The Portrayal of Women of Elizabethan Era in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet” is considered the most remarkable play that has in the center two young characters that became the most representative and iconic love story for the world. His plays remain standing and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in various cultural and political contexts.
The tragedies that he wrote including “Hamlet”, “Othello”, “King Lear” and “Macbeth”, are considered some of the finest works in the English language.
As a feminist approach, we can mention that in Shakespeare’s plays the female characters are represented in three ways.
Sometimes we see a pure woman who tragically dies once her innocence is lost (Juliet: ‘Yea, noise…let me die.’ (5.3.182-184 Romeo and Juliet), a fatal female who manipulates men, or for the comic relief a spicy, rude, sexual in her speech woman. In the play Juliet is compared to the sun that symbolizes the daylight, the truth and Rosaline is compared to the moon which means dark and sadness.
Women in Shakespeare are not considered equal first of all because their lives are controlled and dictated by men. However, some women are also perceived as intelligent and manipulative but most of these women in Shakespearean plays die. Men control everything so women don‘t have influence in big decisions in their lives. (‘Marry, that ‘marry…for his love.’ ‘(1.3.65-76) Romeo and Juliet)
If we discuss the female personality in Shakespeare they vary. Some are warm, delightful, friendly; others cold, distant, detached and dismissive. Some speak with confidence; others with humbleness.
Women who think for themselves are often punished by fate, usually with death. (“Women may fall when there’s no strength in men.’’ Act II, Romeo and Juliet)
Other critics point out that even Shakespeare’s most favorably portrayed women possess characters that are tempered by negative features. They suggest that this indicates that Shakespeare was not free of misogynistic inclinations that were deeply established in the culture of his country and era. For example within the texts of the plays, charges of immorality are often leveled against young women, and ladies occupying positions of power are frequently portrayed as changeable and highly corruptible.. The women are not capable to handle serious issues and challenges and because of this lack they can not be true leaders.
If we look through the psychoanalytic perspective of the male character Romeo, he is in love with the idea of being in love. He is ruled by his id most of the time and by his super ego less. The only thing that determines his decision is physical appearance and it has nothing to do with the actual person. Romeo wants love and to be in love with someone beautiful but his emotions and reactions show us that he is arrogant,impatient, and impulsive. His qualities are revealed by other characters like Capulet who says: ‘’ And, to say truth, Verona brags of him to be a virtuous and well governed youth.’’
When Romeo thinks that Juliet dies and sees her lifeless and cold he decides that he can not live without her and takes his own life by drinking a potion, which happens to be a more feminine method of suicide. (‘’ Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide/Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on/The dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark./Here’s to my love! (drinks the poison) O true apothecary,/Thy drugs are quick. /Thus with a kiss I die.’’ Act 5 Scene 3)
The role of men in society begins with power and sexual authority. The females on the other hand in the city of Verona are considered to be a completely different class than that of men.
Juliet is an innocent girl who has never even been in love until she meets Romeo. When she falls in love with Romeo, a Montague, she cannot understand the consequences of her action so she totally surrenders to the man who worships her. (‘’Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.’’ Act 1 Scene 5 )
In the play ‘’Romeo and Juliet’’ Lady Capulet exemplifies the projected principles of women in that time, ‘ Here in Verona, ladies of esteem,/ Are already made mothers./ By my count/ I was your mother much upon these years'(1.3.70-72). From a very young age, a female is forced to get out from her own parents home and she is immediately placed in the household of her husband. She is unable to make her own decisions and living her own free life.
In conclusion, each of these characters is an example of the many ways in which Shakespeare used his ability to create a lasting work legend even if the women are portrayed as creatures of passion and irrationality, and men are the superior ones.
As William Shakespeare says ‘’ For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo.’’
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