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Messiano

Romeo and Juliet, a tragic play filled with mystique, romance, and charm is packed from cover to cover with stereotypical gender roles enhanced by William Shakespeare. For example, Romeo, while trying to fit in as one of the guys is instead filled with unmanly feminine behaviors in multiple situations throughout the play. In addition, other male characters such as Capulet, Mercutio, and Tybalt all fabricate the exact typecast of a dominant male figure. An openly political form of criticism, feminist criticism, aims to identify the various ways that women are excluded and protected though stereotypical gender roles throughout texts.

The age of feminist criticism gave new light to works dealing with stereotypical gender roles in situations and general society. For instance, an assumption is made that women are the weaker sex, as they are too emotional, irrational, passive, and unstable. According to psychologists, no simple genetic or physiological test will clearly divide all humans into male or female. Psychological differences are even more complex and elusive. We distinguish by sex, biologically as male and female, and by gender, which are the concepts of masculine and feminine (class notes). Gender roles are used by authors in order to explore the power relations in life and literature, as well as to examine the question "Are men and women essentially different because of social or biological factors?" In Romeo and Juliet, each of the male characters either questions or upholds this theory by exemplifying the traditional male tendencies, theories, and behaviors.

Since the beginning of time, a central male quality has been both dominance and control in the family, as well as keeping a strong sense of pride within the family name. Juliet's father, Signore Capulet, has arranged a marriage for his daughter to the noble Paris. Unfortunately Juliet does not accept this marriage, due to the fact that she has secretly married Romeo, with whom she has strong romantic feelings for. After rejecting her father's arrangement, Capulet becomes exasperated.

How? Will she none? Doth she give us thanks?

Is she not proud? Doth she not count her blest,

Unworthy as she is, that we have wrought

So worthy a gentle men to be her bride? (Act III, scene v, lines 143-146).

Juliet's father is offended by the fact that Juliet will not respect his decision and honor his choice of Paris for her to marry. He continues to show how insulted he is by saying

Hang thee, young baggage! Disobedient wretch!

I tell thee what – get thee to church a Thursday

Or never after look me in the face.

Speak to, reply not, do not answer me! (III, v, 161-164)

in which he is threatening to disown Juliet if she does not show up to marry Paris at the church on Thursday. Capulet feels as though his honor is being torn away form his family and his daughter is not upholding her part of keeping the Capulet name within a certain class and estate. This need for dignity and pride in order to feel accomplished is largely associated with a dominant male figure and is very typical of the masculine nature.

Sexual and provocative messages incorporated into speech are a common attribute of male speech. The need to out perform and out play his foe is common amongst males in every age group. When Tybalt approaches Mercutio to question him about Romeo, Mercutio irritates Tybalt by using sexual comments and attempting to make Tybalt's words seem inferior. For example when Tybalt asks for a word with Mercutio, he replies by saying, "And but one word with one of us? Couple it with something; make it a word and blow" (III, i, 38-39). Mercutio's choice of words is both sexual and refers to battle. Tybalt attempts to keep his control through most of Mercutio's retorts and remains focused on his task at hand. However Mercutio continues to aggravate and provoke Tybalt by making fun of Tybalt's words. After Tybalt states, "Mercutio, thou consortest with Romeo" (III, i, 44), Mercutio replies by saying, "Consort? What dost thou make us minstrels? An thou make minstrels of us, look to hear nothing but discords" (III, i, 45-47). Minstrels, performing men who traveled together, had a reputation of being homosexual. Therefore, Mercutio's retort not only mocked Tybalt, but ridiculed his manliness. The need for strength, control, and a superior reputation with heterosexuality, are all stereotypical attributes and needs for a man in both past and present society.

Romeo, however, acts differently then the other men his age throughout the play. Engrossed in love for Juliet, Romeo recites poetry to her and states,

By love, that first did prompt me to inquire.

He lent me counsel, and I lent him eyes.

I am no pilot; yet, wert thou as far

As that vast shore washed with the farthest sea,

I should adventure for such merchandise (II, ii, 80-84).

Romeo's described actions of how he would venture far in order to be with Juliet show his desire and passion for the relationship he hopes to have with Juliet and how he is longing to be apart of her life. In spite of this, after Mercutio was slain by Tybalt, Romeo's mind changes and his need to by manly transforms him. He states

My very friend, hath got this mortal hurt

In my behalf – my reputation stained

With Tybalt's slander – Tybalt, that an hour

Hath been my cousin. O sweet Juliet,

Thy beauty hath made me effeminate

And in my temper softened valor's steel! (III, i, 109-114)

Romeo has realized how his love for Juliet has made him weaker and he now needs to regain his self armor and manliness in order to defend his friend. Romeo struggles to take control over his sexuality throughout the novel and adjusts his ability to be manly with each scene and plot twist.

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, uses various forms of stereotypes in order to form characters and describe their sexual needs and place in society. The male characters, in particular throughout the novel, act and react to situations based on their need for pride, control, and in order to maintain their masculine sexuality. The desire for dominance and authority over situations predicts what will happen in the plot, due to the stereotypical nature of each of the characters and their text book personalities.