A Dynamic Death — An analysis on Juliet from “Romeo and Juliet”

Juliet Capulet, a diamond in the rough, the main female protagonist in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, faces problems like insults from her loved ones and a forced marriage. Juliet is a dynamic character as seen by the changes of her actions after meeting Romeo. However, her dependency on Friar Lawrence and the way her loved ones treat her will eventually lead to her death.

Firstly, Juliet is a dynamic character as seen by her personality evolution throughout the play. Juliet goes from being a weak and fragile character, as seen in lines such as “O, shut the door! And when thou hast done so / Come weep with me, past hope, past cure, past / help”(4.1.45). In this quote, Juliet has just confronted Friar Lawrence in his cell. It shows how she is still dependent by seeking help from the Friar, and is unable to think of a solution herself. But, she sooner changes into a more independent character. Juliet is not scared and is willing to sacrifice herself to be with Romeo as seen in the line, “Give me, give me! O, tell not me of fear!” (4.1.125). Juliet is telling Friar Lawrence to give her the vial that will put her to sleep; this will allow her to carry out Friar Lawrence’s plan on Juliet pretending to be dead. Juliet also lies to her parents about confessing her sin to Friar Lawrence and tells her parents, “Where I have learned me / to repent the sin of disobedient opposition / to you and your behest / and am enjoined by Holy Lawrence” (4.2.15–19). This is a case of dramatic irony as the readers know that Juliet was visiting Friar Lawrence to seek help on how to deal with her current situation of having to be forced to marry Count Paris. Not long after this event, Juliet will take the vial as the Nurse will see Juliet and say this, “Lady, lady, lady! / Alas, alas! Help, help! My lady’s dead! / Oh, welladay, that ever I was born! / Some aqua vitae, ho! — My lord! My lady!” (4.5.16–20). This quote shows that Juliet has taken the vial and is now “asleep”. This is dramatic irony as we know that Juliet is not actually dead but asleep; Shakespeare uses this dramatic irony to display the fact that Juliet, who was once thought to be weak and dependent, is not scared to do anything to get Romeo. In spite of her dynamic personality, it is unable to save Juliet from her death.

Secondly, Juliet’s heavy dependency on Friar Lawrence eventually ends up killing her. Juliet turns to Friar Lawrence, the holy priest of the city of Verona, to help her marry Romeo, and break off her forced marriage. Friar Lawrence tells Juliet that he knows how desperate she is and even knows that she is willing to try something like death solve her problem. Friar Lawrence will eventually hand Juliet a vial which will make her appear dead but she is actually sleeping. He tells Juliet, “Each part, deprived of supple government, / Shall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death. / And in this borrowed likeness of shrunk death / Thou shalt continue two and forty hours, / And then awake as from a pleasant sleep” (4.1.105–109). Juliet is quick to agree to the Friar’s plans and takes the vial in which she will later consume while in bed. Before Juliet goes off, the Friar tells her, “In the meantime, against thou shalt awake, / Shall Romeo by my letters know our drift, / And hither shall he come, and he and I / Will watch thy waking, and that very night / Shall Romeo bear thee hence to Mantua” (4.1.116–119). The Friar is telling Juliet that he will send for someone to deliver a letter to Romeo that states his plan. Juliet believes him but Friar Lawrence will eventually fail to deliver the letter to Romeo. The inability to send the letter to Romeo will eventually result in Juliet’s death.

Thirdly, another cause of Juliet’s death is the way Juliet is treated by her loved ones. One such interaction is when Juliet is arguing with her parents due to her having to marry Count Paris which is against her wishes. Her dad, Lord Capulet, then tells her, “Out, you green sickness, carrion! Out, you / baggage! / You tallow face!” (3.5.155–157). Juliet’s parents are berating her because of her refusal to marry who they chose for her. Lord Capulet refuses to speak to Juliet after this and angrily tells Lady Capulet that he has spent all his life trying to search for the perfect husband for Juliet, and now that he found one, Juliet is refusing to marry him. This shows that when things are not going their way, Juliet’s parents are not afraid to insult her even if she is their daughter. Later in the same act, Juliet’s parents have finished talking to her about her marriage with Count Paris, and Juliet is now asking for the Nurse’s help. She tells the Nurse, “Alack, alack, that heaven should practice stratagems / Upon so soft a subject as myself” (3.5.210–211). Shakespeare uses personification here to explain to the readers how Juliet is so weak and dependent that even something holy like the heavens, which is personified as a person, is playing tricks on her. Despite asking for the Nurse’s help, Juliet loses her trust in the Nurse as she had visibly insulted Romeo. Juliet then, in a soliloquy, says, “That damned old lady! Oh, that most wicked fiend! / Is it a worse sin for her to want me to break my vows or for / her to say bad things about my husband after she praised him so many times before?” (3.5.235–239). Juliet has lost her trust in the Nurse, and has to turn to the man who will eventually “kill” her.

Thus, despite Juliet’s changing personality, her dependency on Friar Lawrence, and treatment by her loved ones will eventually lead to her death. Just like a diamond in the rough, she was refined and polished, but blood has also been spilled for both.

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