Romeo and Juliet: Context

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  • Courtly Love
    • Seen as chivalrous and noble; a kind of game of manners. Platonic, not sexual.
    • A male lover may write sonnets or poems in praise of his lady's features.
    • The male declares his undying love for a lady who is unobtainable and cruel.
    • Queen Elizabeth used it to maintain control over a patriarchal society as courtiers had to woo and flatter her.
    • Romeo and Juliet: Context
      • William Shakespeare
        • The play is believed to be based off a real Italian love story from the 3rd Century.
          • Shakespeare also based it off Arthur Brooke's poem 'The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet' from 1562.
        • He was born in 1564.
        • The play was published in the earlier phase of his dramatic career where he began writing tragedies (1597-9).
      • Family and Patriarchal Society
        • Women were seen as weak and were expected to be ruled over by men.
          • They had no rights or authority, could not own their own property.
            • They were often objectified.
        • Girls/women were expected to obey their fathers/ husbands.
          • Arranged marriages - women didn't have a choice, they were for political or financial gain.
        • Many Shakespeare plays show parent-child conflict.
        • Wealthy children often raised by wet nurses, causing a distant relationship with their parents.
          • Shows why Romeo and Juliet didn't approach their parents about the situation.
        • Children were seen as property.
        • The father was the undisputed head of the household.
        • Boys got more freedom, girls couldn't go out alone.
      • Religion
        • Catholic society with strong belief in damnation for mortal sins.
          • Suicide and bigamy (marrying someone whilst you're already married) were considered mortal sins.
        • Romeo and Juliet use religious language to show their love for each other.
    • They were expected to marry young.
      • Paris' interest in Juliet has dramatic purpose: it adds urgency to Romeo and Juliet's plans for marriage.


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