Marriage, Life and Religion in Romeo & Juliet Free essay! Download now
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Marriage, Life and Religion in Romeo & Juliet
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| Words: 1950 | Submitted: 08-Feb-2006
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DescriptionReligion today is completely different to how it was in the Shakespearian era, around 1590. This essay investigates this, and how the mentioned topics appear in Romeo and Juliet
Marriages could often be arranged at short notice, and be very unexpected “nor I looked not for” as Juliet says in surprise when told of her marriage with Paris. Often there was no attraction, and there would be no courting, and it was not uncommon for the bride not to see her husband until her wedding day. Capulet’s character goes under complete reform between Act1 Scene 2, and Act 3 Scene 5, as he goes from saying “My will to her is but a part” meaning that he will do whatever Juliet will want to do, to telling her she must marry, or “Die in the streets”. This sudden character change reflects how many rich fathers would react if their daughters rebelled against them, however this is very different to modern day life.
Even if the bride’s mother cared for her daughter’s feelings, she would seldom intervene, firstly because she would not be particularly close to her daughter, as the child would be raised by a wet nurse, especially among the richer families. Secondly, wives had no power against their husbands, as is shown in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ when Lady Capulet says to her daughter “Talk not to me, for I’ll not speak a word.” Lady Capulet says this she is too scared to speak out against her husband for fear of his wrath. In Romeo & Juliet we see a very close relationship between Juliet and her nurse, which was quite uncommon for those times, however the nurse cannot speak out against this outcry as she would loose her job, as Capulet tells her to “Have peace you mumbling fool”, and this pains her so.
“Fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next.” Says Capulet to his daughter, yet this is a rhetorical question because he will make her go there whether she wants to or not, dragging her “on a hurdle thither”. What is particularly surprising about this quote is that Capulet uses such harsh language against his only daughter, and what’s more is that she is only 14. This also has a juxtaposing effect, with “fine joints” and “hurdle”, a wooden rack used for dragging traitors to their execution. A further example of weddings having less to do with love and more to do with money is the fact that in ‘Romeo & Juliet’, before Juliet’s marriage with Paris, all the time is spent making food and preparing music, rather than concentrating on Juliet and that it will be her last night unmarried.
Religion in Elizabethan times was thrown into turmoil following the reformation when England broke with Rome. Matters were not helped either as the Protestant religion was being continued by Elizabeth after her father Henry VIII restarted it. In this Protestant church cracks started appearing with extremist groups such as the Puritans disapproving of society and the church.
Around the time when Romeo and Juliet was written, people were beginning to question traditional beliefs about rank and social order, and ideas that people should be superior just because they were born into wealthier families, or that those in power should always be obeyed without question. Perhaps this is shown in ‘Romeo & Juliet’ when Juliet does not follow her father’s ruling that she should not marry Paris and embarks on a risky plan to get away with Romeo: “Good father, I beseech you on my knees”. This quote shows Juliet actually begging her father not to make her marry Paris, by trying to appeal to his sensitive soul, yet he pays no heed to her: “ Hang thee, young baggage” telling her to shut up and listen to him, again reflecting his cruel and inappropriate language. The reason that Shakespeare made Capulet such a cruel and mean father reflects what life would have been like for the daughter of a rich family.
Friar Lawrence is very much a wayward religious character, as it is he that comes up with the idea that is “as desperate as an execution”. This is quite an ironic thing to say, as it suggests that if she decides to go ahead with his plan she could get killed in a very painful death like an execution, and his language here is desperate.
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