Before Juliet meets Romeo her attitude towards love and marriage is completely different to her feelings after she has met him. When we are first introduced to Juliet in Act 1 Scene 3 she says very little and appears insular and distant. Her responses are short and to the point with no evidence of flowery language, particularly when the subject of marriage is brought up. She sees marriage as, “…an honour that I dream not of.” We learn that Juliet is an airy character, who is unsure of what she wants in life. She feels she is far too young to marry, which are the feelings of her father exactly. It is clear that there is a distinct lack of communication between Juliet and her mother. She is not very attached, close or friendly to Lady Capulet. Lady Capulet uses the nurse as a go-between, “Nurse, where’s my daughter? Call her forth to me”.
The nurse being her main ‘mother figure’, clearly adores Juliet, “…I bade her come. What, lamb! What ladybird! God forbid! Where’s that girl? What Juliet!” There is evidence here of Juliet’s emotional state as the nurse still sees her as a child and litters her response to Lady Capulet with childish terms of endearment. However the nurse, is very caring and concerned for Juliet’s welfare, and is the only person who knows virtually everything about her. We are also told that Juliet is rather isolated, therefore lacking of friends, leaving her only real friend as the nurse. Juliet is a highly desirable, well-educated, religious young woman, who is portrayed as having a very confused state of mind.
Act 1 Scene 5 consists of Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting at the Capulet’s feast. The whole scene is quite breathtaking and anyone who has ever experienced something close to “Love at first sight” would recognise the symptoms of breathlessness, excitement and a longing to speak the lines of a poet. Quite suddenly there is a point to life.
Juliet is taken aback with Romeo’s romantic approach and when he offers his hand to hers, she likens it to a “palmers kiss”, a reference to the pilgrims who made long journeys to the shrines of the Holy land and brought back palm leaves as proof of their visits. “…For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands to touch, and palm to palm is holy palmer’s kiss.” This whole scene, whether read, seen at the theatre or on film, strongly conveys the concept of “love at first sight”. Juliet reveals her emotional state when Romeo is leaving. “Go, ask his name…if he be married, my grave is like to be my wedding-bed”.
On first seeing Juliet at the feast Romeo loves her from the very first moment. She, in turn falls instantly in love with him. This moment in time is completely electrifying for them both. Juliet being a very religious young woman would obviously take to Romeo through the speech he uses towards her. He uses words such as profane, sin, devotion, faith, trespass and pilgrims, portraying to Juliet that he is also highly in favour of religion. The language the two new found lover’s use matches each other’s to a certain extent. Juliet speaks just as much as Romeo, which portrays a certain change already, for when we first met Juliet she was a very quiet, timid girl. Romeo acts very charmingly towards Juliet, wanting to kiss her, paying her compliments and putting himself down, “If I profane with my unworthiest hand…” However, Juliet acts in a more mature and self-controlled manner, “Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hands too much…” Romeo proves to be very persistent and flattering, leaving Juliet no choice but to let him get his way. Juliet thinks Romeo follows a book in his actions, “You kiss by th’book.”
When they fell in love what they did not realise was that they were supposed, loathed enemies. The moment Juliet discovers the true identity of Romeo she realises “My only love sprung from my only hate!” She is devastated and extremely distressed at finding out what has happened to her. Already Juliet talks about love and marriage, so from declaring in Act 1 Scene 3 her disposition to be married as, “an honour she dreams not of”; Juliet is now offering a sincere declaration of love.
During Act 2 scene 2 the use of contrasts forms a completely different view of Juliet. Whilst the nurse meets with Romeo, Juliet waits very impatiently for her return and the news she will bring. As she waits she begins a soliloquy,
“The clock struck nine when I did send the nurse;
In half an hour she promised to return…
O, she is lame! Love’s heralds should be thoughts,
Which ten minutes faster glides than the sun’s beams,
Driving back shadows over louring hills”
Juliet is incredibly desperate to find out how Romeo feels about her at this point in time, for she has only recently met him for the first time. The way she uses contrasts between light and dark, shows her impatience and confusion. There are considerable movements in Juliet’s language. Shakespeare seems to increase dramatic tension by portraying Juliet’s increasing impatience to learn the news the nurse will bring, and then again when the nurse uses all kinds of methods to delay telling her. At the beginning of the play we saw her language as being very direct, her language now has evolved to being very philosophical. Throughout the soliloquy at the beginning of the scene I noticed how she switched from her flowery, dreamy language to strong, powerful language.
When the nurse returns, Juliet immediately begins asking questions. This scene shows Juliet’s immature side, by the incredible amount of punctuation used in her speech. As the nurse arrives she does not greet her, which she normally undoubtedly would have, but bombards her with her urgent questions. Shakespeare proves to use comically effective language when after her nurse uses the excuse of being too out of breath to tell her the news she has brought, Juliet says:
“How art thou out of breath when though hast breath
To say to me that thou art out of breath”
Juliet is unbelievably anxious to hear what has been said, that she will not let the nurse rest. She is increasingly frustrated by the nurse’s irrelevant replies, at last she hears the longed-for news: Romeo waits to marry her at Friar Lawrence’s cell. We detect a considerable change in Juliet’s behaviour. At the beginning of the play Juliet was very polite to her nurse and her parents, but despite being so close to her nurse we see her in an erratic state of mind and is very spiteful, cruel and selfish towards her nurse. The very aspect of this makes me think what love is turning her into. Juliet’s language throughout this scene changes from her deep soliloquy to monosyllabic and simple words when her nurse comes home, her language returns to how it was at the beginning of the play, direct and blunt. Juliet’s desperation is shown by her expression and the varying types of words she uses; she uses commands, talking ‘at’ the nurse rather than ‘to’ her. She also uses interrogatives when the nurse frustrates her by her constant mocking. This scene shows a lot about the relationship Juliet and her nurse hold, despite Juliet seeming rude and insistent, the nurse is blatantly teasing her, and the scene is purely comical.
Act 3 is the turning point of the play; the deaths of both Mercuito and Tybalt change everything. Romeo finds out his punishment for killing Tybalt is banishment from Verona. When Juliet learns that Tybalt is dead and Romeo banished, she begins to accuse Romeo of seeming beautiful but acting vilely, but then rebukes the nurse for wishing shame on Romeo. From this we see the confusion and switch of emotion going through Juliet’s head.
Act 3, scene 5 shows Romeo and Juliet after their wedding night together. Juliet tries to persuade Romeo that it is not yet dawn, and not yet time for him to leave her. At first he says he must go, but then resolves to stay and face capture and death. This scene is a very important scene for Juliet because it shows the beginning of her betrayal to her family, and then how the nurse turns her back on Juliet and betrays her.
Before Romeo leaves they act in a very mature manner, in both the way they speak and act. This scene is the last time they see each other alive, and I think they subconsciously knew that that might be the case. The names they call each other express their love for one another: ‘love’, ‘lord’, and ‘my soul’. The way they try to hold on to their last moments for as long as possible shows just how much they mean to each other. However, realisation is also a form of maturity, and this is shown as they realise they cannot fight against time any longer.
When Romeo had left, Juliet’s mother came to inform her of her arranged marriage to Paris. Juliet’s mood quickly switches from depression to anger. As her mother enters the room Juliet is crying, because she was unaware of the circumstances, she automatically thought her tears to be for her cousin.
“Indeed, I never shall be satisfied
With Romeo, till I behold him – dead –
Is my poor heart so for a kinsman vex’d”
This speech holds a double meaning, so can be seen in two different ways. Lady Capulet will be thinking she is saying ‘I shall never be satisfied until I behold Romeo dead.’ However, Juliet is actually saying ‘I shall never be satisfied until I behold him. Dead is my poor heart vexed.’ Shakespeare’s phrasing here is very cleverly done. Juliet is insistent that her mother cannot find out about her marriage to Romeo but the last thing she wants is to speak badly of him. We see just how her love for Romeo is influencing Juliet, she has begun to deceive and lie to her parents. Her defiance can only expand from here. In turning down the offer of marriage to Paris Juliet says:
“I will not marry yet; and when I do, I swear,
It shall be Romeo, who you know I hate,
Rather than Paris.”
Again she is showing hatred towards Romeo to her mother, as an example of how much she does not want to marry Paris. This whole issue portrays a new side to Juliet’s character, she decides upon her beliefs rather than to let her parents dominate as they used to. She speaks in an aggressive tone, which we never heard from Juliet before she fell in love. After being dismissed by her father, saying
“Hang thee, young baggage, disobedient wretch!
I tell thee what: get thee to church a’Thursday,
Or never after look me in the face…”
By this we see what a towering rage Capulet flies into after hearing of Juliet’s refusal to marry Paris. His threats and insults break her down, but not enough to turn her back on her beliefs. Instead she tries to turn to her mother for support,
“O sweet mother, cast me not away!
Delay this marriage for a month, a week;
Or, if you do not, make the bridal bed
In that dim monument where Tybalt lies.”
We see from this that Juliet and her mother have a very false relationship, Juliet is desperate for reassurance and both her father and mother dismiss her.
She realises that the nurse is her only direction for source of support:
“O God – O nurse, how shall this be prevented? …”
Juliet’s last expectation is that the nurse will also dismiss her, so immediately indulges herself into an inflexible self-sorrow. Her words show she is in need of comfort and reassurance:
“What sayst thou? Hast thou not a word of joy/.
Some comfort, nurse?”
The nurse said nothing since Lady Capulet left the room, leaving Juliet uncertain why her nurse, her only friend has not tried comforting her in any way. Juliet’s sudden bombardment of questions shows how reliant she is on her nurse, and that she is still quite immature in this way, and not ready to face the world on her own.
The nurse decides to turn her back on Juliet’s feelings and tells her she thinks she should marry Paris, because with Romeo being banished means he is basically dead. This is the very last thing Juliet wanted to hear, it now becomes clear in her head that she is alone, and has no one now. Juliet is astounded at the change in her nurse, and realises she cannot tell her anything from now on. From the Nurse’s behaviour and advice Juliet is left distraught, surprised, feels like her only real friend in life is turning against her, and she is unaware of the reason why.
Juliet is feeling the pressures now, being alone. Her dad is furious; she feels she will only have a home if she marries Paris. Not only are her parents threatening her, but also her religion adds to her dilemma. She recognises that only by Romeo’s death can she sincerely take a faithful vow to marry Paris.
Act 5 Scene 3 is the scene in which Juliet wakes to find Romeo’s dead body. When she does this her attitude appears to be one of calm acceptance as if she always knew that their relationship was ill fated and would come to this. In this scene as Friar Lawrence pleads with her to leave, “…for the watch is coming,” she courageously stands her ground, wanting to stay with her lover. “Go get thee hence, for I will not away.” Whilst the act of finding Romeo’s dead body may temporarily have unbalanced her mind, she appears very practical. Her language is purposeful, strong and single-minded, searching for a way to join her lover in death. Indeed, on discovering that Romeo took poison, she hastily takes the cup, “O churl, drunk all, and left no friendly drop to help me after.” Once again, her language shows a maturity far beyond her fourteen years and this is further supported when with detached emotion she declares, “…O happy dagger, this is thy sheath,” and stabs herself. The way she gives her life for him without a thought proves her love can only be true, and just shows the extent of her love.
Throughout the play, Shakespeare continually chooses language, which takes us on a journey with Juliet. From an introverted child who was still strongly guided by her nurse and only spoke when spoken to, she developed into a strong-willed woman who surrendered everything for love, including her family and ultimately, her life. Her passion for Romeo knew no bounds and as the play develops, Shakespeare conveys the change in Juliet by the clever use of language. Personally I find it difficult to comprehend Juliet as someone to admire, bearing in mind her ultimate demise, but I do envy her single-minded passion for Romeo.
I cannot condone any form of suicide, even if it is a love pact, and I found their deaths such a prodigious waste when they both had their whole lives in front of them. I am not sure that “love at first sight” is a real phenomenon but Shakespeare, again through the use of Juliet’s language, certainly had me believing that it was possible. With the endless oxymorons, metaphors and similes for imagery, repetition and puns Shakespeare managed to convey the change in Juliet’s character amazingly. He manages to portray the despair, joy, confusion and understanding that they feel, as well as their love for each other. I believe that one of the main reasons that this play has been so successful is the fact that many of the emotions we experience today are covered.