Through the play, Juliet’s treatment by Romeo and father can be quite surprising and ambivalent. Shakespeare portrays this by the use of language and different actions they use towards Juliet. Her father, Lord Capulet comes across as a considerate and concerned father. Shakespeare shows the audience this caring nature towards Juliet in the first act of the play. “ But woo her gentle Paris, get her heart”. You could say that Capulet is more or less giving Juliet a slight choice in what she does with her future, he tells Paris to win her love instead of giving Juliet no other options but to be married to him.
He tells Paris that his consent ‘is but part’ of the arrangement. It is quite unusual that Capulet is considering Juliet’s feelings and caring for her so much and therefore it can be argued that his caplets treatment of Juliet is quite surprising for the Elizabethan audience as this was not expected from any father to care about their daughters, but for us as our society is much different today it is usual as it’s obvious paternal love expected from any father. It’s natural for a father to arrange a healthy and happy life for their daughter but not in the Elizabethan era.
Moreover, Lord Capulet treats Juliet as a possession. Shakespeare portrays this by the way Capulet discusses Juliet and first introduces her into the play. “My child is yet a stranger in the world”- the use of the possessive pronoun ‘my’ indicates how Capulet sees Juliet; she belongs to him , this is typical for an Elizabethan father. Also the use of ‘yet’ suggests that he is aware of her innocence and inexperience. Additionally the word ‘stranger’ suggests that she is unaware of what the world, especially the world of marriage and a relationship is like.
The idea of marriage was in the Elizabethan era and so fathers would not care very much for their daughter’s happiness or wellbeing as they are more like objects than family, but on the other hand Capulet’s treatment of Juliet is the complete opposite. We know that Paris is ‘a man of wax’ and that any girl should find herself lucky to be married to him. Yet, Capulet asks Paris to take his time with Juliet. Although Capulet treats Juliet as a possession, he also treats her with respect.
This is shown by Capulet’s thoughtful and loving behaviour. “Earth hath swallow’d all my hopes but she”. Shakespeare personifies ‘swallow’d’ to state that life took his other children and buried them into the earth, but not Juliet and she is his only hope. As Juliet is his only child left, she is very precious to him and he is hesitant on loosing her. This gives us the view that Capulet is not too keen on Juliet getting married just yet as he thinks she is too young, “She hath not seen the change of fourteen years”.
Contextually, Elizabethan fathers would marry their girls as soon as they got a change to, consequently it can be argued that Capulet’s treatment towards Juliet is quite unpredicted coming from an Elizabethan father as he does not want to rush Juliet into anything though most women her age are already mothers. We know that Capulet wants Juliet to stay young “too soon marred are those so early made” which contradicts with the Elizabethan lifestyle as he is saying if you marry young, you grown up faster and he does not want this, we get the idea that Capulet wants to keep Juliet for as long as possible.
Moreover, Capulet treats Juliet with importance. Shakespeare presents this by the adoring approach used by Capulet. “She is the lady of my earth”. The use of ‘lady’ shows value as he is not calling her a ‘girl’ or ‘child’ he decides to call her ‘lady’ which gives her seem significant. The use of astral imagery ‘earth’ shows how appreciated Juliet is to Capulet, he presents that Juliet is his world and without her there is not life. Juliet’s father loves her, which is quite unpredicted for an Elizabethan father as they usually didn’t care much for their girls as they were seen as objects and irrelevant to them.
However Capulet treats Juliet much differently to what is expected in the Elizabethan era, but quite usual for our society today so it is not surprising for us. He sees her as his legacy and wants her to grown to be just like him. At this point in the play we see how much Capulet loves Juliet and how he try’s his best to make sure she has a happy and loving future. On the other hand, Capulet doesn’t play good father for too long, he is not too happy when Juliet refuses to marry Paris.
Shakespeare shows us this by the use of verbal abuse from Capulet and the dramatic changes in character. “Out you baggage”-The use of ‘baggage’ presents Juliet as unnecessary weight that weighs him down. He treats Juliet much differently to what he did in the early stage of the play. I think Capulet’s change in character is due to the fact that he had respected Juliet so much before, more than other fathers would ever respect their daughters and she had not disobeyed his ‘orders’ which he found surprising as he was used to Juliet valuing him and his decisions.
It is usual for a father to come out of character in this situation of disobedience so it is not out of context and would not be surprising for the Elizabethan audience. Capulet continues to treat Juliet as an object. “You green-sickness carrion”. This is an ides that she’s not worth anything. She is dead to him as she is now worthless leftovers. The use of ‘greensickness” portrays paleness and death. In our perspective, it is seen as harsh behaviour and we see Capulet’s reaction as too dramatic but for Elizabethans this is what was expected if they do not follow their parent’s orders.
Capulet’s views Elizabethan women as weak, although Shakespeare does not, so he uses Capulet’s stereotypical character to show this. On the other hand, Romeo treats Juliet with respect. Shakespeare displays this by the consideration in Romeos speech. “O then dear saint let lips do what hands do”-he asks Juliet for her permission and he doesn’t undermine her just because she is a female, which is unusual for an Elizabethan man as usually they are the ones in power.
Romeo refers to Juliet as ‘saint’ this shows he worships her and people worship saints and Juliet is his saint therefore he worships Juliet. Romeo treats Juliet equally and sees her as a partner. Unlike Capulet, he does not view her as property. The treatment Romeo gives Juliet is quite odd because most men would feel that they should be the ones in control and view women as weak and fragile but Romeo sees Juliet as the complete opposite, know she is his “bright angle” she is what brightens his mood and day, Juliet controls him. Romeo treats Juliet with priority.
Shakespeare presents this by the affectionate way Romeo talks about Juliet. “Juliet is the sun”. The use of astral imagery ‘sun’ implies that Romeo believes without Juliet there is no life and she lights up his world. This is similar to how Capulet viewed Juliet. Capulet also used Astral imagery to describe Juliet ‘lady of my earth’ so at this point we could say the treatment of Juliet from birth Romeo and Capulet is very similar. Also, Romeo sees Juliet as the epitome of love; she is the meaning of love! Moreover, Romeo treats Juliet with trust.
Shakespeare shows this by the over-dependence on Juliet from Romeo. He gives her power by allowing her to make decisions such as plan their wedding. Planning a wedding is usually the bride’s job in our society today but in the Elizabethan era, they didn’t get much say on their wedding either. Juliet also controls his moods. “Nothing can be ill if she is well”. The treatment by Romeo is very hyperbolic and melodramatic, he chooses to excaudate allot as he is hopelessly in love with her, he would do almost anything to be with her.