What is Romeo's attitude towards women in Romeo and Juliet?

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missy575's profile pic

missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Romeo is criticized by Friar Lawrence for being only about women's looks:

young men's love then lies
Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.

This issue is further exemplified in Romeo's first sighting of Juliet:

O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows,
As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.

Here, it's all about appearances. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it is the first time he sees her.  But in Act II, scene ii, he again can't shut his face about her looks:

The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.

With Rosaline, he too placed entirely too much emphasis on appearances.  He talked about how it would be such a pity when she dies that no one will have experienced her beauty.

Although I really want to think highly of Romeo's attitude toward women, the entirety of the play demonstrates his emphasis on appearance which in today's society doesn't sit well with women. We want to be valued for more than that even if we are very attractive. His willingness to do just about anything to be in a relationship is evident as well, which is not necessarily good. He seems to be so much more in love with being in love than is healthy. I want to think his love with Juliet is genuine, but it is sure hard to watch a young man just turn in an instant like that from one girl to another.

coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Romeo has conflicting ideas and attitudes towards women in the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Firstly, he seems to place them up upon an impossible pedestal - with Rosaline he seems to be in love with the idea of her rather than her real self as an equal person.

Secondly, he seems capable of feeling anger towards them. In his feelings of self-pity and despair about the lack of reciprocation from Rosaline, there seems to run a little vein of anger - he can't understand why she won't love him back.

When he gets to Juliet however, Romeo's feelings have matured a little. He has met someone who feels the same way as he does - curious and interested. Juliet is more his type and they seem to be close in age.

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