 3.Capulet has arranged to marry Juliet off to Paris, and once again it is Lady Capulet that has the job of telling her. However, the Capulets’ stances...
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