Gender Roles in Romeo and Juliet
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet resorts to conniving and shrewd ways in order to control her destiny and free herself from her confined existence. Contrary to the critics who view Juliet as innocent, childish and immature, Juliet’s habits of manipulating people–particularly the men in her life, expressly Romeo–through simulating maleness implies a parallel between the approaches falconers (mostly males) use to train their falcons (mostly females) (Radel). Juliet lures Romeo into taking their relationship to a deeper level, contriving him into professing love and proposing marriage. The gender role reversal becomes more apparent as Romeo slowly loses his independence and becomes increasingly “flighty”, and Juliet, grounded and sensible, assumes the role of “tamer”. In the event of another character Mercutio’s death, Romeo enters into a crisis of masculinity. Romeo comes in touch with his feminine side, which he attributes to his love for Juliet. Juliet is the dominant one in her relationship with Romeo, inverting the gender roles stereotypical to 16th century Elizabethan society.
In contrast to typical perception, Juliet has multiple dimensions to her personality. Juliet’s complex personality enables her to manipulate people into thinking she is sweet and innocent, and then lower their self-esteem without feeling any guilt or contrition. This gives her the power to control others without any concern of consequence. In her article, “Juliet’s Taming of Romeo”, Carolyn E. Brown writes, “instead of perceiving Juliet as shallow, criticism is now more willing to admit that under the surface lyricism there is another dimension to her words and actions where her more independent, controlling, and rebellious nature is lodged” (Brown). Brown states that in common criticism, Juliet has always been viewed as an overly-dramatic teenager, but lately, it has been proven that while Juliet seems young and...
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