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When we first meet Juliet she is young and naïve. In Act 1 Scene 2 we find out that she will soon be fourteen years old. When Lady Capulet asks her to consider Paris as a mate in Act 1 Scene 3, she obediently agrees and tells her mother: ‘I’ll look to like, if looking liking move;/ But no more deep will I endart mine eye/ Than your consent gives strength to fly’ (Greenblatt, 1997, p.882). This just means that she will try to like Paris but no more than her mother’s permission allows. So at the beginning of the play she is compliant with her parents’ wishes and inexperienced in matters of the heart.
We see a development in her character when she meets Romeo for the first time in Act 1 Scene 5. The conversation between the pair takes the form of a shared fourteen line sonnet. The sonnet was generally thought of as an ideal form for expressing love in the sixteenth century. It contains poetic language and religious imagery both of which alert us to the strength and truth of their feelings for one another. Juliet’s responses to Romeo here show that she is bright and intelligent.
In Act 2 Scene 1 we see her showing her true feelings for Romeo when she speaks in soliloquy on the balcony. She is prepared to love Romeo despite the fact that their parents are feuding. We see that she has matured since we first met her. She also recognises that their relationship is moving too fast but is still impetuous enough to agree to marry him on the first night of their meeting and is sufficiently assertive to instruct Romeo to go to arrange their marriage.
When Juliet is waiting for Romeo on the day of the fight, she speaks passionately about him and her love for him. The strength of her feelings can be demonstrated in her desire to die rather than be without him.
When her parents and the Nurse let her down at the end of Act 3 she shows independence and defiance, resolve and courage to do whatever she has to do to be with her husband. She takes the potion that Friar Laurence has given her despite her worries about what could go wrong with the plan. She eventually has the courage to kill herself in a most gruesome way—using Romeo’s sword.
So to recap:
- Initially, Juliet is young, inexperienced and naïve.
- She develops over the course of the play to show characteristics of intelligence, maturity, passion, directness, independence, defiance, resolve and courage.
I hope this helps!
Greenblatt, S. (Ed.) (1997): The Norton Shakespeare, United States of America, W.W. Norton & Company.
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