Examine the role of women in Romeo and Juliet. During the time the play was written, women were expected to follow orders and men were expected to be in control. Are the female characters in the play controlled by men? Or does Shakespeare see women as just as important as men?

Shakespeare sees women as just as important as men in Romeo and Juliet, as evidenced by Juliet's agency and determination to make her own decisions.

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I don't think it is fair to try and answer this question in absolutes. I personally think that Shakespeare treats the women in the play with just as much value as he does the men, but I do think that there are moments in the play when Shakespeare is reflecting the cultural expectation that women were expected to follow the orders of men. This isn't that shocking of an idea. Shakespeare's plays were his time's version of movies and television shows, and in my media studies course, students examine how entertainment media is like a funhouse mirror: it reflects and distorts. As an example, consider the portrayal of families and parents in a lot of TV shows and movies. Parents are present in many of these shows, but many of the shows portray the parents to be utter idiots. Loving parents are generally reflective, but idiot parents tend to be a distortion.

Romeo and Juliet handles women in a similar manner. The women are indeed controlled and subservient to men in certain instances. Act 3, scene 5 is a good place to look for support. Capulet expects Juliet to happily marry Paris. Juliet tries to speak up for herself, but he doesn't care. His decision has been made. Lady Capulet doesn't strongly defend her daughter either. Her husband has made a decision, and she is expected to follow it and support it. That expectation is also extended to the nurse, and the scene ends with the nurse basically telling Juliet to do as her father commands.

Of course Juliet doesn't listen to her father. She has her own will and desires, and she acts upon those. If she didn't do that throughout the play, it wouldn't be that exciting of a play. We need the women in the play to be independent at various points because their actions help create the conflict and the tension. This alone should show audiences that Shakespeare sees female characters as just as important as their male counterparts. The females drive the play forward. The nurse helps arrange the clandestine marriage. Juliet goes through with faking her death. These are valuable moments in the play that women are fully in control of. The female characters are every bit as important as the men.

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