Relationships have played a crucial role throughout our history. One of the most important being the relationship between a father and his daughter.
They are still brought to our attention today in society. You only have to switch on your television to a soap opera to witness a father daughter relationship. They often form a stereotypical father daughter relationship of an over protective father and a timid and complacent daughter. It’s amazing to think that even in Shakespearean times father daughter relationships were still as important however due to modern civil rights and equality for all, some of the significance is lost on a modern audience.
One of the more obvious points Shakespeare shows in Romeo and Juliet is that in their time Daughters were not considered as important as men in society. This is shown when Paris asks Capulet if he can marry Juliet. If Juliet was considered as important then Paris would have asked her to marry him not asked her father. This is also shown when Capulet over reacts when Juliet refuses to marry Paris. He becomes unreasonable and verbally bullies Juliet
“Hang thee young baggage, disobedient wretch!…
My fingers itch. Wife, we scarce thought us blessed
That god had sent us but this only child;
But now I see this one is too much,
And that we have a curse in having her.
Out on her, hilding”
Capulet becomes abusive and embarrassed at Juliet because she is refusing to agree with him. However it is not just that she’s arguing with him; in Act1 Scene5 when Tybalt spots Romeo at the Capulet party he goes straight to Capulet and tells him he’s going to have a fight with Romeo. When Tybalt disagrees with Capulet, Capulet does not get violent he just tells Tybalt not to do anything, he does not threaten Tybalt as he does Juliet . This again proves that because Juliet is a woman and she is publicly disagreeing with her father Capulet tries to regain his status as the leader but fails miserably and just makes himself appear unreasonable and he loses the readers respect. This shows that there was a different relationship between fathers and nephews then fathers and daughters . It seems that it was acceptable for men to question other men but women had to do as they were told.
The reason this argument comes as a shock to the readers is because in Act1 Scene2 Capulet tells Paris to wait for one more year and make Juliet fall in love with him and then he can marry Juliet. Ultimately Capulet is saying it’s up to Juliet this shows how much he loves her and just wants the best for her.
This is seen as strange for that period of history because daughters were seen as a possession for their fathers to do with as they please. Capulet would have been expected to give Paris an answer, not tell him its up to Juliet. This is also seen in Much Ado About Nothing, Leonato keeps talking about how his daughter was his
“But mine and mine I loved and mine I praised
And mine that I was proud on, mine so much”
The repetitive use of the word mine shows that he actually believed her to be a possession.
This is still seen today in many father daughter relationships, the father tries to do what is best for his daughter but sometimes this can cause upset. For instance sometimes when a man wants to marry he asks his partners father for permission, but this is not a crucial social “routine”.
Perhaps another reason Capulet over reacts when Juliet disagrees is because Juliet has always agreed with him before and it came as a huge shock to him when she wants to decide her future. Of course Juliet can’t marry Paris because she has just married Romeo, however if she hadn’t met Romeo would she have just agreed to marry Paris?
The Argument shows Capulets loss of control and even shows madness. Before Capulet uses poetic language to show how he is feeling and in his speeches he comes over as a nice, respectable person. When he starts to argue with Juliet his language changes from calm, poetic to abusive and childish. Capulet overreacts and ends up just looking stupid. This is the same in King Lear when Cordelia refuses to say how much she loves him because she cannot put it into words Lear overreacts and starts threatening her. It’s also shown in The Tempest.
Another thing Shakespeare shows us about father daughter relationships is that when the daughters disagree with their father, the father usually threatens to disown his child or to kill them. This tells us a lot about Shakespearean times. It shows it was acceptable for fathers to bully their daughters and to threaten and abuse them.
This view is supported in a few of Shakespeare’s plays such as King Lear, when the king threatens to disown Cordelia, in A Midsummer Nights Dream when Hermia refuses to Marry Demetrius; her father threatens to kill her.
Another thing Capulet does is show how regretful he is of Juliet being born, this technique is also used in Much Ado About Nothing.
However Juliet does not argue with Capulet in fact she shows a deep respect for him. For example when Capulet is being mean to her and threatening her Juliet gets down on her knees and is pleading with him.
“Good father, I beseech you on my knees” She then kneels. This shows Juliet is not trying to argue with her father but wants to have her own way and is just being stubborn. This gives the audience an idea of the social status of Capulet and how Juliet is desperately trying not to have a fight with Capulet. It is also very emotive stagecraft, a sobbing girl on her knees and a defiant man giving no sympathy, would provoke the audience into feeling sympathy for Juliet. Another play that shows this is in The Tempest where Miranda begs her father. Both girls want their fathers to let them do what they want. When they beg their fathers it shows how much they respect and love their fathers not by what they say but by their actions.
In all the arguments it comes across as the fathers being stubborn and horrible to their daughters but is that really what they are trying to do? It appears to me that the fathers are just trying to do what is best for their daughter. This can be proved throughout the whole play, Capulet wants Juliet to fall in love and be happy, however he wants her to fall in love with Paris because he is a wealthy respectable man who will be able to take care of her. In Romeo and Juliet, Capulet only wants Juliet to marry Paris because he is a wealthy man and will be able to take care off her. This is the same in the Tempest, Prospero only acts angry and abusive to his daughter and Ferdinand because he is testing Ferdinand’s love for Miranda. Yet again he is only doing it because he loves his daughter and wants what’s best for her.
So in answer to the question “What does Shakespeare show us about father daughter relationships?” He shows us a lot. For example he shows how society supports men and how it would be unacceptable for a daughter to disagree because of her lower social status. It also shows that the daughters had a huge respect for their fathers but did want more independence and choice in how their lives were run, and it shows that fathers did what they thought was best for their daughters even if it did seem horrible.
The father daughter relationship back then is similar to the father and daughter relationship witnessed in life nowadays. On both sides it shows a strong love and wanting to please the opposing person.