What is Lady Capulet's attitude towards Juliet?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the audience sees Juliet and her mother, Lady Capulet, together for the first time in act 1, scene 3.

Lady Capulet has learned from her husband, Lord Capulet, that Paris, a young nobleman, wishes to marry Juliet. Lady Capulet asks the Nurse to bring...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the audience sees Juliet and her mother, Lady Capulet, together for the first time in act 1, scene 3.

Lady Capulet has learned from her husband, Lord Capulet, that Paris, a young nobleman, wishes to marry Juliet. Lady Capulet asks the Nurse to bring Juliet to her. Juliet enters the scene, and her first lines to her mother seem formal, distant, and almost businesslike.

JULIET. Madam, I am here.
What is your will? (1.3.7-8)

Lady Capulet sends the Nurse away so that she can speak with Juliet privately, but she just as quickly calls her back. Lady Capulet seems uncomfortable talking with Juliet alone, particularly about personal matters.

After a few minutes spent listening to the Nurse ramble on about Juliet's age, Lady Capulet asks Juliet how she feels about being married. Lady Capulet is being somewhat circumspect with Juliet by first asking how Juliet feels about marriage rather than getting to the point about Paris's interest in her.

Juliet responds that marriage is not something to which she's given much thought.

JULIET. It is an honour that I dream not of. (1.3.70)

Lady Capulet doesn't know what to make of Juliet's answer and goes off on a tangent about already being married at Juliet's age.

LADY CAPULET. Well, think of marriage now. Younger than you,
Here in Verona, ladies of esteem,
Are made already mothers. By my count,
I was your mother much upon these years
That you are now a maid. (1.3.73-77)

Oddly, Lady Capulet doesn't seem to remember how old she was when Juliet was born, which might reflect what Lady Capulet thinks about being a mother at such a young age. It might also demonstrate Lady's Capulet's seeming lack of concern for events in her life relating to Juliet, like her birthday, which she also doesn't remember.

Lady Capulet finally gets to the point about Paris.

LADY CAPULET. Thus then in brief:
The valiant Paris seeks you for his love. (1.3.77-78)

The Nurse and Lady Capulet spend the next twenty-five lines trying very hard to convince Juliet how great Paris is and how great Juliet's life with him would be.

When Juliet finally gets a chance to speak, her response is respectful, but enigmatic and noncommittal.

JULIET. I'll look to like, if looking liking move;
But no more deep will I endart mine eye
Than your consent gives strength to make it fly. (1.3.101-103)

The next time that Juliet and Lady Capulet speak to each other is in act 3, scene 5after Juliet meets Romeo (act 1, scene 5), after Romeo and Juliet are married (act 2, scene 6), after, Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished from Verona (act 3, scene 1), and after Romeo and Juliet spend the first (and last) night of their married life together (beginning of act 3, scene 5).

Although Juliet is as concerned and upset about Romeo's banishment as she is about Tybalt's death, Lady Capulet is absolutely dismissive and unfeeling about Juliet's grief over Tybalt's death.

LADY CAPULET. Evermore weeping for your cousin's death?
What, wilt thou wash him from his grave with tears?
An if thou could'st, thou could'st not make him live.
Therefore have done. (3.5.70-73)

Lady Capulet then reveals a side of herself that would be abhorrent even under normal circumstances and if Juliet wasn't already married to Romeo.

LADY CAPULET. We will have vengeance for it, fear thou not.
Then weep no more. I'll send to one in Mantua,
Where that same banish'd runagate doth live,
Shall give him such an unaccustom'd dram
That he shall soon keep Tybalt company;
And then I hope thou wilt be satisfied. (3.5.90-95)

In the midst of all of this emotional upheaval in Juliet's life—towards which Lady Capulet seems wholly indifferent and extraordinarily unfeeling—Lady Capulet tells Juliet that she and Lord Capulet have decided that Juliet will marry Paris.

Juliet is astounded by this news, and she tells Lady Capulet in no uncertain terms that she's not going to marry anyone just now, and she's adamant that she won't marry Paris under any circumstances.

Lady Capulet is utterly taken aback. She's speechless, and the only thing she can think to do is to defer to Lord Capulet to talk some sense into Juliet.

LADY CAPULET. Here comes your father. Tell him so yourself,
And see how he will take it at your hands. (3.5.127-128)

Lady Capulet has little more to say during the rest of the scene, except to reinforce the audience's impression that Lady Capulet's relationship with Juliet is devoid of love, caring, or understanding.

LORD CAPULET. Have you delivered to her our decree?

LADY CAPULET. Ay, sir; but she will none, she gives you thanks.
I would the fool were married to her grave! (3.5.141-143)

Lady Capulet eventually gives up trying to talk to Juliet, turns her back on her, and simply walks away.

LADY CAPULET. Talk not to me, for I'll not speak a word.
Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee. (3.5.211-212)

When Lady Capulet finds Juliet seemingly dead in her bed—after having taken the sleeping potion that Friar Laurence gave her—Lady Capulet becomes hysterical. Her hysteria is ironic, considering the way she treated Juliet when she was alive.

LADY CAPULET. O me, O me! My child, my only life!
Revive, look up, or I will die with thee! ...

Alack the day, she's dead, she's dead, she's dead! [which is exactly what the Nurse said in the preceding line] ...

But one, poor one, one poor and loving child,
But one thing to rejoice and solace in,
And cruel Death hath catch'd it from my sight! (4.5.22-23, 27, 49-51)

In the scene at Juliet's tomb, when Juliet is truly dead, Lady Capulet has nothing to say except to remark dispassionately—and characteristically—about how Juliet's death affects herself.

LADY CAPULET. O me! this sight of death is as a bell
That warns my old age to a sepulchre. (5.3.217-218)

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team