How does the authority of Capulet affect Juliet and lead to her death in Romeo and Juliet? 

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act I of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Lord Capulet is portrayed as a benevolent father who wants what is right for his only daughter. When Count Paris asks to marry Juliet, Capulet tells him his daughter is too young. He says,

My child is yet a stranger in the world.
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years.
Let two more summers wither in their pride
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride.
Unfortunately Capulet is prone to change his mind and a few lines later he tells Paris that he will agree if Paris can win Juliet's love:
But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart;
My will to her consent is but a part.
And, she agreed, within her scope of choice
Lies my consent and fair according voice.
 
For her part Juliet wants to please her father and when asked about marrying Paris she says she will not do anything unless her parents give permission. She is the dutiful daughter who understands the hierarchy of the family prevalent in Renaissance Italy.
 
Later, however, Capulet becomes authoritarian when Juliet refuses to marry Paris after Tybalt is killed. Capulet believes a marriage will help soothe the grief the family is feeling. In a case of dramatic irony, he knows nothing of Juliet's marriage to Romeo. Still, he shows a dark side when he chastises his daughter for her refusal. He threatens to disown her if she won't agree to the marriage;
Hang thee, young baggage, disobedient wretch!
I tell thee what: get thee to church o’ Thursday,
Or never after look me in the face.
Speak not; reply not; do not answer me.
Capulet's abrupt decision to suddenly order Juliet to marry Paris could be interpreted as the beginning of the end for the young girl. After the nurse tells her to forget Romeo and marry Paris, she is distraught and can only turn to the Friar for advice. His plot for Juliet to take a sleeping potion and fake her death leads directly to the double suicide in the play's last scene.
 
The continuance of the feud, partly Capulet's fault, the inability of his daughter to speak to him in confidence and Capulet's last threatening speech to his daughter directly lead to Juliet's death.
 
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Romeo and Juliet

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