Gender Roles in Romeo and Juliet

In Romeo and Juliet’s times sexism was popular, leading them to a senseless and corrupt society. Romeo and Juliet lived in Verona during the Italian Renaissance. This time was full of trends that left people in the twentieth century scratching their head. Their civilization had very strict gender roles. Gender was a deciding factor in every decision the renaissance people made. Women were called, ‘weaklings,” and men were called, ‘warriors.” Shakespeare vividly represents this in his play, Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet’s environment effected their actions because of the biased gender roles their parents forced on them, caused them to act unreasonable and further advanced the plot.

Romeo and Juliet’s actions were greatly influenced by their parents. “What manner is in this, to press before thy father to a grave?” (Shakespeare). Montague is not even going to morn his son’s death. Montague scolded Romeo for dying. Romeo’s actions have been altered because of his father’s selfishness. That selfishness led to the family feud between the Capulets and Montagues and Romeo and Juliet’s decision to kill themselves. Also, it shows that Montague would do anything to not give up his manly reputation. “To go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church, or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither” (Shakespeare). In comparison to Romeo, Juliet’s decision to run away with Romeo and fake her death were all because her father was forcing her to get married to Paris. Juliet’s father had just admitted that his daughter was only a tool for men. Her father’s need for her to marry Paris made Juliet want to get away from Capulet even more. Romeo and Juliet’s parents’ anger towards their children and others has had a big role in their deaths.

Romeo’s insane friends have had a big role in Romeo and Juliet’s choices and overall life. “Begot of nothing but vain fantasy, which is as thin of substance as the air, and more inconsistent than the wind” (Shakespeare). Romeo’s friends, Benvolio and Mercutio, are very blunt. They put on a facade of toughness and forced Romeo to put one on too. They say things without really thinking. Their way of thinking has rubbed off on Romeo which drove his choices to be irrational and nervous about not being a “true man”. “Romeo! Humours, madman, passion lover! Appear thou in the likeness of a sign” (Shakespeare). Mercutio mocks Romeo for loving a person he cannot. This act made Romeo insecure about his emotions, so expresses it in his actions towards Juliet. In effect, he makes sudden decisions without any thought. Overall, Romeo’s friends have affected more in his life than many people expect.

Romeo and Juliet took place in Verona, Italy during the Italian Renaissance. “With a death toll of up to 60% in some regions, the black death left radical change in its wake” (Montagna) The black death killed hundreds of people in days of its outbreak. There was a high chance of death for everyone in Italy. The disease made many people make quick decisions so they can do anything they have wanted to do with their life. Because of these rapid decisions, many women were brought down and anxious about getting married so early in life. That’s why Romeo and Juliet decided to get married. “Younger than you here in Verona, ladies of esteem are made already mothers” (Shakespeare). In Verona, young women are starting motherhood earlier so they can make memories earlier. This influenced Romeo and Juliet to want to get married so quickly and abruptly. In summary, Verona is a big part in developing the plot of Romeo and Juliet.

In Verona, people had a distinct way of life. This effected Romeo and Juliet in many ways.“The Italian Renaissance fashion, which exhibited better to taste and a greater amount of elegance, greatly influenced the way people dressed in other countries of Europe” (Italian Renaissance Fashion). Romeo and Juliet’s way of life was very elegant because of the society. Societal pressures of being proper and right all the time gave Romeo and Juliet the drive to be different. Their uniqueness is what attracted to each other in the first place. They were both living by the gender roles but Romeo and Juliet both wanted to live freely. “Men of the Italian Renaissance viewed women as a tool to display wealth and lineage” (Masters). Society was very rude to women. This shaped Romeo to only want the “best” woman to marry. This also influenced Juliet to become have a strong opinion about marriage. The society of that time gave Romeo and Juliet the reason to rebel against their parents.

One might object here that; Romeo and Juliet’s decisions were because of their adolescent brain. These people say that because Romeo and Juliet were teenagers, they couldn’t work out the situation rationally: Teens have an underdeveloped brain compared to adults. However, this is incorrect because Romeo and Juliet’s setting was covered with sexism and crime that had to effected in big ways. Such as the nurse, “…and the only interest in her life is Juliet and Juliet’s happiness” (Bruce). The nurse’s role is crucial for Romeo and Juliet’s love and passing; she [the nurse] is sexualized in the play because she is a woman working. People call her ugly names; Juliet has learned from these many experiences.

In comparison, Friar Lawrence states: “Pronounce this with me: women may fail when there is no strength in men.” “In one respect I’ll thy assistant be” (Shakespeare). This evidence shows that Friar Lawrence is too, indecisive. He says in the first quote that women cannot be trusted; then he says that he will help Romeo and Juliet get married. Because Romeo looks up to Friar Lawrence, he acts like him Friar Lawrence acts, too, emotional at times. Romeo and Juliet actions are affected by Friar Lawrence and the nurse’s unethical gender roles.

In brief, Romeo and Juliet, in the play Romeo and Juliet, choices were affected by these forced gender roles brought on by all the world around them, causing them to act illogical and eventually leading them to their scornful death. Many people’s actions influenced Romeo and Juliet’s choices. Their parents and guardians gave them the reason to make the bad decisions. The corrupt society in Romeo and Juliet guided Romeo and Juliet to their death.