Today the BBC ran a story about Shakespeare’s heroines, and their ability to act as role models for girls today. They reeled off a list of ‘usual suspects’ – except nobody mentioned Juliet.
Why Juliet is a fantastic role model:
- Juliet is a love struck teenage girl. She echoes the thoughts and feelings of love struck teenage girls, everywhere. Role models need to be relatable, and Juliet is.
- She is true to herself and what she believes in. Her parents more or less tell her, ‘No, you can’t go out with Romeo; he’s from the wrong type of family’. Not caring where he comes from, she goes out with him anyway.
- She is tolerant. She is told over and over how the Montague’s are different, or bad – but she still likes Romeo.
- She struggles with her emotions. There is no escaping it; Romeo and Juliet is a text where two young teenagers take their own lives… Maybe teens should be taught to view Juliet as a teen who struggles with her emotions. If Juliet was their friend, how would they help her?
I suspect Juliet was left off the list because she, (and Romeo) meet an unfavourable end. Isn’t suicide a topic that should be approached more readily with teenagers? Would exploring the text from that angle, get teenagers to talk more about such a sensitive topic? Would it help them, in their own troubles?
So, maybe Juliet isn’t just a role model, she’s a gateway into a whole new mode of discussion we should be having with teenage girls (and boys).