Mothers are noticeably absent from many of...
In Renaissance Europe at the time that Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, and during the period in which the play is set, women were wholly subservient to men. Wives were subservient to their husbands, and daughters were particularly subservient to their fathers.
Mothers are noticeably absent from many of Shakespeare's play, including The Tempest, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, and Taming of the Shrew, among others, leaving the daughters to fend for themselves with their fathers. To complicate the father-daughter relationship, the daughters in these plays are at a transitional point in their lives often involving marriage, which is the situation with Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.
Juliet's mother, Lady Capulet, is alive and present in the play. Even so, Lady Capulet's behavior is typical of wives of the period, in that she defers to her husband in all areas of their life together. Everything, including the raising of Juliet, is ultimately up to Lord Capulet. For this reason, Lady Capulet proves to be of no help to thirteen-year-old Juliet at any time during the play.
Juliet and her father, Lord Capulet, have no interaction in the play until act 3, scene 5, which is well past some of the most significant events of the play, including the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt, Romeo and Juliet's marriage, and Romeo's banishment from Verona. In fact, the scene between Juliet and her father occurs the morning after Juliet and Romeo spend their first night together as husband and wife.
To this point in the play, Lord Capulet has been protective of Juliet, advising Paris that "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" (1.2.9-11), but later in the play he's authoritative and altogether indifferent to Juliet's feelings.
CAPULET. Sir Paris, I will make a desperate tender
Of my child's love. I think she will be rul'd
In all respects by me; nay more, I doubt it not.
Wife, go you to her ere you go to bed;(15)
Acquaint her here of my son Paris’ love
And bid her, mark you me......' Thursday, tell her
She shall be married to this noble earl. (3.4.12-17, 21-22)
In act 3, scene 4, Juliet is afraid to tell her father about her marriage to Romeo for three reasons: (1) she married Romeo without her father's knowledge or consent; (2) she's gone against her father's wishes by marrying Romeo instead of Paris, and; (3) Romeo is a Montague, a member of the family with whom the Capulets have had an "ancient grudge" and with whom Lord Capulet has been feuding since long before the events of Romeo and Juliet occur.
Juliet incurs her father's frightful wrath for telling him that she won't marry Paris. As fearful of her father as she might be, Juliet nevertheless tries to explain to him the reason for not wanting to marry Paris—that she's already married to Romeo—but he refuses to listen to her.
CAPULET. But fettle your fine joints 'gainst Thursday next
To go with Paris to Saint Peter's Church,
Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.
Out, you green-sickness carrion! Out, you baggage!
You tallow-face! ...
JULIET. Good father, I beseech you on my knees,
Hear me with patience but to speak a word.
CAPULET. Hang thee, young baggage! disobedient wretch!
I tell thee what—get thee to church a Thursday(165)
Or never after look me in the face.
Speak not, reply not, do not answer me! (3.5.156-167)
Juliet goes to Friar Laurence and appeals to him for help. Together they arrange for Juliet to take a potion that will cause her to appear as if she's dead, thereby avoiding marriage to Paris. Juliet will then be laid to rest in the Capulet's tomb, and Romeo will come back from Mantua to take her away with him.
To effect this plan, and to avoid any further confrontation with her father, Juliet agrees to marry Paris.
CAPULET. How now, my headstrong? Where have you been gadding?
JULIET. Where I have learnt me to repent the sin
Of disobedient opposition
To you and your behests, and am enjoin'd(20)
By holy Laurence to fall prostrate here
To beg your pardon. Pardon, I beseech you!
Henceforward I am ever rul'd by you. (4.2.16-23)
Friar Laurence's plan goes wrong in many different ways, and the resulting deaths of Romeo and Juliet end the feud between the suddenly childless Capulets and Montagues.