Family dynamics are an often cause of teenage behaviors, but in Romeo and Juliet, this occurrence is taken to a new extreme. In the tragedy Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, the main characters made poor decisions, leading them to their doom. Their parents being the main reasons for this drastic turn of events, and the families’ feud that has been lasting for ages plays a huge role in the indigent decisions that were made. The parents raised their kids differently, which leads to them behaving differently. The parenting styles of the parental figures in Romeo and Juliet affected the way main characters behaved in the drama because of behaviorism, causing them to make rash decisions, which lead them to their death.
Romeo’s parents were permissive parents, which means they trusted him and had very little control over him. In the play Romeo and Juliet Romeo’s father, says “Both myself and many other friends. But he own affections’ counselor is to himself…Could we but learn from whence his sorrows grow. We would as willingly give cure as know (Shakespeare 18).” This shows that Romeo’s father does care and shows that he observes his son, taking notes of his actions. When Romeo comes into the setting in act one, scene one his parents tell his friends “I would thou wert so happy by thy stay To hear true shrift –Come, madam, let’s away (Shakespeare 18)” His parents leave and do not question Romeo leaving his friends to deal with him. “Permissive parents are lenient. They often only step in when there’s a serious problem (Morin).” In the play, Romeo’s parents got involved when he got exiled. His parents did not know about most of the events that took place, for example: when he went to the Capulet’s party. His parents trusted him to make the right choices. Being permissive parents, they were mostly carefree and let Romeo do whatever he pleased to do.
In contrast to the Montagues, Juliet’s parents were a mix of authoritarian and uninvolved parents, they were controlling but also not involved in her life. Her relationship with her parents was more formal. For example, Juliet calls her mother ‘madam’ leading the reader to believe that she was not close to her mother. “Uninvolved parents tend to have little knowledge of what their children are doing… Uninvolved parents expect children to raise themselves. They don’t devote much time or energy into meeting children’s basic needs (Morin).” During the beginning of the drama her parents we mostly uninvolved in her life. Juliet was basically on her own “Authoritative parents have rules and they use consequences, but they also take their children’s opinions into account Morin).” Nearing the end of the play in Act 3 Scene 5, Juliet’s parents forced her to marry Paris. If she did not marry him there would be consequences, they would kick her out of the household and disown her. “An you be mine; I’ll give you to my friend. An you not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets, for by my soul, I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee. Nor what is mine shall never do the good. Trust to ‘t, bethink you. I’ll not be forsworn (Shakespeare 202).” Juliet’s father says this to her when she disagreed to marry Paris because she was married to someone else. Threatening her was a part of operant conditioning, where there is reinforcement that follows a response to a stimulus. In a theory by B.F. Skinner explains how operant conditioning works and how it used towards behaviorism. In the article “What Is Operant Conditioning and How Does it Work?” says “Operant conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior (Cherry).” Juliet went through operant conditioning when her father threatened to kick her out if she did not marry Paris. This led her to her decision to agree with her parents, only to try to find a way out of this situation. With her parents being controlling and involved in her life pushes her to make unintelligent decisions.
The Nurse and Friar Lawrence were also parental figures to Romeo and Juliet; the Nurse mainly being Juliet’s parental figure and Friar Lawrence being Romeo’s parental figure. In the drama, the Nurse raised Juliet, she cared for her when she was a baby to when she was a teen. Unlike Juliet’s mother, the Nurse had a good and close relationship with Juliet. For example, in Act 1 Scene 3, Juliet’s mother had to ask how old her daughter was, which the Nurse knew her age right away. “Faith, I can tell her age unto an hour… Come Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen (Shakespeare 38-40),” she explains her time with Juliet and recalls to when Juliet was just a child. The Nurse affected the way Juliet made her decisions because she gave Juliet advice and encouraged her. Friar Lawrence was close to Romeo and is seen as a parental figure to him because he was the person Romeo trusted with his issues and problems.
Throughout the play, Friar Lawrence helped him. In Act 3 Scene 3 Friar says “Hark, how they knock! —Who’s there? —Romeo, arise. Thou wilt be taken. —Stay awhile. —Stand up… Run to my Study… (Shakespeare 172).” This shows that he cares for Romeo and that he is helping him out by concealing him in his cell when he was exiled. He also helped plan the marriage between Romeo and Juliet and planned to get them together after he was exiled. Friar Lawrence affected the decisions they made by helping them plan out their future. Though he tried to help them towards a positive outcome, it quickly went wrong and resulted in their deaths. Both the Nurse and Friar Lawrence were parental figures to both the main characters, Romeo and Juliet, impacting the decisions they made.
The parental figures in Romeo and Juliet’s lives affected their relationship and how they interacted with each other. In the drama, they fall in love very quickly and then a day after they first met, they got married. Juliet felt pressured to rush and find love because her parents were talking about marriage. Her mother says “Well, think of marriage now. Younger than you Here in Verona, ladies of esteem Are made already mothers. By my count, I was your mother much upon these years… (Shakespeare 42).” This shows that her mother was telling her to go ahead and start thinking of marriage right away. This caused Juliet to try to quickly find love and get married to someone. That is why when she met Romeo she quickly fell in love and agreed to marry him. Romeo, on the other hand, was affected by Friar Lawrence because Friar gave him advice on the matter, which caused a turn of events. Friar pushed Romeo to get over his love Rosaline, for she did not love him back. Romeo says, “Thou child’ st me oft for loving Rosaline…And badest me bury love (Shakespeare 100).” This shows what Friar told Romeo to do while loving Rosaline. He quickly gets over her and finds a new love. Romeo and Juliet’s relationship were quick, and they were ‘in love’, to the point where they would die for each other. Overall the parental figures did impact Romeo and Juliet’s relationship by giving advice and bringing them closer together.
An opposing view is that teenage brains are still developing, which leads Romeo and Juliet’s prone to reckless decisions. This view makes sense because the teenage brain is not fully developed, it says in article “Teen Brain: Behavior, Problem Solving, and Decision Making” by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says “However, the frontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act, develops later…Based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to: act on impulse, misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions, get into accidents of all kinds…(AACAP).” It explains that teens act on impulse because their brains have not been fully developed.
However, the parental figures are what impacted Romeo and Juliet’s decisions the most because of behaviorism. In the article “History and Key Concepts of Behavioral Physiology” by Kendra Cherry states, “Behaviorists believe that our responses to environmental stimuli shape our actions (Cherry).” This statement is relevant to Juliet’s situation with her parents. Her parents forced her to marry Paris, which made her decide to come up with a plan because she was already married to Romeo; the plan led her to her death. “But, an you will not wed, I’ll pardon you Graze where you will, you shall not house with me (Shakespeare 202),” Lord Capulet, Juliet’s father, threatens her saying if she does not marry Paris she would be kicked out of the house. After her father threatens her, she goes to Friar for guidance and a plan to get her out of her current situation. In response, Friar gives her poison that would make it seem like she is deceased so she would not have to marry Paris the next morning. Therefore, Juliet’s parents pushed her to make a risky decision to drink the poison.
In conclusion, the parental figures impacted Romeo’s and Juliet’s actions by making them make poor decisions leading to their end. Being raised with uninvolved and repressing parents, Juliet makes decisions quickly, without thinking everything through because she is forced to marry a man within a day. On the other hand, Romeo’s parents were permissive, allowing him to have freedoms unlike, Juliet. While the parents of the main characters negatively impacted them, the Nurse and Friar Lawrence have more of a positive impact on them both, by guiding them. Though they had positive intentions it quickly went downhill when the plans failed, leading to Romeo and Juliet’s deaths. Teenage behaviors are an effect of parental interactions, but Romeo and Juliet’s behaviors take teenage behaviors to a new level.