Marrying for Autonomy: A Feminist Analysis of Romeo and Juliet


  • Abbigail Jackson


Several Shakespeare scholars focus on the oppression of women in Shakespeare’s time, and maintain that stance when analyzing Romeo and Juliet. Some scholars argue that both Romeo and Juliet, but especially Juliet, are oppressed and passive in the events of the play. This paper argues that not only do both characters actively participate in their lives, but Juliet in particular determines her own fate. Juliet chooses not to abide by her parents’ wish that she marry Paris, and instead chases Romeo, despite knowing her parents’ expectations of her to marry the man they chose for her. This paper claims that, with the help of her nurse, Juliet makes rational decisions, showing that she does not have a history of impulsive actions. While Romeo may make impulsive decisions, those are a result of a lack of mature guidance, not a result of his own immaturity. The difference in their support systems shows how Juliet has the capability to make well-informed, reasonable decisions, and therefore chooses to commit suicide on her own accord. She determines her own fate, knows she would not live the life she wants if she lives, and chooses death over living an unhappy life. The paper uses feminist criticism and close reading to arrive at this conclusion. I wrote this paper for my English 6000 Intro to Graduate Studies course in the Fall 2020 semester.