Juliet’s character is dramatically portrayed in this play. The two main characters, Juliet Capulet and Romeo Montague both change and mature over the progress of the play but Juliet changes from what could be seen as ‘girl to woman’ in just under a week. There is a definite difference in her personality from the meeting of Romeo to her marriage to him. As the play progresses, we see Juliet maturing and developing into an independent young woman, which is quite different from the beginning of the play when Juliet never thought of marriage or of defying her parents and family.
In Scene 1 Act 3 Juliet enters the play alongside Lady Capulet and the Nurse, who approach her to talk about a forthcoming marriage that Lady Capulet and her husband have planned. They want her to marry Paris at the age of thirteen, however with Juliet being so young and unsure of herself, and of what marriage entails, she does not really have anything to say on the issue. Before they start to talk about this subject, the Nurse and Lady Capulet talk about Juliet’s age, and Shakespeare seems to make sure that the point she is only thirteen stand out among all other things in order to show her vulnerability and her youthfulness to the audience.
The Nurse talks about when Juliet was only a baby and the Nurse was there as a ‘wet nurse’ to Juliet. She reminisces about Juliet being ‘the prettiest babe that e’er I nursed’ (Line 60), after which the nurse gives a long speech that is full of sexual innuendos which Juliet does not understand. This shows the lack of maturity and the vulnerability that Juliet has, because if she does not understand the jokes, then she may not understand other more important things that are said to her.
However depending on the director who is directing the performance, a performance may make Juliet understand the whole speech and laugh at the jokes or the opposite may be shown in her not listening to the Nurse. If the Nurse directs her speech solely at Lady Capulet it would again show the youthfulness and naivety of Juliet. When Lady Capulet finally gets to talk to Juliet about the topic of marriage Juliet does not seem to understand what she is meaning by it. She has never thought of marriage nor does she wish to for a while.
Lady Capulet attempts to get Juliet to look at marriage and describes her own past, telling her that she was already expecting her at the age Juliet is now. Juliet replies ‘I’ll look to like, if looking liking move. ‘ (Line 97 & 98). This again shows her immaturity to marriage as she thinks that marriage can happen only if she wants it to and that she can choose when she wants to love someone. In Act 2 Scene 2, Romeo and Juliet are able to talk in private without any distractions.
Once Romeo actually comes out and shows himself to Juliet, she is concerned for his safety. Normally if a member of a household from Montague was to invade the Capulet home then Juliet would cry out but because she feels love for him in the short amount of time they have been together, then she does not. Juliet feels a new type of love that she has not felt before, showing her progression into adolescence. Juliet admits embarrassment about talking of her love to Romeo. She pleads with Romeo and asks him if he loves her and wants an honest answer.
No innocent young girl would ask a man if he loved her, showing again the maturity that Juliet has been given by Shakespeare in the very short amount of time in that evening. This scene shows the progress of Juliet’s maturity again as she is talking to Romeo and discussing their love affair which is actually forbidden and would be seen to be wrong by her parents. This is showing evidence of the beginnings of rebellion and individualism from her as she normally would have followed the rules of her parents, but now she is doing things behind their back.
Scene 3 Act 5 deals with many aspects showing Juliet’s capacity for becoming a young woman. She has to make many difficult choices in this scene and there is no one around that she can turn to and look to for help. She has just spent the night with Romeo in her bedroom and warns him that he must leave, otherwise there is the risk of him being caught. However the Nurse comes in warning Juliet that her mother is coming. She must now get Romeo to leave her room so that he isn’t found by her mother. However they seem to not be able to part from each other, showing their affection and love for each other.
When Lady Capulet enters the room, Juliet feels uncomfortable with her presence there and would rather she left. She says ‘Madam, I am not well. ‘ (Line 78) to try to get rid of her but it does not work. Juliet has again to lie to her mother when she says ‘Indeed I never shall be satisfied with Romeo, till I behold him – Dead. ‘ (Line 93 & 94). Of course this is not true, but to protect the secret of her relationship to Romeo, she cannot give rise to any suspicions in Lady Capulet, even if this means asking her to kill him.
Her increasingly adult emotions lead her to protecting Romeo at all costs, even if it means deceiving her mother. Lady Capulet came to talk to Juliet about her getting married the very next day. Juliet was not happy and did not want to get married to Paris as she is already married to Romeo, however neither Lady Capulet nor her husband knows this. Juliet protests and refuses to marry him, however Lady Capulet tells her that she must take it up with her father. When Capulet enters the room he is happy and cheerful, however this is soon to change after he has talked to Juliet.
Juliet must build up the courage that she would not have been able to do earlier on in her life, to tell her father that she does not want to marry Paris. She has to explain to him that she is thankful that he has tried to make her marriage perfect but without giving away the hint that she is already involved with someone else. She has to suffer the many insults that Capulet throws at her and almost be physically assaulted by him, as he says ‘My fingers itch. ‘ (Line 164).
The Nurse and Lady Capulet try to help her at first but nothing is accomplished and finally, when Capulet leaves, Juliet is feeling at her lowest point. She turns to her Mother for support but she simply says ‘Talk not to me, for I’ll not speak a word. Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee. ‘ Juliet then turns to her good friend the Nurse, however again the Nurse will not help and support her. The Nurse explains to Juliet that Romeo is an impossible match and maybe it is not such a good idea to stay with him.
She tells her that Paris is a good man and worthy of her love. This makes Juliet feel as though she is just a little girl again as she is being told what she must do and that her opinion is not needed. However Juliet is not about to be kept at this level, so she tells the audience that she will go to the Friar and seek help there, but if that fails, then she always has the power to die. Just saying this shows an immense emotional development by Juliet. No little girl would say the things that she has says, which proves to us that she is no little girl anymore.
She is turning into a woman and her parents are helping her even when they are shouting at her, because it gives her more strength to stand up to them later on. Act 4 Scene 3 is one of the most important scenes in the play and here, Shakespeare portrays the character of Juliet as maturing to an even higher level and shows her growing from adolescence to womanhood, and also shows the highs and lows of her emotions. This scene shows her ready to take the potion that she has just been given by the Friar, even while not knowing exactly what it may do to her.
She does not know if it is actually poison or what the side effects may be, as she wonders, What if it be a poison which the friar Subtly hath ministered to have me dead, Lest in this marriage he should be dishonoured, Because he married me before to Romeo? (Line 24-27). Juliet is unsure of whether or not to trust the Friar, showing us that the innocence of her younger self has been replaced by a more cynical distrust of other peoples motives. Her thoughts become very morbid and she starts to imagine the terror of waking up, trapped in the vault with her dead ancestors.
She drinks the potion, calling out ‘Romeo! Romeo! Romeo! I drink to thee. ‘ (Line 58). Her willingness to take this huge risk shows how desperate she is to be with Romeo and how she cannot bear the thought of being forced to marry Paris, emphasising her true, fully developed, adult love for Romeo. In this play of Shakespeare’s, Juliet has turned from a young girl who was not able to make up her own mind about important issues and who was dependent on her family, into a fully developed woman who could look after herself, lie when she had to and was emotionally independent.
At the beginning of the play, she had no idea what was really meant by marriage or what love really was. But once she met Romeo, she started to change and mature, and would even deceive her own family in order to protect the love between herself and Romeo. Juliet chose her love of Romeo over everything else, even when it led to their tragic deaths. Her words, behaviours and responses throughout the play, show her development from innocence and naivety through to full maturity as the play reaches its tragic conclusion.