In Act I, Scene I, Lady Capulet and Lady Montague display a different attitude towards the family fued than their husbands. Please describe the contrast.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the opening scene of the play, a fight breaks out between the Montague and Capulet servants, which involves Benvolio and Tybalt. When Lord Capulet enters the scene, he is prepared to fight and asks for his sword. Although he is old and practically incapable of harming his enemy, he is determined to participate in the brawl. Lady Capulet criticizes her husband's reaction by saying, "A crutch, a crutch! Why call you for a sword?" (Shakespeare, 1.1.66). When Lord Montague challenges Lord Capulet, Lady Montague intervenes by telling her husband, "Thou shalt not stir one foot to seek a foe" (Shakespeare, 1.1.70). She is adamant about preventing her husband from participating in the skirmish and demands that he stop antagonizing the Capulets.

Both Lady Capulet and Lady Montague are opposed to their husband's violent reactions and attempt to dissuade them from fighting, which aligns with their feminine gender roles of the 16th century. Essentially, the husbands anticipate fighting their enemies while the wives criticize them for their aggressive, ridiculous reactions to the melee. After Prince Escalus breaks up the fight and Benvolio explains what happened to incite the riot, Lady Montague proceeds to ask him about her son. She is depicted as a typical loving mother, who is more concerned about her son's emotional state than the brawl that just took place.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Both women are shown to be averse to the fighting that is taking place in fair Verona.  The introduction that the audience has to both of them is that they are forces of pacifism in an environment charged with the volatility of fighting.  Consider Capulet's exchange with his wife as representative of this.  Capulet demands his "long sword" while his wife uses "crutch" interchangeably with a sword, indicating her perception of both.  Lady Montague is even more demonstrative against her husband's wishes to fight.  As he brandishes his sword, she warns him in a stern and focused manner that "Thou shalt not stir one foot to seek a foe."

Both women are shown to be forces of reason in a setting where the lack of it is dominant.  Lady Montague shows that she is more concerned with her son than the feud with the Capulets.  After the Prince admonishes both household leaders, she pivots her husband's attention away from fighting and towards their son.  In doing so, another aspect in which the women are shown to be less focused on fighting than the men is evident.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial