How are women in The Odyssey and Romeo and Juliet similar?

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ybeverly eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some parallels can be drawn between Anticlea, Odysseus's mother in The Odyssey, and Juliet, Romeo's wife in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.  Each of these women has to deal with the men they love being forced to leave home.  Anticlea understands the sacrifice her son must make when he is told that he must leave to fight the Trojans.  When he doesn't return for over a decade, she believes that he must be dead, and, the grief too much to bear, she takes her own life.  Similarly, Juliet has to deal with the heartbreak of Romeo's banishment from Verona.  And of course, in the end, when she realizes Romeo is dead, she, like Anticlea, takes her own life.  Each of these women commit suicide because they cannot deal with the idea of a life without their loved one. 

Two other women who share similar traits are the Nurse from The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, and Eurycleia, the loyal servant in The Odyssey.  These elderly women act as nurturers, advisers, and loyal confidantes.  Eurycleia is a female servant who nursed both Odysseus and his son, Telemachus, when they were babies.  Faithfully, she keeps Telemachus's journey secret from Penelope.  When Odysseus finally returns home in disguise, Eurycleia recognizes the scar on his leg, but she doesn't give him away.  The Nurse in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet plays a very similar role.  She acts as the trusted adviser to Juliet.  When Juliet meets, falls in the love with, and secretly marries Romeo, a boy whose last name is supposed to make him her mortal enemy, the Nurse keeps Juliet's secrets from Lord and Lady Capulet.  She even assists the two lovers in their secret conversations and meetups.  It is clear that Eurycleia and the Nurse both play an important supportive role to the main characters.