Juliet’s relationship with her parents seems quite formal and undergoes drastic change during the play. The Capulets expect total obedience from her and force her to take extreme measures when she holds her own opinion.
Juliet’s Relationship with the Nurse
Juliet, the only daughter of the house of Capulet, does not have a close relationship with her parents. From the very beginning, we see her seeking comfort and counsel from her Nurse. The Nurse is much more affectionate towards Juliet than her mother, calling her sweet names, ‘What, lamb! What, ladybird!’, and recalling Juliet’s past with the same love and care of a mother. Lady Capulet, on the other hand, does not act as affectionate as the Nurse does and has a rather passive attitude towards Juliet.
Juliet returns this passiveness of tone. She does not include her mother when she requires help or advice but seeks it from other characters, such as the Nurse or Friar Laurence. When she meets and falls in love with Romeo, she shares this with the Nurse only, being aware of the hate between the Capulets and the Montagues. This hate also detaches Juliet from her parents much further than before. Shakespeare presents a very different type of relationship between Juliet and her parents, declining the most common belief of parents being the first ones to help their child, no matter what the circumstance is.
Juliet’s Relationship with her Parents in Act 3, Scene 5
Shakespeare heightens the level of indifference that the Lord and Lady Capulet have towards Juliet by trying to force her to accept Paris’s proposal for marriage. Being unaware of her marriage to Romeo, they urge Juliet to accept Paris as her husband. When Juliet refuses, Lord Capulet coerces Juliet by emotionally abusing her. He threatens to refuse her as his daughter and never speak to her again. This he does with a cold-hearted attitude, belittling her with offensive names, ‘Unworthy as she is, that we have wrought/ So worthy a gentleman to be her bridegroom?… ‘Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither./ Out, you green-sickness carrion! Out, you baggage!/ You tallow-face!… Hang thee, young baggage! Disobedient wretch!’
In a situation of such vulnerability, Juliet is left alone by both of her parents. Lady Capulet, instead of comforting her, turns to comfort her husband. Even when Juliet begs for her mother’s help, and asks to delay the marriage until she is in a better state, Lady Capulet turns her back to her daughter, professing her outrage, ‘Talk not to me, for I’ll not speak a word:/ Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.’ In this scene, Shakespeare not only presents the parental abuse that Juliet has to face but also the absolute loneliness of Juliet where she is left without someone to help her.
Change in Relationship Between Juliet and her Parents
This scene in Juliet’s bedroom specifically drives the play towards the tragic death of Romeo and Juliet. Only at the end, when the truth of Romeo and Juliet’s cursed love is presented, do the Capulets change their indifferent and uncaring attitude, reuniting with the Montagues for the sake of their dead daughter.
The older generation seems incapable of emotions of love and concern. At first, Lord Capulet seems reasonable and asks Paris to meet Juliet and see if he could win her, and stops Tybalt from fighting Romeo. Because of his authority, he doesn’t like his decision to be overruled. Therefore, Juliet’s downright opposition to his decision for her to marry enrages him to the point where he completely threatens to disown his last living heir. Thus, the Capulets’ incompetency in being good parents can be held accountable when discussing the factors relating to Juliet’s final demise.