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Gender roles in Romeo and Juliet

Discussion in 'English' started by pixie_princess, Jul 23, 2007.

  1. I am currently preparing an essay on the gender roles in Romeo and Juliet and was wondering if anyone could help or offer suggestions of things to include?

    I have so far looked at the relationship between Juliet and Capulet, and how her behaviour (mainly her refusal to marry Paris) would have been seen as disobedient and 'shocking' for the time, but now I've hit a blank...

    The main focus is how Romeo & Juliet criticizes and attempts to challenge the gender roles of the time.

    Many thanks in advance

    :)
     
  2. I am currently preparing an essay on the gender roles in Romeo and Juliet and was wondering if anyone could help or offer suggestions of things to include?

    I have so far looked at the relationship between Juliet and Capulet, and how her behaviour (mainly her refusal to marry Paris) would have been seen as disobedient and 'shocking' for the time, but now I've hit a blank...

    The main focus is how Romeo & Juliet criticizes and attempts to challenge the gender roles of the time.

    Many thanks in advance

    :)
     
  3. What about the nurse? WQhat relationship does she have with anyone? The priest - father figure and priest all in one i- - think of romeo. Relationship with romeo and mercurtio -
     
  4. Oh so many things you could look at.

    Take the female characters one by one and look at their relationships with other characters. Ladies C & M with their respective spouses & children. Nurse with a variety of male characters. Juliet with father (and it changes - look at WHY Shakey did this).

    Male roles - parental, confessor/priest & class. Look at the Prince and his decree. Tybalt and his uncle (bearing in mind he is the heir to the name).
    How the Friar acts with both Juliet and Romeo.


     
  5. gruoch

    gruoch New commenter

    It rather depends upon your reasons for doing this. Are you looking at a feminist critique or a contemporary (Elizabethan) one?
     
  6. Thanks so much for the ideas!
    The basis of the essay is to look at how whether the play attempts to criticisize and attempt to revise traditional gender roles.
    I have recently been looking at how the female characters spend most of the play in the confines of their homes and whether this actually supports the traditional theory of women's place being in the home, but that's it so far!

    I'd be interested to hear other people's ideas and suggestions.
     
  7. And how Romeo's father clearly has no idea what he is up to - Benvolio has to fill him in.

    Think about how Shakespeare shows these differences in their language use.
     
  8. How does this attempt to revise traditional gender roles?

    Are there any examples which support the claim that the play criticizes or revises traditional gender roles?

    At the moment my research appears to focus on Juliet, and how Romeo changes throughout the play (from someone concerned with protecting his family's honour to how this changes when he falls in love)
     
  9. gruoch

    gruoch New commenter

    I don't think that Shakespeare had any intention of challenging gender roles - it would have been anachronistic if he did and the concept would have been utterly alien to him, so this must be a feminist/post feminist reading. (Actually, I have no idea what post feminist means, but it sounds impressive.)

    RnJ has more in common with Measure for Measure or A Winter's Tale (much later plays) than any others. it follows all the rules of comedy, but ends with the deaths of the protagonists. As these deaths were suicides and given that suicide is a mortal sin, I have often wondered how much sympathy we are supposed to have for the 'star cross'd lovers'.

    I'd be tempted to examine Juliet's defiance of her father as a starting point.
     
  10. Thanks! You've raised some really interesting points for me to think about, particularly about the idea being alien to Shakespeare.
    I do think that perhaps Juliet's relationship with her father will dominant much of the discussion.
     
  11. I suppose it could be argued that Juliet commits suicide, which is generally a male response to tragedy - females prefer to go mad...
     
  12. Also it is a male who uses poisons, also a traditional female method of working.
     
  13. You could argue that Shakespeare shows what will happen if roles are challenged and parents defied.

    Juliet, it would seem, would be the heir to the property of her father (she would be a weathly catch) BUT the title, Lor Capulet, would seem to be Tybalt's for the taking until Juliet has a child. Once he dies this whole idea is put into turmoil - this is presumably why Lord C is so concerned to marry Juliet to Paris so that he can once again have an heir to the title.
     
  14. Phew! For a minute I thought I'd missed some huge feminist subtext in Shakespeare's works!

    Seriously, the historian in me demands that you must not suggest that the dramatist "criticizes and attempts to challenge the gender roles of the time". This notion is utterly ahistorical. There may be some interesting feminist and post-feminist literature on their respective readings of the work of Shakespeare but it has no historical basis whatsoever!
     
  15. gruoch

    gruoch New commenter

    jslp - I am so with you on this. Shakespeare was all for the status quo and the Chain of Being.

    Mercutio is interesting, being of neither 'house'. I've just read something suggesting that Will may have played the part himself and killed Mercutio at the beginning of Act III before Mercutio killed him (not that Shakespeare would have referred to Act III, though!)
     
  16. You will have to show what the 'gender stereotypes' were, if you're going to argue that Romeo and Juliet challenges them. And that requires a very good oversight of Elizabethan society - assuming that they thought women should stay at home and do the cooking is a stereotyped view of the Elizabethans in itself!
    I don't think Shakespeare was interested in challenging anything, but I agree with post 12 - he examines what happens with particular people when they behave in a particular way.
    You could argue that it is more about individual wishes in competition with society's needs or family's best interests - reminds me of Jane Austen in that sense. Examines and but doesn't oppose.
     
  17. Angelfish, I also agree with your points.

    Mercutio is also an unstable character - perhaps this is also why he dies; he attempts to destablise the city by his actions. As Gruoch suggests, Shakespeare seems mch more interested in world order and was undoubtedly influenced by ideas of the Great Chain of Being. Remember, though, that being Shakespeare, he gives things that unique twist. Personally, I think he is much more interested in the actions of individuals in a varety of circumstances. We pick up upon the gender issues because certain things intrigue us. This is all to do with context - the context in which WE read the play, the context in which it has been read and performed and the context in which Shakespeare lived and wrote. There may also be the context og the time in which the play is meant to be set. Think about an onion and that's the complexity of it all.

    There is much interesting feminist commentary on Shakespeare and there is an interesting book called 'Women in Shakespeare', which examines some of the key roles and the actresses that have played them.
     
  18. Thanks so much, this discussion has generated some interesting ideas, I'm particularly interested by the idea that Juliet would have been heir to the Capulet fortune...
     
  19. gruoch

    gruoch New commenter

    Well, she is an only child but I don't think Shakespeare was considering this angle - there's no textual reference to it as far as I can remember.

    The arranged marriage between Juliet and Paris is a good one for both families. It is the love story which is atypical. Almost no-one married for love till relatively recently historically, and for a daughter to defy her father in this way would be pretty much unheard of. She'd probably have ended up in a nunnery in real life.
     
  20. No, Gruoch, it is not specifically mentioned in the text but if Shakespeare is following contemporary inheritance laws, the title would have gone to the next male heir and Juliet would have inherited monies and left-over property if she had not married and provided the next male heir. I would imagine his audience would have been familiar with these protocols. It would explain why Tybalt is so full of himself and his relatonship with Lord C as the next heir apparent at that time.
     

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