Romeo and Juliet: social context

Romeo and Juliet: social context

Social Context and Structure of Elizabethan Society

  • “Romeo and Juliet” is a play written by William Shakespeare in the 16th century, and its social context is deeply rooted in the societal norms and conventions of the Elizabethan era.

  • Elizabethan society had a strictly hierarchical structure, with everyone from the monarch to the lowest peasant having a certain place. This social hierarchy plays a crucial role in the play, especially in the conflict between the Montagues and the Capulets.

  • Status and honour were paramount in this society. The feud between the two families, and the various fights and duels in the play, underscore this obsession with honour and reputation.

Aspects of Marriage and Gender in Elizabethan Era

  • Marriage in Elizabethan times was often more about social alliances and economic gains, and less about love and personal choice. This is highlighted in the proposed marriage between Juliet and Paris.

  • The role and status of women in society is also relevant. Women, including Juliet, had little autonomy and their lives were controlled by the men surrounding them - father, brother, husband.

Religious and Supernatural Beliefs

  • Religion was a prominent part of daily life in the 16th century. The characters’ belief in fate and their appeals to the divine demonstrate the influence of religion on their actions and decisions.

  • The play also reflects the Elizabethan belief in the supernatural, as seen in references to dreams and omens. This was a common belief at the time, affecting people’s perceptions and judgments.

Attitudes Towards Love and Relationship

  • The attitudes towards love and romance in the play correspond to the notions of courtly love popular during the renaissance period. Romeo’s initial infatuation with Rosalind followed by his passionate love for Juliet are examples.

Role of Social Context in Understanding the Play

  • As you revise, remember to think about how the characters’ actions, relationships and outcomes are shaped by these societal norms and beliefs.

  • Understanding this social context will help you appreciate the depth of the characters, the complex dynamics of their relationships, and the motivations behind their actions. This in turn will enhance your understanding and interpretation of the play.