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Gender Roles in Shakespeare

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Throughout Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, there is an overlaying presence of the typical roles that men and women were supposed to play. During Elizabethan times there was a major difference between the way men and women were supposed to act. Men typically were supposed to be masculine and powerful, and defend the honor. Women, on the other hand, were supposed to be subservient to their men in their lives and do as ever they wished. In Romeo and Juliet the typical gender roles that men and women were supposed to play had an influence on the fate of their lives.

The beginning of Act one opens with a brawl in the street between the servants of the Capulets and the Montagues. The origin of the fight introduces the important theme of masculine honor. Sampson, one of Capulets servants, shows this masculinity by saying, "Draw, if you be men." (I.i.64). Later on in the play in Act II, scene i. the display of honor and masculinity comes up again during the fight between Mercutio and Tybault. As Mercutio lay slain Romeo says to him, "Courage, man. The hurt cannot be much." (III.i.96). Even as his friend is dying the two men try and act masculine because they did not want to show their fears. But on the other side of this masculinity is love. For Elizabethan society believed that a man who loved too much lost his masculinity. Romeo clearly subscribes to that belief when he states that his love for Juliet made him "effeminate."

During Elizabethan times women did not have much power over their lives. They typically did as there father or husband wished. Juliet's father could force her to marry whom ever he wanted, but Juliet's status as a young woman left her with no power or choice in any social situation. In Act 1, scene ii. Capulet appeared to be a kind hearted man and he defers to Juliet's ability to choose for herself, "My will to her concent is but a part" (I.ii.15). Juliet's mother, Lady Capulet also has an influence over Juliet and her life and puts pressure on Juliet to marry Paris (the suitor that her father picked for her to marry). Juliet admits the power of the influence of her parents when she says of Paris, "I look to like, looking liking move; / But no more deep will I endart mine eye / Than your consent gives strength to fly" (I.iii.100-101). The specter of parental influence is very evident in this scene and it shows the influence of the society that they lived in.

However, Juliet starts to show strength and intelligence that can be interpreted as a sort of passive resistance that at the end of the play ends her life. In Act II, scene iv, Juliet goes against the wishes of her father and marries Romeo. The morning after their wedding night Juliet



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