Which character do you think Shakespeare intends his audience to sympathise with? Would a modern audience react in the same way?
Juliet and her father, Capulet, have a very unequal relationship, with the father being the dominant , authorative figure of the two. In Shakespeare’s time, the father would have been expected to control his daughter. Juliet, confronted with the idea of marriage was given a ‘scope of choice’ by here father of possible husbands. This, contrasting to other parents of the day would be quite atypical. It would seem as though Capulet is being pleasant, even lenient towards his daughter. To an audience of today, it would seem as though Capulet could be cordial, a chip in intimidating exterior.
In order to marry Juliet, a perspective husband would have had to ask permission from the father. In Romeo’s case, we see this being overlooked. There has been a change in her manner and character after her marriage. She becomes rebellious; possibly resenting the fact that her scope of choice had been torn from her, replaced by the decision of her father.
Capulet, in Iii, is being persuaded by Paris (said to be the most eligible bachelor) to allow him to marry Juliet. Capulet seems to be reluctant to give up his daughter, arguing that Juliet is “yet a stranger in the world”. Paris then reminds Capulet that “younger than she are happy mothers made”. This is after Capulet emphasises his point that Juliet “hath not seen the change of fourteen years”.
At the end of this scene, both audiences of today and of centuries gone by would share the opinion that Capulet is an affectionate man, for he does not automatically ‘condemn’ Juliet to life with Paris, but suggests that Paris should go to a party that night; to see all of the girls (comparing them to “stars” as if to ‘wean’ him off Juliet). Then, if he still desires Juliet most of all, he should “woo her”, and “get her heart”.
The first time we encounter Juliet, she is obedient and willing to do as her parents wished. This would be something that fathers of Shakespeare’s day could relate to, as this would have been what they would expect of their daughters. This is in stark contrast to the parents of today, as they would be used to the ways of a modern teenager.
Her attitude to her parents seems to be respectful. When called she requires, “Madam…what is your will”. Notice that she addresses her mother as “Madam”, rather than ‘mother’ or any other terminology.
This scene helps to provoke the idea that Juliet and Lady Capulet are somewhat estranged to each other. This may be as a result of the family’s financial capabilities. A nurse has been paid to do what the mother should. However, at the time it would have been common practice for wealthy families to employ a nurse. This leads to Lady Capulet ignoring her daughter so they do not know much about each other. The nurse and Juliet are so close that Nurse can “tell the age unto an hour”. This is enforced by the fact that the nurse is Juliet’s sole confidant when she gets betrothed to Romeo.
Act I Scene v helps us to understand the hatred that the Capulets have over the Montague family. When Tybalt informs Capulet that Romeo has ‘gate crashed’ the party, he is seething with anger. Capulet (drunk and in good spirits) is quite irritated with Tybalt when told and tells him to “let him alone” incase he ruins the party. This portrays Capulet not as an aggressive man, but quite the opposite.
After Tybalt has been killed by Romeo; Capulet, who had once been willing to let Juliet chose her own husband, tells his wife to, “Acquaint her here of my son Paris’ love”. Capulet now wishes for Juliet to marry Paris. Unbeknownst to him, Juliet has married Romeo; his enemy. In contrast to Act I scene ii, where Capulet is deciding whether to let Paris approach Juliet. We must note that Juliet is not allowed to voice an opinion over her marriage now. Instead, Capulet is requesting Paris to marry his daughter; perhaps the notion of the money has started to play on his mind. From here, the audience will notice this behaviour. Harshening with Capulet in the modern audience’s case.
Capulet’s attitude towards Juliet seems to be quite aggressive. He expects Juliet to be submissive to his wishes. Of course his state of mind is fragile. He has only just lost a member of his family, so his actions may be quite different from his intentions. The audience’s sympathy for Capulet starts to decline.
Juliet’s attitude towards her parents changes at this point from Act I, scene iii. Now we see her in a new light. She has long passages of speech which could mean that she is frantic with grief; she may also be trying to take control of her own life. She is scared and afraid of losing Romeo, so much so, that she said “I long to die”. She is adamant that she will not marry Paris; “…bid me leap, rather than marry Paris,/From off the battlements of any tower”.
Juliet is forced into an impossible situation. She has been asked to marry Paris, when her heart lies for Romeo. She is scared to deny Paris, in case she enrages her father further. Though if she marries Paris, it would be a sin against God. As shown in the text, we see that Juliet is highly religious, as would an audience of Shakespeare’s day. She would know the consequences of her doing this. We feel sorry for her, as we see her in such an awkward position.
Juliet, with no other possibilities, is forced to agree to Friar Lawrence’s desperate plan. In her eyes, it would prove risky, but worth it if accomplished.
In the play, Shakespeare tries to put forward the image that feuds within the family must be let do grow momentum under any circumstance. In this case, we see that eventually, these arguments act as a catalyst working against us. In the play, two tragic deaths occur; in modern times though, divorce is the main contribution to the break up of families.
A modern day audience’s view will differ from the view of an audience from Shakespeare’s time. Today, we empathise with Juliet because her ‘terrible’ father (as we would portray him now).
However, society has changed since Shakespeare’s day. The audience then would think that Juliet has a defiant streak, and would sympathise with Capulet for having this disobedient daughter whose actions eventually lead to the destruction of her, her lover and her family. The one good thing that comes out of this, is the bringing together of the Montague and Capulet families, insuring that another tragedy would not happen again.