Nov 18, 2014
Shakespeare's tragedies Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet are plays with multiple layers, motifs, and themes. He uses poison and suicide as a motif, in order to show that the roles people play are poisoned and uses death to represent a way out of those roles, especially for women who seem to be marginalized sexual beings. The theme, women as a sexual being, is presented in both plays. Juliet is portrayed as an independent sexual woman and Gertrude and Ophelia are dependent sexual women. The role of women is important because women represent a tool which men use to manipulate their circumstances; in Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is a woman who knows what she wants and who she is, all the while struggling to push back male dominance; in Hamlet, Ophelia and Gertrude are used willingly as instruments for the enhancement of their male counter parts. The dominance by men causes the women to make decisions with fatal ends; all three women cannot act freely because of the constraints of their male centered society. Shakespeare uses the plays, albeit in extremes, to show how men sexualize and moralize women, which distorts their roles and actions to propel the characters toward negative outcomes; the way he uses these roles shows us the damage and tragedy of women stuck in these roles, suggesting that women should be allowed to have their own feelings, emotions, sexuality, and identity.
Juliet is a strong female character; her independence goes against the social construct of a noble society. We fall in love with Juliet who follows her heart and rejects the social requirements of her father. He wants her to marry for the enhancement of wealth and status. Being a strong-minded woman, she falls for Romeo, who is the antithesis of what her father wants. It is because of her independent nature that causes trouble for her role in society and her response to male dominance moves the play forward; she makes decisions without her father's consent, which shows how important it is for women to own their sexuality and womanhood. As Romeo is exiled from the kingdom Juliet becomes grieved, her father thinks her grief is because Romeo killed Tybalt. Both her father and the Friar think she will go insane if she grieves too much; it is as if they think she cannot handle loss properly because she is a women. Juliet's father thinks that if she marries Paris then she will stop grieving the loss of Tybalt. He meets with Paris and formulates a plot for her to marry quickly in order to subdue her emotions. This intimates that if she were allowed to truly feel her emotions they would cause her great harm and it is up the men in society to guide, direct, and protect women from themselves. Her father uses manipulation to cause her to submit, by saying that he will throw her out in the streets to fend for herself if she doesn't marry Paris (3.5.160-163). He demeans her by calling her a disobedient wretch, which suggests that she doesn't have any right to her own opinion or decisions; without her family she would literally starve to death; her only option for survival is to submit to her father.
Juliet turns to the Friar, who creates a plot to fake her death. Juliet decides to take the Friar's advice and trick her father into believing that she has died so that she can be free to live with Romeo. This plot is formulated by another male in her life and had it not been for the Friar, there may have been a better plan. The women are portrayed in stereo types which are: women are powerless in times of grief (3.v.131-137), women cannot make decisions without the hand of a strong male leader (3.iv.13-16), and women don't have the right to choose who they love (3.4.20-23). The messages are subtle but apparent in Romeo and Juliet. Here Shakespeare shows male dominance in comparison with female independence.
Juliet is a heroine who is controlled by the men in her life. She must...
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