Gender Roles In Romeo And Juliet

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In today’s world, gender expectations and roles of men and women are a highly debated topic. However, the reconsidering of these expectations is not a new phenomenon. Set in Verona, Italy, the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare explores the reversal and fluidity of characteristics usually assigned to a specific gender. In this play, two young people fall in love and end up tragically taking their lives as a result of their forbidden love. Shakespeare suggests that men are not necessarily masculine, women are not necessarily feminine, and that when people are forced by society to act the way their gender is “supposed” to, problems will arise. In Romeo and Juliet, men are not necessarily masculine, contrary to the expectations of them…show more content…
Within this play, there are many conflicts between feuding families and even individuals. Since societal expectations were so great of both genders, much pent-up frustration for those who did not perfectly conform was frequently released in the form of violence or aggression. It also went the other way around, where those who did not fit all of the standards were shamed and embarrassed for the way they were. Two characters in which the gender traits were partially switched are Romeo and Juliet. In their relationship, Juliet is more dominant, and Romeo is more submissive. These attributes are commonly associated with the opposite gender, and Shakespeare uses this exchange of traits to accentuate the irregularity of the situation being represented. The more dramatic features, though, are Romeo’s, and Shakespeare shows how difficult it is for him not to fit in the box of “being a man”. When Tybalt came to kill Romeo, Mercutio interfered, and it ended up costing him his life. Due to the death of his close friend, Romeo grew enraged and decided to “be a man” and get revenge on Tybalt. “O sweet Juliet, / Thy beauty hath made me effeminate / And in my temper soft’ned valor’s steel!” (3.1.115-117). In this quote, Romeo is expressing how Juliet’s beauty weakened him. He feels almost a hatred towards her for making him cowardly and not able to save Mercutio’s life. Since being strong is an expected characteristic of men, Romeo feels that the absence of his bravery is to blame for the tragedy. In another instance to showcase the problems caused when the perfect traits are not exhibited, Lord Capulet has a bad reaction to Juliet’s refusal to marry Paris. At the start of Paris’ courtship, Lord Capulet has a particularly relaxed outlook on the marriage, and insists that Paris woos her and she wants to go into the marriage. After fleeting days of
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