Study Guide

Romeo and Juliet Gender

By William Shakespeare


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There's more machismo in Romeo and Juliet than the worst stereotype of a football locker room. Romeo and Juliet uses malehonor—and male sexual posturing as comedy, but it also sets up the play's tragedy. What drives the rivalry between Verona's two warring families, the Montagues and the Capulets? Testosterone-charged fighting between the young men of each family. Not to mention that Romeo Montague is constantly torn between his bros and his—well, let's just say his ladies, particularly Juliet. And she has some gender challenges of her own: how can she become a woman if her parents keep bossing her around?

Questions About Gender

  1. How do the young (and old) men of Verona prove their masculinity?
  2. What is the relationship between honor and masculinity in Romeo and Juliet?
  3. Do the values of masculinity come in conflict with other values in the play?
  4. Often in literature, male friendship is threatened by the intrusion of a woman. What are the tensions between love and friendship in Romeo and Juliet? How are they resolved?
  5. What kinds of challenges does Juliet face as a young daughter? How does her gender shape her experiences with her family?

Chew on This

In Romeo and Juliet, the pressure to be a "man" leads Romeo to kill Tybalt in a duel and causes much of the play's tragedy

Romantic love triumphs over male friendship in Romeo and Juliet—but only barely.