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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  
  3. She is tolerant.  She is told over and over how the Montague’s are different, or bad – but she still likes Romeo.
  4. 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).

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