I have been assigned with a task on the play Romeo and Juliet written by the famous playwright William Shakespeare. Within my assignment I have to write about the way in which females are seen to assume a secondary role and what William Shakespeare might be trying to say about the role of women in society. Romeo and Juliet was first published in 1599. It is set in early 13th Century Verona. Although William Shakespeare is writing about the early 13th century the way in which he writes about women is how they were treated in the 16th Century.
In this era women were seen as child-bearing objects, their principal roles being that of a mother and a wife. In this quote Sampson actually says those women are objects to adore and to admire. “Women being the weaker vessel Are ever thrust to the wall. ” (Sampson) Act 1 Scene 1 At this time “love marriages” weren’t really seen as relevant or necessary. Many marriages were normally arranged by parents. Marriages were also arranged due to social status. The more higher a woman’s social status, the more likely she was to get married to an aristocrat or a merchant etc.
Even when a woman got married and started running her husband’s business and estate or did something independently, she didn’t really have control over her own identity or over any property. A woman was educated to prepare herself for this fate. Women that were more likely to marry aristocrats and merchants etc. were trained how to write letters, dress properly and maybe learn how to draw and paint. The play Romeo and Juliet conveys this message of the improper treatment of women quite often.
Firstly according to the English Language when names are written they are normally written in alphabetical order. In the title of this play alphabetically Juliet should come before Romeo but because of the era in which this play was written and published was in my opinion very sexist Romeo’s name has come before Juliet’s. Another way that clarifies this is the order in which the actor’s names are written. Musicians, servants and priests names are written before Juliet’s even though their parts in the play are quite minor. “What noise is this? Give me my long sword, ho! ” (Lord Capulet) Act 1 Scene 1
The above quote shows that men in this period of time always want to be in charge, always want to have the upper hand even over other men and will try to fulfil this desire of theirs by any means necessary. Furthermore Lord Capulet and Lord Montague have larger roles than their wives, even though the question of marriage is normally discussed by both parents. This reveals the value of a women’s opinion in this period of time. An important factor to consider is that even though Juliet has been asked for her hand in marriage she has not seen much of the world or even of the area that she lives in.
Properly she has only perhaps gone to worship and confession at Friar Lawrence’s cell. “My child is yet a stranger to the world, She hath not seen the Change of fourteen summers” (Lord Capulet) Act 1 Scene 2 Shakespeare portrays through these lines that in this era women were kept within the boundaries of their home. Put side by side with a child of today Juliet’s social life is very limited and restricted. Throughout the play most men treat women as if they are show pieces there for the admiration of men. This includes Romeo.
At the beginning of the play he is swept of his feet by Rosaline, but as soon as he sees Juliet he is swept of his feet by her. This shows that if another girl, prettier than Juliet would be to appear on the scenes he would just dump Juliet and make a beeline for her. Although this was the way of society, Juliet tried to take control of her life. Juliet is very defiant and doesn’t really listen to anyone. “Go ask his name if he be married, My grave is like to be my wedding bed. ” (Juliet) Act 1 Scene 2 In the above quote Juliet acts very independently and makes her own decision.
The decision being that she will only marry Romeo. Juliet is a very determined and an extremely head strong character. When she sets her mind to something it is very hard to get her to change it. Juliet is portrayed as an only child who is full of free will. She is raised and educated as a normal girl of that age but although her parents have already made plans for her (e. g. her marriage to Paris) she doesn’t let this get in the way of what she wants. Juliet’s father doesn’t realise or see her as a young woman who is determined to do what she wants and who will go to any length to get it, he sees her as just another girl.
The nurse is portrayed as a deceitful character who two-times Juliet, she listens and agrees with Juliet’s side of the story but then again she also listens to her parent’s side of the story and agrees with them also. The nurse is also the person who tells each lover who the other one is. Conclusively I feel that Shakespeare’s play does convey the message that in the 16th Century women were show pieces and only good enough to play mother and fulfil the desires of men. I also agree with the fact that in this play females are seen to assume a secondary role.
I also think that females were discriminated and prejudiced and males should have given them equality and rights. If this happened the whole ending and outcome of this play could have been different. I think William Shakespeare is trying to portray women as something that you put on fireplaces as a piece of decoration. I think he is also trying to say that they were treated like fireplace ornaments as well. They were restricted from a lot of things including their rights. Overall women were treated like toys when you need to play with their there and when you don’t you can put them away for later.