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Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2018
16 Pages, Grade: 1,0
This paper will shed light on the fatal role the Veronese society plays in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet: it imposes strict gender expectations on them, provides a framework for the patriarchal family structure, and forces the star-crossed loveres into obedience.
William Shakespeare lived in a patriarchal environment, dominated and controlled by men, be they husbands or fathers, with women serving as commodities to be traded in matrimonial business transactions between men. The poet is well known for making use of the Elizabethan gender stereotypes in his plays, at times supporting them, but frequently choosing to bend and challenge them with his characters, as he does with Romeo and Juliet. Theirs is a story of two adolescents falling in love on first sight, as both come from long quarrelling families, the Capulets and the Montagues. Whilst this feud is often identified as the reason for the two lovers’ cataclysmic end, other critical factors might be considered.
Verona’s society imposes strict gender expectations on both sexes: women are ideally moulded into well-behaved, pretty items of possession, never disagreeing with a man, whereas men are raised to exercise violence and dominance. Not only the stereotypes, but also, and in particular, Verona’s family structure pressures the star-crossed lovers to obey their place in society, illustrated even more clearly for Juliet within the play. Romeo and Juliet constantly switch between challenging the rigorous expectations and questioning their own unconventionality. When their struggle seems increasingly hopeless, and they must bow to society’s pressure, the tragedy unfolds.
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