What obstacles does Juliet face during the course of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Juliet, just like Romeo, certainly encounters many obstacles throughout the course of the play. Below is a discussion of a couple of those obstacles.

Juliet's first obstacle is of course the fact that her family is in a longstanding feud with the Montagues. The feud especially becomes an obstacle once she meets Romeo at the ball and falls in love with him. As Juliet phrases it, "My only love, sprung from my only hate!" (I.v.147). Due to the obstacle of her family's unfounded hatred for the Montagues, Romeo and Juliet must find ways to be together and marry in secret.

A second obstacle Juliet encounters is the fact that Count Paris wishes to marry her. However, Paris's desires were not such a great obstacle at the beginning of the play. Lord Capulet most wanted Juliet to be happy and was not willing to give his consent to the marriage unless Juliet also approved. We see him explaining to Paris that his own consent is only part of what Paris will need to marry Juliet and that Juliet's own consent is significant when he says:

My will to her consent is but a part.
An she agree, within her scope of choice
Lies my consent and fair according voice. (I.ii.17-19)

In other words, Capulet is saying that if Juliet does not wish to marry Paris, Capulet will not give his consent to the marriage. Therefore, the fact that Paris wants to marry Juliet actually does not become an obstacle until her family's hatred for the Montagues incites Tybalt to feel insulted by Romeo's presence at the ball and challenge Romeo to a duel. The end result of the duel is that Tybalt is killed and Romeo is banished from Verona. When Juliet's father sees Juliet grieving so bitterly, he assumes that she is grieving over the death of Tybalt. He decides that the best thing to do for her is distract her with a happy event, such as her wedding day to Paris. Capulet's decision becomes an obstacle for Juliet because now she only has two options: become a polygamist by marrying Paris or kill herself.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The biggest obstacle that Juliet faces is that she is a Capulet and her beloved Romeo is a Montague. The two families are locked in an ancient feud, one which has seen them plunge Verona into almost constant civil discord. The fact that Romeo is from a rival family means that his love is forbidden to her, and this is what sets the entire plot of the play in motion. She begs Romeo to "deny thy father and refuse thy name" and says she wishes she could do the same (II.ii.35-40). But of course, neither of them can deny who they are, and the mutual antagonism between their families eventually consumes them.

Another major obstacle is fate. In the prologue to the play, the Chorus describes the title characters as "star-cross'd lovers," a phrase that connotes more than misfortune (Prologue, vi). They are doomed by fate. This fact, and the fact that it is revealed at the very beginning of the play, adds a sense of dramatic irony that is very poignant. We know as we watch the two young people exchange tender expressions of their love that they are doomed. We know that the Friar's intricate scheme to reunite the two of them is destined to fail. In short, we know that their love will ultimately end in tragedy.