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The Women Of Shakespeare

The women in Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet subscribe to Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘counter universe’;. These characters have different behaviors and personalities based on the company they are keeping. When they are not in the presence of men, they appear to be much more liberated and expressive. In Act I, Scene I of Romeo and Juliet, a tragedy, the Capulets and the Montagues are in the streets of Verona preparing for a brawl. The two matriarchs of the opposing families arrive.

Lady Capulet in response to Old Capulet’s request for a sword, tells him why ask for a weapon you really need a crutch, thus mocking his eagerness to join the combat. Lady Montague in response to her husband’s attempts to provoke Capulet tells him that he will not take a single step toward their enemy. This scene even though not exclusively between women, gives a look into the actual power these women had over their husbands. It also demonstrates that the women did not have the same animosity towards each other as the men had.

These women did not adhere to any limitations based on gender in this scene, since they both spoke their mind in the company of men. Act I, Scene III, between Juliet, her mother and the nurse shows the formality that Juliet has with her mother. Juliet calls her mother Madam and behaves very submissive and obediently. Lady Capulet is very detached from Juliet’s upbringing, which is obvious by the lack of knowledge regarding her child’s age. The nurse raised Juliet and breast-fed her as an infant. This fact helps explain the close relationship shared between the nurse and Juliet.

The nurse was Juliet’s emotional mother while Lady Capulet was her biological mother. Her mother wants to know how she would feel about marrying Paris, a young count. Lady Capulet emphasizes that attractiveness is very important and that every attractive man needs an attractive wife. There is no discussion of love, intimacy or companionship. The nurse talks of sexual intimacy as being the only happiness in a marriage and tells her to aim for ‘happy nights’;. Juliet does not get excited by the prospect of her marriage to Paris but is just being adolescently obedient.

Lady Capulet is almost resentful that her child is not yet married at almost fourteen year old, she was already a mother at that age, which would make her about twenty-eight year old. This scene adds to the tragic element of the play because of Juliet’s lack of enthusiasm for Paris and marriage. It makes her forbidden love for her enemy, Romeo, appear more disastrous when compared to her indifference regarding Paris. Juliet is dancing with Romeo when her nurse interrupts them because her mother is calling for her. In Act I, Scene V Juliet manipulates her nurse in order to discover the identity of the man with whom she danced.

She then tells the nurse that she loves her enemy. The nurse is Juliet’s servant and does much to aid her during the whole play. The nurse does not have loyalty to Lady Capulet only to Juliet. Act II, Scene V, Juliet has sent her nurse to search for Romeo and when she finally arrives she needs to rest because she is not in good physical shape. This scene shows the contrast between the old and the young. The nurse is impressed with how eager Juliet is in her need for information regarding Romeo. Juliet gets the news that she is to go to confession where Romeo will meet her and they will be married.

The nurse is attempting to get sympathy and appreciation from Juliet. She tells Juliet that she needs to go do more bidding for her, so she may have a wedding night with Romeo. She implies that her virginity will be lost and that she will be working hard all night. The nurse throughout the play makes references to sex almost every time she speaks. Juliet’s elation at her forthcoming marriage makes the conclusion to the play much more unfortunate. She has such hope and anticipation at their future, that the lack of a future is tragic. The monologue by Juliet Act III, Scene II, shows how eager she is to lose her virginity.

She has a sense of foreboding by discussing what will happen to Romeo after death, he will reincarnate as stars and everyone will fall in love with the night. The nurse enters and tells Juliet of a death, she mistakenly believes that Romeo is dead. When she finds out the Romeo is banished and Tybalt is dead, she goes through many mood swings in a short time. Her moods are very adolescent. The nurse attempts to lift Juliet’s mood by offering to go find Romeo and bring him to her. Juliet does not want to die a virgin and accepts the nurses’ offer.

Juliet is very comfortable in the presence of the nurse; she talks freely and is able to express herself informally. Her mother plays a relatively small role in Juliet’s life. The nurse and Juliet share progressive views of women, which allow them to be open and free without the need for formality. The nurse warns Juliet about her mother coming, this is important because Romeo is in her bed. Juliet would have great troubles if her mother found out that she had lost her virginity. In the exchange between Lady Capulet and Juliet, Juliet is, appearing to hate Romeo and wishes him ill will.

Juliet is actually wishing to ‘wreak the love I bore my cousin’; or make love to Romeo again. She tells her mother that she would be glad to behold Romeo dead, but I think she is implying the she will never be satisfied until she has him and that her heart is dead without him in her life. Her mother tells Juliet of her scheduled marriage to Paris and how caring her father has been in choosing such a deserving mate. She tells her mother that she will not marry Paris, that she would rather marry Romeo, whom she hates. There is a detached, impersonal feeling from all of the exchanges between Juliet and her mother.

It seems to be a very unnatural relationship. Her parents refuse to listen to her thoughts about not marrying Paris. Juliet carries a handsome fortune as the sole heir to her father’s estate but she is powerless to oppose his choice of whom she is to marry; it is an arranged marriage and it will occur regardless. Her father tells her that he will drag her to church if she does not obey. The only person who tries to help the parents see Juliet’s view is the nurse, who also gets yelled at by the parents. Juliet’s mother is very angry because Juliet is not being submissive or obedient in accepting her marriage.

The parents are behaving as adolescent as Juliet in their rash decisions and overreacting. The nurse suggests to Juliet that she should commit bigamy, which is illegal and considered a sin. Juliet cuts the nurse off from any further confidence. Juliet feels as if the nurse has betrayed her trust by even suggesting infidelity. Act IV, Scene III finds Juliet in her bedroom ready to take the sleeping potion that will put her to sleep for 3 days. She tells the nurse not to sleep in the same room as her; this is in necessary to facilitate the master plan. Juliet has a lengthy monologue in which she talks herself into taking the poison.

She feels terror at the prospect of taking the potion. She is determined to overcome her fears of going mad in the tomb. She almost has a nervous breakdown as she starts hallucinating to see Tybalt’s ghost seeking revenge on Romeo. In Much Ado About Nothing, Act III, Scene I, is the first time that there is a situation when there is no men present. Hero is planning to have her cousin, Beatrice, overhear a conversation about Benedick’s love and desire for Beatrice. Beatrice listens in secret as planned, as Hero and Ursula discuss how Beatrice would only belittle Benedick if she knew of his love.

Beatrice has a complete change of heart and vows to love Benedick if he will have her. Hero is deceiving Beatrice in an attempt to manipulate her feelings. Hero should have been forthcoming and told Beatrice of Benedick’s love without the deception. Beatrice has a strong wit, which is used to hide her loneliness, she would rather look strong then vulnerable. She receives protection by using her quick wit to keep exchanges with others shallow. Through the entire play there is not much insight into Beatrice’s psyche. Act III, Scene IV finds Hero nervously preparing for her wedding, while Beatrice acts lovesick and melancholy.

Hero makes a statement that her heart is ‘exceeding heavy’;, this is a foreboding statement of what is to come at the church. She feels that this marriage may not be right, but she is powerless to change the situation. Since Hero is the only heir to Leonato’s estate there is a great economic value to Claudio in this marriage. Claudio went through all of the socially correct channels to obtain Hero as his wife. The discussion in the scene is very shallow; of clothing and hair styles not of love, the future or of children. The relationship between Hero and Beatrice, though close, does not feel very intimate.

They do not share deep thoughts and moments. This may be because Shakespeare meant for this play to be a comedy and kept it platonic on purpose. There are not many scenes just between female characters. Hero is a very traditional character. She is submissive and obedient to her father and then to her lord, Claudio. She does not have a mind of her own. Even in the scenes with other women, Hero does not speak freely and think maturely, she is perpetually adolescent in her thinking and emotions. Beatrice is a very progressive woman, she thinks for herself and is very smart and independent.

She decides for herself that she loves Benedick, no one arranges this union. I think men of were afraid of Beatrice because of her humiliating quick wit. Her uncle, Leonato berates her for her sharp tongue, telling her she will never get a husband. Hero is a victim in this play. She is convicted of a sin she did not commit, shunned by her lover, her father and almost all who knew her. She was dependent on a man to pull her back up again. That her father and all those that Hero knew did not believe her makes her gender appear untrustworthy.

Her father would rather have her dead then live if she were indeed unchaste. The friar’s intervention saved Hero’s future and possibly her life. Hero should not have felt so dependent on men for her well being; Beatrice found her sense of well being from within. Juliet has characteristics that are similar to both characters in Much Ado About Nothing. She is independent in making her decisions, similar to Beatrice, but yet dependent on men for acceptance, similar to Hero. I feel that Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘counter universe’; is more present in Romeo and Juliet then in Much Ado About Nothing.

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