Examine and explore the development of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.Does Juliet mature and change?

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shakespeareguru | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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I would say that some things about Juliet's character seem to remain steady, but that she also changes in at least one very significant way from beginning to end.

Let's begin with the ways that she remains consistent.  I would say that throughout the play she is a brave, direct and headstrong girl.  The circumstances in which she displays these attributes are:

  • her open conversation with her family's enemy (Romeo) at her family's banquet when she has been instructed to spend time with Paris
  • her asking Romeo if he means to marry her in the balcony scene
  • her going through with the secret wedding
  • her having Romeo in her bedroom on her wedding night when the rest of the house is grief-stricken over Romeo's murdering of Tybalt
  • her decision to go against her whole family and ask the Friar for help in avoiding the marriage to Paris
  • her taking of the potion given her by the Friar
  • her stabbing of herself upon waking and finding Romeo dead.

All of these actions are consistent with a girl who knows what she wants and is determined to get it.

There is a way, however, that she seems to mature through the course of the play.  She must, even though she still lives under her father's roof, separate herself from the opinions and commands of her family to stand on her own two feet.  When she must lie to the Nurse about "accepting" Paris as her husband at the end of Act III, scene V, she signals the audience that she has grown up enough to be willing to act completely on her own.  And in Act IV, scene iii, when she says to the empty room:

Farewell.  God knows when we shall meet again.

I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins

That almost freezes up the heat of life.

I'll call them back again to comfort me.

--Nurse!--What should she do here?

My dismal scene I needs must act alone.

she realizes that she is a child no longer.  In this moment, Juliet has grown up, realizing that no one will shelter and protect her anymore, nor will they fix her problems or make them go away.  She must face the world as grown-ups do, alone.

For more on Juliet's development in the play, please follow the links below.



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