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Romeo and Juliet Rhetorical Analysis

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Romeo and Juliet

Chelsea Stewart

Discuss the relationships between parents and children in Romeo and Juliet. How do Romeo and Juliet interact with their parents? Are they rebellious, in a modern sense? How do their parents feel about them?
“Romeo and Juliet”, written by William Shakespeare in 1593, is widely known as a tragic drama, set in the city of Verona, where two star-crossed lovers take their lives in defiance of their parents’ wishes for them. “Romeo and Juliet” represents the strength of love and how those who experience it will go to extreme lengths to find happiness. The power of violence and the devastating impact it can have on a community is also explored. Both Romeo and Juliet did not have a healthy and strong relationship with their parents. Through changes of events throughout the play, Juliet’s originally fair relationship with her parents steadily declined and ended up quite defective. Moreover, Romeo and Juliet both did rebellious acts out of desperation to be together that they would not normally have done without their parents’ permission.

Driven by love, Romeo and Juliet do things they would otherwise never dream of. Romeo has clearly always been a bit rebellious. He sneaks into the Capulet Ball; even though he knew he was not on the guest list and that Lord Capulet was his own father’s rival. As seen at the beginning of the play, Romeo did not always let his parents know where he was or what he was doing and would stay out late. On the other hand, Juliet only seemed to become defiant once she fell in love with Romeo and prior to this, she would do anything to please her parents. After their first meeting, Romeo snuck up to Juliet’s balcony, which was essentially the beginning of their forbidden love story. Amongst the extensive list of disobedient actions Romeo and Juliet committed, was their secret marriage, Romeo sneaking back into Verona after being exiled and Juliet faking her death.

At the beginning of the play, when we first meet Romeo, he is a heart-broken child who only ‘lusts’ but does not love. Shakespeare makes this clear to the audience through Romeo’s dialogue as he only talks about Rosaline’s beauty, not about her personality or any other key aspect of her. An example of this is when he says to Benvolio “Oh, she is rich in beauty, only poor That when she dies, with beauty dies her store” (Act 1, scene 1). Here he is saying that she is very beautiful and that all her beauty will be wasted when she dies as she is poor and will not marry nor will she have children. Shakespeare is clearly demonstrating Romeo’s complete disrespect to women that he originally had and how he is only attracted to her beauty. Eventually, Romeo grows up through the course of the play and we see that it is not a childish mind making the decisions. These dramatic actions were obviously performed only to ensure they would always be together. Both Romeo and Juliet knew their behavior was risky, but in the desperation of their circumstances, they continued anyway. Juliet says “Love give me strength!” (Act 4, scene 1) when she is about to drink the sleeping potion which clearly shows that Juliet knows what she is doing is very dangerous. However, she calls upon love to give her luck and hopes that this will be enough. The actions in which Romeo and Juliet take part in a show the dreadful situation they were in and almost gives them justification to defy their parents.

Furthermore, Shakespeare explores the idea that parental figures do not have to be biological. Both Romeo and Juliet have adult figures in their lives that act more like parents to the young children than their actual parents do: the Nurse and Friar Lawrence attempt to help the couple throughout the play. Whilst the Nurse and Friar’s advice led to the eventual death of the protagonists, they were supportive, empathetic and dependable- much like real parents. The Nurse talks affectionately about Juliet, “the prettiest babe that ever I nursed” (Act 1, scene 3). The Nurse is the first person Juliet goes to when she realizes that she is in love. Similarly, Romeo is always seeking advice from the Friar. Whether it was about Rosaline or his anger toward Tybalt, the Friar knows and will instantly support him through his difficult times. The Friar says “In one respect I’ll thy assist be; for this alliance may so happy prove, to turn your households’rancor to pure love” (Act 2, scene 3). This shows how the Friar wanted to help Romeo and Juliet, but also everyone involved in the feud as he thought this would help bring peace. The Friar not only helped Romeo, but also Juliet in her time of need. When Juliet was desperate after Romeo’s banishment, the Friar helped her with the dangerous yet helpful plan of the sleeping draught concoction. The Friar and the Nurse both cared for Romeo and Juliet and evidently were much better guardians than the couple’s own parents.

Shakespeare demonstrates the fragile nature of parent: child relationships. Lord Capulet was originally quite kind to Juliet- evident through an interaction involving him, where he is happy to give Juliet a choice in her future and as to whether she will marry Count Paris or not. He says “[m]y will to her consent is only but a part; if she agrees, within her scope of choice lies my consent and fair according to voice” (Act 1, scene 2). Lord Capulet shows his respect of Juliet by acknowledging her right to make her own decisions to some extent. Juliet strives to please her parents and will even consider marrying a complete stranger if she must. She tells her mother and the Nurse that she will “look to like, if looking liking move: But no deeper will I endart mine eye than your consent gives me the strength to make it fly” (Act 1, scene 3). Juliet is expressing that she will try to genuinely love Paris, but even if she cannot, she will still ‘love’ him if it is what her parents want.
After she meets Romeo and marries him in secret, Juliet is no longer willing to marry Paris in order to satisfy her parents because it would mean being unfaithful to her Romeo. Juliet’s refusal is what causes a highly confrontational conflict in the final scene of Act 4. Lord Capulet, who has had a sudden realization of how precious time is after cousin/nephew Tybalt’s untimely death, became livid and irritated with Juliet’s disobedience. Capulet demanded that Juliet shall “go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church, or [he] will drag thee on a hurdle thither. Out, you green-sickness carrion! Out, your baggage! You tallow-face!”. He continues with “If you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend, if you not, hang, beg, starves, die ion the streets, for, by my soul, I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee” (Act 4, scene 5). Shakespeare highlights the weakness of Juliet’s relationship with her father through Capulet’s juxtaposing opinions and the harsh way he expressed them, causing Juliet to beg on her knees in fear. Shakespeare employs this to warn the reader of the vulnerability of bonds between parents and children, and how disagreements can be detrimental to this. The dramatic change in tension between the two emphasizes this message and places importance on strong relationships.

Ultimately, Lord and Lady Capulet and Montague both had poor relationships with their children. This lack of trust and respect on both sides led to Romeo and Juliet being disobedient. Both Romeo and Juliet were clearly changed throughout this play which is shown through contrasting actions from start to finish. The Friar and the Nurse were both guardian figures in their lives as a replacement for Romeo and Juliet’s own parents. They filled the hole where their actual parents failed to be good role models. Overall, “Romeo and Juliet’ represents the power of love and how it affects young minds, and also, it dissects the idea of violence and its effect on a close community.

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