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The Role of Parents in Romeo and Juliet

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The Role of the Parents in Romeo and Juliet

A parent is akin to a gardener who plants the seed that blossoms into their children’s lives. Some gardeners offer continuous care and nurture to their seedling by watering it daily and providing it with sunshine, embodying the parents who allow their children to reach their full potential. In contrast, other gardeners plant the seed, but take negligent care of the blossoming flower and ignore its imploring signs - thus, they embody the parents who fail to guide and help their children. In the famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, the parents of the two star-crossed lovers are prime examples of the latter classification. These characters failed to fulfill their role as attentive parents, and consequently, they led to the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet. The Montagues struggle in being parental figures whom Romeo could rely on, Lady Capulet stands by Capulet’s rash decisions, and Lord Capulet directly causes the deaths of the adolescents through his callow and imprudent actions.

While Lord and Lady Montague may seem like affectionate and caring parents to a casual observer, they fail to fulfill their role as competent parental figures for Romeo. Montague declares, “Many a morning hath he there been seen, with tears augmenting the fresh morning dew, adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs… Could we but learn from whence his sorrows grow, we would as willingly give cure as know (1.1.134-158).” This line describes how Lord Montague observes Romeo acting in a disconsolate manner lately, so he wishes to find out the cause of Romeo’s grief in order to provide him with the “cure.” Their concern over Romeo’s mood signifies that Lord and Lady Montague truly care about his well-being. However, the Montagues are unable to act as reliable parental figures despite their love for Romeo. A well-established familial relationship is built on the foundation of understanding and trust, two elements that are absent in the Montagues’ bond with their son. This is exemplified in how when Lord Montague notices Romeo’s dejected behaviour, he was unable to directly approach him about it but had to resort to asking Benvolio for help. Further cementing this stance, the Montagues appear in a total of three scenes, which speaks loudly about the lack of a close and trusting connection they have with Romeo. Rather than leaning on his parents for support, Romeo relies on external sources for advice and parental guidance; namely, Friar Laurence. This turns out to be an inauspicious source of counsel as Friar Laurence’s plan ends in the deaths of the two young lovers. If only Lord Montague had taken the time to establish a closer and more trusting relationship with his son, the Montagues could have resolved the feud before matters spiralled out of control, or at least provided Romeo with more considerate counsel. Due to these reasons, the Montagues’ dearth of closeness and intimacy with Romeo play a substantial role in leading up to the tragedy.

On the opposite end of the feud, Lady Capulet also fails in her duty of understanding and supporting her daughter. There is a fine line separating a “birth-giver” and a “mother.” While anyone who has given birth to a child can be considered a “birth-giver,” a genuine mother raises their child up to reach their full potential, in addition to providing them with counsel and guidance. Lady Capulet can only qualify as a birth-giver to Juliet as she fulfills none of the roles expected of an authentic mother. While Lady Capulet initially intends to send the nurse away to have a private conversation with Juliet, she quickly discovers an unbearable awkwardness between her and her daughter. Consequently, she calls for the nurse to come back once more. Lady Capulet says, “This is the matter.—Nurse, give leave awhile, leave us. We must talk in secret.—Nurse, come back again!” This quote perfectly illustrates the stiff and uncomfortable nature of Lady Capulet and Juliet’s relationship. When left by themselves, Lady Capulet cannot find any topic to discuss with her own daughter and instead needs the solace of the nurse to engage Juliet in conversation. Likewise, Juliet talks to her mother in a brief and formal manner. Lady Capulet’s lack of intimacy with her daughter is proven once again when Juliet is pleading for her parents to stop her from marrying Paris. She coldly declares, “Talk not to me, for I'll not speak a word. Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.” At the most pivotal moment, Lady Capulet turns her back on her own daughter. Her reaction is a stark contrast from the archetypal notion of a mother as a loving figure; instead, it depicts a woman who values maintaining the prestige of her house (through marriage to Paris) above her own daughter’s feelings. Lady Capulet’s betrayal finally pushes Juliet over the edge, cementing her resolve to drink the potion - a decision that leads to Romeo’s suicide and subsequently Juliet’s own death. Lady Capulet contributes to the tragedy since she has the opportunity to steer her daughter on a positive path, but instead, she chooses to stand beside Lord Capulet’s imprudent decisions.

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