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Why do neither Romeo nor Juliet tell their parents about their marriage, thus...

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coryengle | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted February 2, 2012 at 9:28 AM via web

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Why do neither Romeo nor Juliet tell their parents about their marriage, thus preventing their ultimate suicides?

Is it because of their distant relationships with their parents; is it yet another example of Romeo and Juliet as a tragedy of miscommunication? I know that Friar Lawrence proposes that they will eventually let their marriage be known, after Romeo spends some time in Mantua. I just don't understant why he didn't do it sooner.

This is a question that has been bugging me throughout my study of the play :p

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susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted February 2, 2012 at 9:43 AM (Answer #1)

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You have a very good question.  In an ideal world, both Romeo and Juliet would have told their parents about their marriage, and their parents would have graciously approved.  But you must keep in mind the setting of Shakespeare's play.  Shakespeare begins the play with a street brawl between the Montagues and the Capulets. This brawl shows the enmity that exists between the two houses.  Capulets do not like Montagues, and vice versa.  This dislike begins with the aristocrats and seeps down to the servants.  We can see parallels today between such groups as the Irish Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Arabs, Southern blacks and whites--wherever there is a history of violence and retaliation. In many households, a marriage between these two groups of people would not be accepted, and violence might even erupt.

We get a glimpse of Capulet's temper when Juliet tells him that she does not want to marry Paris.  He threatens to cast her out on the streets and to disown her.  Imagine what he would have done to her had he found out that she was married to one of his lifelong enemies.  Shakespeare portrays a patriarchal setting, in which fathers controlled whom their daughters married. Juliet acting on her own for love, no less, would have been seen as a betrayal, an act of disrespect.  We don't know as much about Romeo's parents, but we can assume that they might act much the same way.  The young lovers felt desperate.  They turned to each other because their families would not have helped.


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