Dicuss how silencing women in society in the play Romeo and Juliet would be received differently by Elizabethan & contemporary audiences.

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let us remember that we are talking about two very different time periods in history. Women in Shakespeare's time, especially those born into high society such as Juliet, were regarded ultimately as an asset to be married to whom the father chose. Issues such as love were secondary at best, and most often fully absent from the question of who daughters would marry. Women then were regarded as property, to be given to whom their fathers chose, in accordance with what marriage would give them more wealth and connections. This of course explains the treatment of Juliet by her father in Act III scene 5 when he insists upon her marrying Paris:

Thursday is near; lay hand on heart, advise.

And you be mine, I'll give you to my friend;

And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets,

For, by my soul, I'll ne'er acknowledge thee,

Nor what is mine shall never do thee good.

Whilst modern audiences would no doubt be shocked by such words and the vehemence of this kind of langauge, in which Lord Capulet clearly states that Juliet is "his" property and he has every right to "give" her to his "friend" with or without her permission or acquiesence, we must remember that this would have been perfectly normal in Elizabethan times. Women had fewer rights and thus were silenced with impunity. Of course, in our society today, such lines invite outrage and feminist condemnation.

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Romeo and Juliet

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