Romeo and Juliet Juliet
by William Shakespeare

Juliet marks one of the most confident, well-rounded treatments of a female character in Shakespeare, as well as one of his earliest successes in characterization. Juliet’s introduction in the play is a discussion of her age (13) and her forthcoming marriage to Paris. Thus, she is presented from the start as a person on the edge between childhood and adulthood. At the start of the play, she seems obedient, sheltered, and naïve – but this appearance camouflages hidden depths. Juliet’s inner maturity makes her able to shush the Nurse when her mother cannot, and it leads her to respond to her mother’s request that she learn to like Paris with a reply that sounds obedient, but that could also mean Juliet intends to do as she pleases.

Unlike Romeo, Juliet’s love is tempered with an ability to consider alternatives and identify potential problems. She is able to comment on things like Romeo’s formulaic idea of love, his recklessness, and his tendency to romanticize things. After Romeo kills Tybalt, Juliet makes a rational, well-thought-out decision to stick with Romeo rather than abandoning him in favor of her family and Paris. When she agrees to Friar Laurence’s plan, it is with a full understanding that to carry it out means to abandon everything she has ever known and loved. In the final scene, she kills herself not out of weakness, but out of her intense love for Romeo – and she dies in a manner that takes nerve and skill to execute.

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