During the Elizabethan Era, when Romeo and Juliet was written, society was ruled by men. Women had few rights and, on the stage, were often presented as weak. Shakespeare presents the character of Juliet in a similar light at the beginning then, as the play progresses, her character changes from not being interested in marriage to killing herself because her husband is dead. At the beginning of the play Juliet is exactly as the Elizabethan community would have expected from a rich, unmarried girl.
She is obedient, chaste and quiet. “I’ll look to like if looking liking moves/ but no more deep will I endart mine eye/ Than your consent gives me strength to make it fly”. Juliet is saying to her mother that she will look to like Paris but only as far as her mother wants her to. This proves that Juliet is an obedient girl because she is willing to do what her mother asks even though she is might not want to. We know that she does not really want to get married because of what she says previously.
She also proves that she sticks to the expectations that Elizabethan people hold of her because this is one of the few things Juliet says throughout the entire scene. This shows that she only speaks when she is spoken to and also the fact that she does not voice any of her opinions. The reader learns very little about her character in this scene because she says so little. When Juliet says “It is an honour that I dream not of” she is telling the audience that she is chaste because she has not even thought of marriage yet.
Therefore, Shakespeare has shown Juliet in a weak light as he has presented her as chaste, obedient and silent which, in the eyes of an Elizabethan audience were good qualities in a young, single woman. When Juliet meets Romeo for the second time, Romeo has already heard Juliet declare her love for him so she wants to try and find out how he feels about her. She is already starting to act differently from being around him. She starts to act quite forward towards him, which was unusual for an Elizabethan lady: “if thou think’st I am too quickly won/ I’ll frown and be perverse and say thee nay”.
She is saying that if he thinks she is to easily won, then she will pretend to be distant and ladylike. This is already a different Juliet that the audience is getting a glimpse of because it was not proper for young females to be forward to men. In this scene she says long speeches where as in act I scene 3 she says very little and only speaks when spoken to which so little about her nature. She is also the one that brings up the subject of marriage even though in the pervious act she says marriage is a dream she has not thought about. If that thy bent of love be honourable, / Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow”. This shows the audience that she is chaste and she doesn’t want Romeo to muck her about which makes the audience emphasise with her because she is still trying to What might have shocked the audience was when Juliet openly complains about the conventions of woman in the Elizabethan era. “But trust me gentleman, I’ll prove more true/ than those that have more cunning to be strange. This means trust me gentleman.
I will be more genuine and devoted to you than other woman who do the proper thing and deceive you by hiding their feelings and not being forward. She says to Romeo that woman are supposed to be false and criticises it by saying that herself, who is not false but open, forward and genuine, is better than them. So Shakespeare has now changed Juliet’s character from someone who is the perfect Elizabethan girl to a girl who is disobeying her parents and marrying an enemy to them in secret. Near the end of the play Juliet is almost a completely different character.
When Lady Capulet says that Juliet’s father has arranged a marriage for her on the coming Thursday but Juliet is already married – and therefore cannot marry Paris – and that this means that the secret marriage might be discovered. Juliet says “Now, by Saint Peter’s Church and Peter too, He shall not make me there a joyful bride”. Juliet is panicking and in this scene she is talks considerably. This is a very different character than the audience saw in act 1 scene 3 who was silent, obedient and chaste. In this scene she is quick to tell her parents what she thinks and she disobeying her father by not saying that she will marry Paris.
This is a big change for a character to make. Juliet is now standing up for herself and voicing her opinions which was frowned open for young woman at this time. Also in this scene Romeo has just left her room after they consummated their marriage so she is no longer chaste either. Finally Shakespeare has shown Juliet’s real personality and what she really thinks about things. In conclusion, overall Shakespeare did not show Juliet as a weak female character. Firstly she is presented as weak character but as the play progresses and she is faced with lots of problems she becomes a more and more strong character.