Romeo and Juliet: cultural context

Romeo and Juliet: cultural context

Setting and Social Structure

  • “Romeo and Juliet” is set in Verona, Italy during the Renaissance period (14th-17th century).
  • This period of time was marked by a revival in art, literature, and learning. The influence of this cultural renaissance is evident in the depth of the characters and the intricacy of the plot in “Romeo and Juliet”.
  • At this time, class structure and social hierarchy were incredibly important. The Montagues and the Capulets, the two feuding families, are both wealthy and noble. Their feuding is largely against the social norms of the time.

Family, Freedom and Rebellion

  • Whilst individual freedom and choice are championed in contemporary societies, they were not during the Renaissance. Arranged marriages were common and children were expected to obey their parents’ decisions, especially regarding marriage. Juliet’s resistance and choice to be with Romeo is a significant act of rebellion.

Religion and Views on Gender

  • Religion played a pivotal role in people’s lives during the Renaissance period. Regular references to Christian beliefs and values in “Romeo and Juliet” underline its significance in society.
  • In Elizabethan era, views on gender are also reflected in the play. Men like Romeo are expected to be brave, decisive, active, loyal, and violent when necessary, whereas women like Juliet are expected to be obedient, virtuous, passive and focused on family and marriage.

Courtly Love and Symbolism

  • It is important to understand the influence of the idea of “Courtly Love” in the plot. This was a form of love popular in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance which involved a knight showing devotion for a noble lady, often someone out of their reach, with the belief that this unattainable love would make them a better person.
  • The symbolic use of light and dark throughout the play has its roots in Renaissance beliefs. It was believed that light represented purity and divinity, while darkness was associated with evil and deception.

Importance of Cultural Context in Analysis

  • Taking these cultural contexts into consideration helps us understand the motivations and conflicts faced by the characters in the play, thus enriching the analysis of the plot and themes.