Significance of Gender in Romeo and Juliet
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the Montagues and the Capulets have very different relationships with their children. A major reason for this, as well as much of the conflict in the tale, comes from the gender roles that Romeo and Juliet are expected to play into. Adding to that conflict is the fact that both Romeo and Juliet push the boundaries of these roles and struggle to fit into them. Romeo plays the over emotional lover, while Juliet is clever and dominant. Throughout the play we can see that both Romeo and Juliet have to struggle with the people around them because they are not acting within their respective gender roles. One of the first moments in the play where Romeo’s non-normative attitude towards love is addressed directly is when Mercutio, in Act 2 Scene 4, reflects on Romeo and Rosaline. “Why, is not this better now than groaning for love? / now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo; now art / thou what thou art, by art as well as by nature” (2.4.20). Mercutio is excited to have his friend ‘back’. In the the last two lines of this quote, Mercutio implies that not worrying over love is normal. That, in hanging with the boys and not following his wild emotions, Romeo is being what Romeo ought to be,“art as well as by nature”. The implication here is that the way he was reacting before to Rosaline is not natural. This lovelorn that overpowers all else Romeo feels comes back much harder with Juliet. Mercutio’s comment about Rosaline infers the abnormality of Romeo. This seed that is planted in the mind of the audience can then take root and be even more noticeable without Mercutio commenting on it directly with Juliet. In the first scene of Act 3, Romeo struggles with his masculinity versus his love. When he chooses not to fight Tybalt with Juliet in mind, Romeo open questions his own masculinity. He is after all, a part of this society and surely recognizes, to a certain extent, the unusualness of...
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