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JULIET'S GROWTH

We first see Juliet like a child, surrounded by her nurse and her mother. She doesn't say much, and obediently, she says she'll try to like the man her parents wish her to marry. She hasn't seriously thought about her life as an adult: she says marriage is "an honor I dream not of."

But that night, she meets Romeo and falls in love, and everything changes. She begins to think and act for herself. By the end of the evening, she has taken her future into her own hands, and has become engaged.

We see at this point that she is practical but idealistic. She knows there are problems in the world, but she is confident that love can overcome them.

For Juliet, marriage and sexual awakening are the bridge between childhood and adulthood. Before her wedding night she sees herself standing between the experienced matron (married woman) she is to become and the impatient child she still feels like. Juliet takes her adult role as a wife seriously. Even though she's still living at home, she gives her loyalty to Romeo over her family, even after he's killed her cousin.

At the beginning of the play, Juliet still minds her nurse, but by the end of the play she's outgrown her. Her nurse can't understand the seriousness of Juliet's predicament, and the young woman must make adult decisions by herself.

The best mark of Juliet's maturity is that she's strong enough to be true to herself and to Romeo, even though everyone is against it, and the cost is very high. She is no longer an obedient little girl, but a young woman who has taken charge of her own life. She feels she even holds the final card: "if all else fail, myself have power to die." (III, v, 343-45)



By the end of the play, she has come full circle from innocence to experience. Before she drinks the friar's potion, we see she understands that the evil in the world can hurt her. She realizes that the friar could have given her poison so that no one will find out he's married them; she realizes she could wake up in the tomb and suffocate, or she could go crazy. Still, she chooses to have faith. She believes that the friar means her no harm, and she ultimately believes that her love for Romeo is strong enough to withstand death.

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