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Love in Romeo and Juliet

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Much of the tragedy that occurs in Romeo and Juliet is caused by the pressure they feel from their society to conform to cultural expectations. In Romeo and Juliet's society the expectations were for girls to marry young and immediately bear children, marry a man based off of his wealth and status, and any attraction that may have been present was shallow and physical; but despite these beliefs, Shakespeare proves that one act of love can mend this divided society.

From the very beginning of the play, Juliet is informed that she is more than old enough to marry and begin having children. Lady Capulet explains to the Nurse, "Thou knowest my daughter's of a pretty age... Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen" (1.3.10/17). Juliet has not yet turned fourteen and her mother is already beginning to pressure her into considering marriage. Lady Capulet uses the common excuse of "everyone else is doing it" to validate her argument when she tells Juliet "Well, think of marriage now; younger than you/ Here in Verona, ladies of esteem/ Are made already mothers" (1.3.69-71). Lady Capulet feels the need to conform to society's standards and feels she is falling behind when Juliet is not yet married and already bearing children. In this society, girls were expected to marry very young, almost as if as soon as they were fertile, and start having children. The Nurse admits "Now, by my maidenhead at twelve year old" (1.3.2), where she reveals that she was married when she was only twelve years old. From a young age, Juliet was told what her expected role in society was, to marry and bear children. The Nurse's husband let Juliet know of this from when she was just a toddler when he told her, "Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit" (1.3.42). The Nurse's husband was making a sexual remark that Juliet should soon learn that her purpose is to conceive and bear children. From such a young age Juliet had an understanding of her role in society.

Not only did society expect girls to marry very young, but a girl should aspire to marry a man who would increase her family's wealth, status, and overall honor. It didn't matter if the girl loved, or even so much as liked the man, as long as he was rich and viewed highly; she should feel honored to marry him. Capulet and Paris come to an arrangement that Juliet is to marry Paris. When Juliet is informed of this the Nurse excitedly states, "Why, he's a man of wax" (1.3.76) referring to Paris as a perfect and idealistic man, as if he were carved out of wax. Capulet also calls Paris, "A gentleman of noble parentage/ Of fair demensnes, youthful and nobly ligned/ Stuffed, as they say, with honourable parts" (3.5.181-183). Paris is seen as the perfect man because he is of noble birth, which automatically makes him honorable and an ideal mate of Juliet in society's eyes. When Juliet



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