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English literature controlled assessment Essay

Many plays and poems are concerned with the relationship between parents and their children. Choose a situation where this issue is considered in a Shakespeare play and link it with poetry where there is a similar situation. Refer closely to the texts in your answer to support your views.

Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s most iconic plays. The sad tale of the two star-crossed lovers was written in Elizabethan times and because of this features families a lot different from that of today. Elizabethan families ran very differently from that that goes on in our own home sweet homes. Elizabethan children were considered their parents property and must obey whatever their parents said; this was usually the father as women in the past would also have to follow the strict rules of their husbands. As well as that, children, in rich families, were often forced to marry whom they were instructed to; primarily for money. The ideas of family feature heavily in Romeo and Juliet and in this assessment I will explore said ideas in depth.

In Act One, Scene Two Lord Capulet, Juliet’s father, is consulting Paris after he asked for Juliet’s hand in marriage. Capulet believes that his daughter is too young to marry. Capulet says ‘An she agree, within her scope of choice lies my consent and fair according voice’ he is saying that Paris has his approval but it is up to Juliet to make the final decision. The way Capulet handles the situation with Paris shows the love and kindness he feels for his daughter. Capulet allows Juliet to decide if she wants to marry this man.

This wouldn’t have happened very often in Elizabethan times as the richer families often married for wealth not love and here Capulet is asking, not telling, Juliet to marry this wealthy man. He doesn’t treat her as a piece of furniture and wants her to be happy with the person she marries, ‘She is the hopeful lady of my earth’ Capulet has lost his previous children and only wants the best for his only daughter.

Then, in Act Three, Scene Four, Capulet arranges Juliet’s and Paris’ wedding saying ‘she shall be married to this noble earl’. Capulet arranges this marriage without his daughters consent because he believes it will help to bring his daughter out of her depressive state, which he thinks is caused by the death of her cousin Tybalt but in reality it’s because of Romeo being exiled from Verona. The sentence Capulet says shows how kind he is to his daughter; Capulet could have chosen the wealthiest man he could get his hands on, however he chooses a ‘noble’ suitor for his daughter to marry. This once again shows that Capulet doesn’t want to use his daughter for money and actually wants his daughter to be happy with the one she marries.

So far Capulet has been presented as the figure head of the perfect father, given the Elizabethan era, however there is a moment when his attitude towards his daughter changes. In Act Three, Scene Five Capulet has just been informed by his wife that Juliet has refused to marry Paris. Capulet then responds with ‘Is she not proud? Doth she not count her blest?’ Capulet then goes on to tell her that he will throw her out and never look upon her again. Now, Capulet’s exclamation could be seen by many to be harsh and unfair, however, given the era the play was written children did as their parents instructed and never had anything else to say on the matter.

Capulet asks several questions one after another not waiting for an answer, this suggests that he is panicking and has no idea how he is meant to handle this; this could very well likely be the first time his daughter has defied him. So, given the plays era, Capulet’s outrage is completely understandable, he is shocked, panicked and appalled at Juliet’s behaviour as children never defied their parents, particularly their fathers.

Now I shall move onto the topic of Juliet’s mother, Lady Capulet. In Act One, Scene Three Lady Capulet opens the scene with ‘Nurse where’s my daughter? Call her forth to me’. The way Lady Capulet refers to Juliet as her daughter in this way almost sounds as if she is calling Juliet some sort of object; it’s almost like Lady Capulet is asking the Nurse to bring her a pair of shoes she misplaced.

She doesn’t speak as if she loves her daughter at all, if she did she might have said something like “Nurse where is Juliet? Could you ask her to come to me?” The fact that she doesn’t speak to her in this way highlights further how the relationships between parent and child worked in Shakespearian times; parents did treat their children as objects.

The third scene in Act One focuses heavily on Juliet’s relationship with both her mother and the Nurse. In this scene Lady Capulet refers to Juliet as ‘daughter’ and Juliet to her as ‘madam’. This does show how Elizabethan children had to talk to their parents but the strict formality of how they talk to one another suggests that there is no mother-daughter relationship. They don’t refer to each other as “mother” or “Juliet”. However, as I said before, this could be down to how children had to speak and act toward their parents in Shakespearian times, however I believe it comes down to the lack of relationship between the two and my next point elaborates this further.

When Juliet arrives Lady Capulet instructs the Nurse to leave them alone allowing them to talk in privacy. Lady Capulet then suddenly asks for the Nurse to come back saying ‘I have remembered me. Thou’s hear our counsel’. When Lady Capulet is faced alone with her daughter she becomes apparent to the fact that she has no idea how to talk to her daughter and needs the Nurse to help her communicate with Juliet.

The fact that Lady Capulet needed the Nurse to help her talk to her daughter this time suggests that this is something that could have occurred in the past meaning that Lady Capulet has never had a conversation with Juliet without an audience to help her, which is in no way a healthy relationship between mother and daughter. The reason Juliet finds it easier to talk to her Nurse is because she was the one that breastfed and raised Juliet as she was hired to be her wet nurse. Elizabethan women were often employed by richer families to raise and wean their babies for them, this profession was known as a wet nurse.

In conclusion, Shakespeare used the topic of parent-child relationships heavily in Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare’s goal that he set out to do was to educate the Elizabethan and modern eras that the way things were, were wrong. The star-crossed lovers were destined to die as a way to show that the way parents were treating their children as objects was ultimately going to end in despair; if not for their children then for themselves. The Montague’s and Capulet’s lost their children because of the way they had been treated and I believe Shakespeare wanted his audiences, then and into the far future, to reconsider how they are treating their own children.

In this next part of the controlled assessment I will analyse and discuss different poems with the themes of parent-child relationships and then link certain points back to the themes present in Romeo and Juliet. The first poem we studied was ‘Catrin’ by Gillian Clarke; a poem dedicated to her own daughter Catrin. The poem shows the development of mother daughter relationships primarily at birth and during the teenage rebellious period of her life.

A theme used throughout the poem is this theme of a ‘tight red rope of love’. This is mentioned or suggested at several points throughout the poem and refers to the umbilical cord. The rope reminds me of a game of ‘tug of war’ a game that crowns a winner, however I believe that this battle is continuing even into Catrin’s teenage years, she is still pushing away, the theme of conflict is present throughout.

The first stanza also mentions an ‘environmental blank’ this suggests that the mother is blocking out everything around her and all of her attention is focused on the baby and getting it out; this could show that Catrin’s mother is trying her absolute hardest to get her baby out so that they can begin their lives separately. Clarke also writes ‘I wrote all over the walls with my words’, she isn’t physically getting up and painting the walls with a can of Dulex, she is instead splattering the walls with her own and the baby’s screams and shouts as they fight for freedom.

‘Clean squares’ could be the clean and sterile environment of the hospital or it could be a blank canvas ready to be painted with the memories and conflicts of their relationship to come. Clarke then goes on to write ‘tender circles’ which I believe is the mouths of the mother and child, sore and hoarse from all the screaming and crying both parties have suffered through.

Throughout the poem, in between the whole conflict, words such as ‘tender’ and ‘love’ are thrown into the mix contradicting the theme of conflict which is to do with violence and anger. The loving and caring words that are used, I believe, is how Clarke is portraying parent-child relationships. I believe she is trying to say that it is a conflict and it is a struggle, but in between all of the fights and battles are the loving moments parents and
children share and that these moments should be held dear.

The next poem we studied was ‘Follower’ by Seamus Heaney. Unlike ‘Catrin’ this poem focuses on a father-son relationship. The poem is about a son who’s admiration and respect for his farm-working father runs deep, he aspires to one day be in his father’s position and be just as talented as him, however he always seams to fall behind and in the last stanza he does this and it is now his father following him.

The first three stanza’s focus heavily on the father’s skill and expertise, the fact that it took three stanza’s shows just how much he admires his father, it’s almost as if he just can’t be keep quite until everyone knows how amazing his father is. In the second stanza Heaney writes ‘an expert’, this fully shows his admiration towards his father and anyone that doesn’t agree with him is wrong. ‘Single pluck’, ‘exactly’ and ‘polished’ are used and show that the son believes that his father is perfect and has no flaws.

Heaney used the word ‘sod’ which is a part of a farmer’s lingo; using this shows that Heaney spent so much time around his father, following him, that he picked up his speech and understands fluently things that working-class people wouldn’t understand.

He references boats when he writes ‘dipping and rising in his plod’, the boats could be referencing his fathers strength and determination to reach is goals.

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