Juliet's Taming of Romeo

By Brown, Carolyn E. | Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Spring 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Juliet's Taming of Romeo


Brown, Carolyn E., Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900


Shakespeare's Juliet has received divergent critical appraisals. Early criticism, in particular, of Romeo and Juliet largely overlooks Juliet, viewing the play as being primarily about Romeo and treating Juliet as a subsidiary, underdeveloped character. When such criticism explores Juliet, it is often influenced by her young age of fourteen, reading her as little more than a child - naive, immature, inexperienced, obedient to her parents' wishes, and uncomplicated. E. C. Pettet, for example, characterizes Juliet as a "spontaneous, passionate child of nature, whose speech and heart are always one."(1) But as criticism, especially feminist in orientation, begins to recognize the depth of Shakespeare's female characters, Juliet is receiving more concentrated, appreciative attention. And as critics look beyond her youth, they discover not a reticent virgin but a multifaceted character who transcends Romeo in maturity, complexity, insight, and rhetorical dexterity. Critical estimation of Juliet has moved from regarding her as a passive victim of "star-crossed love" to lauding her as a self-willed, courageous, intelligent young woman who initiates and controls action in her struggle to preserve her integrity and autonomy in a world that is hostile to women. Irene Dash argues that Juliet tries to retain "her sense of self as 'essential'" and, thus, moves the audience "with admiration for a courageous person attempting to fight her destiny as a woman" and "to govern her own life. "(2) Nancy Compton Warmbrod views Juliet as determined to see "herself as an independent person" and to establish "an identity apart from family and nurse."(3) Instead of perceiving Juliet as shallow, criticism is now more willing to admit that under the surface lyricism there is another dimension to her words and actions where her more independent, controlling, and rebellious nature is lodged.(4)

This essay enhances the critical appreciation of Juliet's depth and her struggle for selfhood, and focuses on her interchange with Romeo in two particular scenes - II.ii, the so-called balcony scene, and III.v, which contains the lovers' interchange the morning after the consummation. Typically these scenes are read as the most romantic in the play, and Juliet is traditionally read as helplessly in the throes of young love. Pettet, for example, looks at II.ii as "the most serenely joyful passage of the play," containing "lyricism and the warm, unfolding passion of [Romeo and Juliet's] love declarations."(5) My reading, however, explores a less romantic mode in which Romeo and Juliet woo each other in these two scenes, and challenges the traditional view of Juliet as Romeo's passive beloved by arguing that her language and actions contain a deeper level of meaning. This subtext is established by the falconry imagery that appears throughout the play but that reaches its prominence in the balcony scene. Through this imagery, Shakespeare establishes a reading that draws parallels between Romeo and trainable falcons (usually females) and between the way Juliet treats Romeo and the methods falconers (usually males) use to train their birds.(6) Shakespeare reverses the gender roles, as he does in other parts of the play, and has Juliet assume behavior typically assigned to men.

During the balcony scene, she can be read as trying to train Romeo, much as falconer Petruchio trains his bird Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew. She attempts to make Romeo as obedient as a "manned" falcon. The falconry references contribute to the reading of Juliet as being interested in control since the relationship between the bird and trainer is not one of equality but one in which the trainer respects the bird's powers but subjects them to his own will and dominates the bird. Juliet transforms her future husband from a "flighty," impractical man of fancy who engages in long, unrealistic speeches, into a pragmatic, obedient man of few words who learns to give her the succinct answers she wants and to fulfill her commands.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Juliet's Taming of Romeo
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.