YES. Beware, this is (way too) long.
So Juliet begins as this clever, yet obedient girl, because she knows no better than what she has. And what she has is an unhappy, bitter mother who married too young to a man too old; a father who loves her, yes, but only in the context of this social script they’re all so good at playing (a father who is so good at acting loving that Juliet never saw his condemnation coming); and a nurse who raised her, who adores her, but ultimately still has to answer to her social stratum. When Lady Capulet asks her thoughts on marrying Paris, Juliet answers “It’s an honor I dream not of.” When Lady Capulet tells her to at least think on it at the party tonight, Juliet answers, “I’ll look to like, if looking liking move.” She’s so carefully and cleverly navigating this lot she’s given as a respectable, marriageable young woman, not allowed to offend anybody.
Then she meets Romeo, who’s completely enamored with her and more importantly good with his words, and for the first time in her life Juliet can speak to a man in the context of this heart-pounding, exciting romance thing she’s never done, and she can be clever. Their whole exchange is coy and playful, and Juliet is so much more forward and brazen than a lady of her lot ought to be (which she’ll address on the balcony later). She gets her kiss, she gets the boy swooning at her feet and she’s so down with this.
And then she finds out about the whole Montague thing. Her reaction? The logical one. “No one knows why we’re even feuding, I literally do not care.” Being a woman she doesn’t need to answer to the masculine ideals of upholding your family’s honor or whatever. She does worry about Romeo’s wellbeing though, when the dumbass sneaks through Capulet property. Then she’s like “Oh fuck it, I love being wooed— but I know you’re clever boy, don’t you dare pull your cliché moon shit with me. Do better by me, I deserve it.” And of course Romeo’s just getting more and more smitten.
I love the bit when Juliet’s like, “I gotta go man,” and Romeo goes, “Wilst thou leave me so unsatisfied??” And Juliet’s like “[bitch], what satisfaction canst thou have tonight?????” And Romeo saves his own ass by doing the whole promise thing.
And then guess what? She proposes to him. She sets up their entire marriage and is like “You’ll send for me tomorrow,” and Romeo’s like “kay.”
Their whole marriage scene is fucking great, because she and Romeo can’t keep their hands off each other, which is sex-positive and wonderful.
Then Romeo fucks up (no I know it’s like, not all his fault or whatever, but still). Juliet has to deal with the fact that this man she loves just murdered her cousin (of course, not knowing all the details), and she decides to give him the benefit of the doubt. Regardless of what people think about that decision, it’s a great moment of character, that she doesn’t just run with whatever one-sided story the Capulets tell her.
Then Romeo gets his head out of his ass (I’m referring to that whole scene when he’s a sobbing, self-pitying mess on the floor) and comes to her, and they do the do. The morning after, Juliet so much wants to be selfish and keep him around. Here her defiant nature is ever so present, literally attempting to deny reality, saying that’s not the morning lark, just the nightingale. It’s only when Romeo’s like “*dopey smile* okay I’ll stay and die then” that she’s like “…fuck okay fine, I see that this isn’t the smartest choice.” I really really love that, when she’s just a petulant teenager for a bit.
AND THEN. Her love for Romeo is found out, Capulet flips the fuck out and threatens to disown her if she doesn’t marry Paris. There’s this line I always cry at, when Juliet pleads for mercy from her mom, and Lady Capulet just coldly says, “Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.” The parents leave, Juliet asks her Nurse for help (the nurse who had been super into the whole secret affair thing previously), but receives none, for Capulet had also threatened the nurse. Juliet’s left completely on her own.
And what does she do? She takes matters into her own hands. This was the starkest comparison to Romeo, who had thrown himself down and whined for hours when he was banished. Juliet goes stone cold, because as a woman she’s no doubt experienced this bunch of entitlement people felt to her life, experienced how much people wanted to control her, and she decides no, she’s fucking done with all this bullshit, she’s getting out. And Romeo, her loving, dopey husband, is her way out.
The sleeping potion part is the bit I always find most queer resonance with, that she spends a page monologuing about how fucking terrified she was that this potion will end in her death, or that she’ll wake up and Romeo won’t be there and she’ll be buried alive in the family tomb. But she still found the desperation, the strength to take it, because this leap of faith and death is still a better alternative than sucking it up and living the placid life of a woman. It’s not suicide, per se, but it had the weight of it, this decision she made.
Oh! And the whole scene with Paris. I mean, the argument could be made that Paris is a chill dude, that he was just going along with everything, etc., and that Juliet was excessively mean and rude to him. But c’mon, this is the guy that didn’t even bother meeting her before he proposed, who made no secret he’s only marrying her because A) political connections and B) she’s pretty enough. So fuck that. And Juliet was so good at making fun of him without him really registering, lmfao.
Well yeah, and then the ending happens. Yes, she committed suicide because Romeo was dead, but I genuinely don’t believe it’s because she was devastated about her lost romance or anything like that. Romeo was her only chance at getting out under the thumb of a patriarchal society (and for that, I’ll always appreciate Romeo, that he was perfectly down with throwing out the patriarchal values he grew up with if it meant Juliet was happy), and with Romeo lying dead before her, all Juliet’s hope was gone. What’s a single woman going to do for herself after she’s faked her own death, huh? At this point, I believe it was very much easier for her to just take the option of death.
(Last interesting meta point— there’s a study done that methods of suicide for men and women tend to follow societal norms; men commit suicide with more of a bang (jumping off a bridge, gun to the head), and women commit suicide more “elegantly” (poison, ODing). Romeo kills himself by poison (a perceivably “feminine” choice) and Juliet kills herself by stabbing herself in the chest (very much a “masculine” choice). So, I’m very inclined to read the play as a feminist text about what happens when the woman takes the reigns on a relationship in a patriarchy. The last lines give it away, that this tale of woe was about “Juliet, and her Romeo”— not in the sense of property, as the men were so inclined to own Juliet, but rather in the sense where Romeo had completely given himself over to Juliet, placed them on equal terms of relationship, and that was the most revolutionary act of all.)
((…and Juliet is totally a domme. Just, btw.))