The balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet as depicted by Ford Madox Brown in an 1870 painting
|Play||Romeo and Juliet|
|Associates||The Nurse (surrogate mother)|
Juliet is the female protagonist and one of two title characters in William Shakespeare's romantic love tragedy Romeo and Juliet, the other being Romeo. Juliet is the only daughter of Capulet, the patriarch of the Capulet family. The story has a long history that precedes Shakespeare himself.
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The play takes place over a time span of four days. Within these few days, Juliet is thrust into adulthood quickly—where she must deal with issues of life, romance, love, passion, and even death. During the play she is courted by a potential husband (Count Paris), strongly falls romantically in love with another (Romeo), marries Romeo secretly, experiences the death of her first cousin Tybalt, has one brief passionate, romantic night with her new husband before he is forced to leave the city, is threatened by her father and nearly disowned by both of her parents for refusing to marry the man they have chosen for her, she is let down emotionally by the nurse who raised her from infancy, spends nearly two days drugged to unconsciousness, is widowed, and ultimately commits suicide near the body of her dead husband.
Shakespeare's Juliet is a headstrong and intelligent character in spite of her young age, though she often seems timid to the audience because of her old age. She is considered by many to be the true hero of the play, acting as a sounding board and a balance against the impulsive Romeo. It is Juliet who sets the boundaries of behavior in her relationship with Romeo: she allows him to kiss her, she pledges her commitment before him, and it is she who suggests their marriage. Juliet's forgiveness of Romeo after he kills Tybalt indicates her mature nature in contrast to his passionate impulsiveness. Furthermore, Juliet lies and clandestinely subverts her family's wishes, a truly rebellious action against traditional Italian society. These actions and the choices they require establish Juliet as a far more complex character than her family, or even Romeo, appreciate.
Juliet's wealthy family lived in Verona, headed by old Capulet and his wife. She was their only child and was thought of as a gift from heaven. As a child, she was cared for by her nurse, who is now her confidant, or Juliet's stepmother.
In Juliet's first scene, she demonstrates her obedience and lack of experience in the world, outlining herself as inexperienced and in many ways dependent on her parents and nurse. She does not even give marriage a second thought but she does want to do what her mother asks. It is high time that Juliet go the route Lady Capulet went in her youth, and be married to a rich and powerful gentleman like her father. The Count Paris is a bit of a bystander in the play however, unwittingly mixed up in the drama between the families. The to-be couple only ever met once in the Friar Lawrence's cell, which was very brief. His interest in her is primarily based on her social standing and her family's vast wealth, in contrast to her youthful beauty. He politely and nobly asks Capulet for her hand, and apparently would like her to begin bearing his children as soon as physically possible: "Younger than she are happy mothers made" (1.2.12). Juliet, on the other hand, has no interest in becoming a wife and the mother of Paris's children: "(Marriage) is an honour that I dream not of" (1.3.68). Even her father at first considers her too young to settle down. This may be a reflection on his feelings about his own wife, who might have been happier waiting a few years before marrying him. He tells Paris to let Juliet grow up for a few more years before planning marriage, but he pompously disagrees (1.2.10–11) . Of course, Juliet's mind on the matter changes within a few minutes of meeting Romeo, but when Paris is mentioned to her by her mother in act three she reverts back to an immature, whining, almost infantile state.
Romeo too seems to achieve depth through his intense love with Juliet. When compared to the pining and frustration he exhibited during his crush on Rosaline, his behavior toward Juliet and her family and his attitude in general both show a level of great maturity. The feud that one day had seemed all-encompassing now makes no sense, and he abandons it. Much of Romeo's dialogue with Juliet is an intricate pattern of words. Their rhyming couplets sometimes come together to create a poem. This symbolizes their union, and shows that Juliet can easily match Romeo in wordplay.
It is not clear exactly why Romeo and Juliet love each other, beyond immediate physical attraction. They were married not 24 hours after their first meeting. Fate plays a constant role in the story. Their love is "death-marked" (1.1.9), the lovers are "star-crossed" (1.1.6), and Romeo feels he is being led by the stars as a ship is steered by its pilot. The idea may be that the heirs to these two families were fated to end up together to end the feud, and their deaths may or may not have been part of that fate. The play may be interpreted differently according to the whim of the reader or viewer. The series of disastrous events that leads to their deaths may have been just a part of the destiny, or it may have been what shattered the fate and made the story a true tragedy. Either way, peace comes to the families.
One aspect of the story which now seems problematic is Juliet's age. As the story occurs, Juliet is approaching her fourteenth birthday. She was born on "Lammas Eve at night" (August 1), so Juliet's birthday is July 31 (1.3.19). Her birthday is "a fortnight hence", putting the action of the play in mid-July (1.3.17). Her father states that she "hath not seen the change of fourteen years" (1.2.9). In many cultures and time periods, women did and do marry and bear children at an early age. Romeo and Juliet is a play about Italian families. Lady Capulet had given birth to her first child by the time she had reached Juliet's age: "By my count, I was your mother much upon these years that you are now a maid" (1.3.74–75).
Even Capulet tries to encourage Paris to wait a little longer before even thinking of marrying his daughter, feeling that she is still too young; "She hath not seen the change of fourteen years, Let two more summers wither in their pride, Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride". However, in the English poem the story is based from (Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke) Juliet is approaching her sixteenth birthday and Romeo is the same age whereas in the Bandello novella she is nearly eighteen with Romeo about twenty. The common English people of that age were very rarely in their teens when they married and even among the nobility and gentry of the age, brides thirteen years of age were rare, at about one in one thousand brides; in that era, the vast majority of English brides were at least nineteen years of age when they first married, most commonly at about 23 years, and most English noblewomen were at least sixteen when they married. That the parts of young women were played by pre-adolescent boys in Shakespeare's day also cannot be overlooked and it is possible that Shakespeare had the physique of a young boy in mind during composition, in addition to the fact that Romeo and Juliet are of wealthy families and would be more likely to marry earlier than commoners. At the time, English noblewomen married on average at 19–21 years (compared to 24–26 years for English noblemen) while the average marriage age in England was 25–26 years for women and 27-28 for men; Sir Thomas More wrote in his Utopia that, in Utopia, women must be at least 18 years of age when they marry and men at least 22 years.
The common belief in Elizabethan England was that motherhood before 16 was dangerous; popular manuals of health, as well as observations of married life, led Elizabethans to believe that early marriage and its consummation permanently damaged a young woman's health, impaired a young man's physical and mental development, and produced sickly or stunted children. Therefore 18 came to be considered the earliest reasonable age for motherhood and 20 and 30 the ideal ages for women and men, respectively, to marry. Shakespeare might also have reduced Juliet's age from sixteen to fourteen to demonstrate the dangers of marriage at too young of an age; that Shakespeare himself married Anne Hathaway when he was just eighteen might hold some significance.
In today's Verona
Casa di Giulietta
In Verona, an early 14th-century house at Via Cappello no. 23, claiming to be the Capulets' has been turned into a tourist attraction but it is mostly empty. It features the balcony, and in the small courtyard, a bronze statue of Juliet. It is one of the most visited sites in the town. The metal of its chest is worn bare due to a legend that if a person strokes the right breast of the statue, that person will have good fortune and luck in love.
Many people write their names and the names of their beloved ones on the walls of the entrance, known as Juliet's wall. Many believe that writing on that place will make their love everlasting. After a restoration and cleaning of the building, it was intended that further writing should be on replaceable panels or white sheets placed outside the wall.
It is also a tradition to put small love letters on the walls (which is done by the thousands each year), which are regularly taken down by employees to keep the courtyard clean.
Club di Giulietta
Since the 1930s, letters addressed to Juliet keep arriving in Verona. As of 2010, more than 5,000 letters are received annually, three quarters of which are from women. The largest single group of senders are American teenagers. The letters are read and replied to by local volunteers, organized since the 1980s in the Club di Giulietta (Juliet Club), which is financed by the City of Verona. The club has been the subject of a book by Lise and Ceil Friedman and is the setting for a 2008 book by Suzanne Harper and a 2010 USA movie, Letters to Juliet.
A number of famous actresses have portrayed the role of Juliet:
- Mary Saunderson was the first woman to play Juliet professionally. Previous actors had all been males.
- Eliza O'Neill won her fame with Juliet at Covent Garden, 1814.
- Katharine Cornell had a notable Broadway success as Juliet opposite the Romeo of Basil Rathbone in 1934, and revived the production with Maurice Evans as Romeo and Ralph Richardson as Mercutio the following year.
- Peggy Ashcroft was one of the great Juliets in history, most famously in the 1935 London production directed by John Gielgud, in which Gielgud and Laurence Olivier alternated the roles of Romeo and Mercutio.
- Norma Shearer in George Cukor's Romeo and Juliet (1936). Leslie Howard was her Romeo.
- Judi Dench had a great success as Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli's 1960 London production.
- Olivia Hussey portrayed Juliet in Zeffirelli's 1968 film, Romeo and Juliet,; Leonard Whiting was her Romeo.
- Niamh Cusack portrayed Juliet in 1986 with The Royal Shakespeare Company. Sean Bean was her Romeo.
- Claire Danes was Juliet in Baz Luhrmann's modernized 1996 version, Romeo + Juliet, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo.
- Gugu Mbatha-Raw portrayed Juliet at the Royal Exchange Theatre's 2005 production.
- Hailee Steinfeld portrayed Juliet in Carlo Carlei's film adaptation, opposite actor Douglas Booth as Romeo.
- Deepika Padukone portrayed Juliet in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 2013 Hindi adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela
- In Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss, Juliet is portrayed as a white seal and is voiced by Patricia Trippett while her brother Daniel did the voicing of the brown seal Romeo.
- Fumie Mizusawa voices Juliet in the heroic-fantasy adaptation Romeo x Juliet by the Japanese animation studio GONZO, with Takahiro Mizushima voicing Romeo; Brina Palencia and Chris Burnett portrayed the characters in the English-language version.
- In Gnomeo & Juliet, Juliet is a Lawn gnome voiced by Emily Blunt.
- The Academy Award-winning film Shakespeare in Love depicts history's first Juliet as being illegally played by Viola de Lesseps, a woman (Gwyneth Paltrow).
- In her music video Love Story, American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift played the part of Juliet. The plot was transformed to a happy ending, instead of tragic.
- In the credits of Toy Story 3, one of the Squeeze Toy Aliens/LGMs play the role of Juliet dressed up in a dress, a wig and a princess hat.
- In the climax of "Casting Call" from The Mysteries of Alfred Hedgehog, after Camille Wallaby who is beautifully dressed solves the mystery with Alfred and Milo, she is chosen to be the perfect Juliet by saying her famous words.
- In The Sims 2 Juliet reappears as Juliette Capp.
- In the episode "Chem Gems" from Danger Rangers, during the song called "Don't Touch That", the pink cat Kitty portrays Juliet.
- In the sitcom Wizards of Waverly Place, actress Bridgit Mendler portrays Juliet (Juliet was a vampire and the Romeo of the show was Justin Russo, portrayed by actor David Henrie. In this episode, their families' feud was a result of rival sub shops). However, after her disappearance in the episodes, she later at reappears various times in the series.
- "Act 2 Scene 2". OpenSourceShakespeare.org. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, Arthur Brooke.
- Franson, J. Karl. 1996. "Too Soon Marr'd": Juliet's Age as Symbol in 'Romeo and Juliet.' Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 32, No. 3
- Laslett, Peter. 1965. The World We Have Lost. New York, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p 82-86
- Young, Bruce W. 2008. Family Life in the Age of Shakespeare. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p 41
- Uzgalis, William. 1997. Utopia, by Sir Thomas More. New York: Ideal Commonwealths. P.F. Collier & Son. 
- La casa di Giulietta, Verona – IgoUgo
- Veronissima. "Veronissima – Juliet's Wall Graffiti". Veronissima.com. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- "Terna02 – Juliet’s graffiti at the D'Orsay Museum in Paris". PremioTerna.it. 2009-09-04. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- "Desenzano Lake Garda Italy — Verona — Romeo and Juliet". DesenzanoItaly.com. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Hooper, John (19 May 2010). "Dear Juliet: the fans who write to Shakespeare's heroine". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
- Halio, Jay (1998). Romeo and Juliet. Westport: Greenwood Press. p. 100. ISBN 0-313-30089-5.
- Sneider, Jeff (2011-06-21). "Douglas Booth, thou art 'Romeo'". Variety. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Bevington, David, Ed. Romeo and Juliet, The Bantam Shakespeare (New York, 1988)
- Levenson, Jill L., Ed. Romeo and Juliet, The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford, 2000)
- "Juliet's Taming of Romeo" Carolyn E. Brown; Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900, Vol. 36, 1996
- "A Psychological Profile of Shakespeare's Juliet: Or Was It Merely Hormones?" Nancy Compton Warmbrod The English Journal, Vol. 69, No. 9 (Dec., 1980), p. 29