I’m finally getting back into the blogging frame of mind after a very busy January & start to February! Reading Romeo & Juliet in five weeks is an ambitious goal for our classes, but one you are all meeting with determination. Kudos!
In this act of Romeo & Juliet, our female lead seems almost trapped by her decisions, and motivated by a desire to play her role as a good wife to the bitter end. Despite having spent only one day as Romeo’s partner, she is willing to do anything to preserve her “wifely honor,” including threaten suicide, ignore her own fears, and devastate her family.
Though Juliet is already upset about Romeo being banished, she goes into a complete rage when she believes she will have to marry Paris–a total insult to her status as Romeo’s wife. Jump from a tower, live in a slum, sleep in a morgue — about any of these things, she says “I will do it without fear or doubt, / To live an unstained wife to my sweet love” (Shakespeare IV.i.88-89). Juliet has an image of what a wife should be, and though she is sad when her husband is exiled, she becomes unhinged when she might be forced to act un-wifely. Her strongest motivation isn’t love, but dedication to her idea of what a wife should be.