Juliet’s Self-identity and Narcissism

1214 words | 5 page(s)

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet features the iconic pair of teenage lovers who must face their unfortunate fate. The couple is highly immature, which contributes to their deaths. While many believe that Juliet is the more mature of the two in the play, some interpretations and some performances show Romeo as the more mature of the two (Eschenbaum 452). The immaturity of young couples is well-expressed in Romeo and Juliet and can be employed to explain a number of their lines and behaviors throughout the play. However, these two characters are much deeper than their maturity may lead on. In fact, Juliet seems to maintain a sort of control over Romeo that adds an interesting dynamic to her character. This paper features a character analysis of Juliet, especially as it concerns her struggle over self-identity and love of self. It is argued here that Juliet is a character who struggles to find her own identity and whose narcissism persists even after she falls in love with Romeo.

Identity, of course, is an important theme in Romeo and Juliet. The Capulets and Montagues have distinct family identities in which the two seemingly must be at war. Yet, the individuals of the Capulets and Montagues do not always identify with their families. Romeo and Juliet, for instance, fall in love, despite this seeming to contradict their own identities. This leaves Juliet questioning the identity of Romeo and her own identity. Juliet states “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (Shakespeare II, ii, 1-2). What Juliet means here is that it does not matter whether Romeo is called Romeo and whether Romeo has the family name Montague, he would be the same person even if he were unnamed. Yet, names seem to contribute to own identities and the ways in which we identify ourselves, our self-identities. Juliet seems to question her own identity, especially after considering the rather meaningless or arbitrary meanings of names.

puzzles puzzles
Your 20% discount here.

Use your promo and get a custom paper on
"Juliet’s Self-identity and Narcissism".

Order Now
Promocode: custom20

Brown (341) argues that Juliet is a character who constantly searches for her own identity and struggles over her selfhood. In this pursuit, Brown (340) argues, Juliet attempts to tame Romeo, much like Petruchio tamed Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew. Specifically, Juliet seems to play games with Romeo in order to teach him lessons and even to make him want Juliet more. For example, Juliet says to Romeo, “I would have thee gone, And yet no farther than a wanton’s bird, That lets it hop a little from her hand, Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves, And with a silk thread plucks it back again, So loving jealous of his liberty” (Shakespeare II.ii.176–81). Romeo is Juliet’s bird to train, Brown (334) argues. Brown, thus, takes the position that Juliet wants to control Romeo or at least test the degree with which she can control Romeo. I will go one step further and argue that Juliet does this as an expression of her own narcissism.

In fact, Eschenbaum (451) argues that Juliet is actually highly narcissistic. In addition, her narcissism is shown when she tries to take control over Romeo. In fact, Escenbaum (452) argues that Juliet’s love of Romeo is actually only an expression of Juliet’s love for herself. Thus, Juliet’s love for Romeo can only be as strong as the love that she has for herself. Escenbaum (452) states that this interpretation is supported by Luhrmann’s production of Romeo and Juliet in which Juliet surrounds herself with mirrors and even can be seen through mirrors as she is expressing her love for Romeo. Eschenbaum (452) argues that despite Juliet’s love for Romeo at first being a reflect of the love that she has for herself, the nature of the couple’s love actually transcends this, though doing so ultimately results in Juliet’s death. Though the scholar does not fully explain how Juliet’s death is caused by her shifting her self-love to her love for Romeo, it seems to be that Juliet could only kill herself upon seeing Romeo dead if she loved herself more than Romeo.

On the other hand, Eschenbaum’s romantic interpretation of Juliet’s suicide may have a simpler explanation. I argue that Juliet’s narcissism was actually fueled by Romeo’s love for her. After all, Romeo’s love for Juliet gave her power over him. As a narcissist, Juliet highly values power that will promote her well-being. Certainly Romeo will do virtually anything for Juliet, who recognizes this as her power over Romeo. It seems that Eschenbaum’s interpretation gets off-track when the scholar assumes that the couple’s love could somehow transcend Juliet’s narcissism. It makes more sense that Juliet, as a narcissist, views Romeo’s love as being highly advantageous for Juliet. Juliet’s love for Romeo, then, does not transcend her love for herself. This does not cause Juliet’s suicide. Rather, Juliet recognizes her situation. She is entangled in a violent and deadly family feud. Romeo’s death will only fuel such violence and may cause further death. Also, Juliet has just recognized that Romeo may love her more than she loves herself. Juliet does not commit suicide because the man who she loved more than herself has died; she commits suicide because the man who loved her even more than she loved herself has died. Under my interpretation, Juliet did not overcome her narcissism. The love between Romeo and Juliet did not transcend her love for herself. This interpretation takes Eschenbaum’s assumptions that Juliet is a narcissist and that her love for Romeo is an expression of such love and follow such assumptions to their logical conclusion, rather than following Eschenbaum’s romantic but still tragic conclusion.

I have argued here that Juliet’s narcissism is not overcome by her love for Romeo because her love for Romeo cannot surpass her own self-love. I agree with Brown that Juliet seeks power over Romeo as part of her pursuit for self-identity. Additionally, I argue that Juliet’s expression of her power over Romeo can be viewed as being part of her narcissism. Likewise, I agree with Eschenbaum that Juliet is a narcissist and that her love for Romeo was, at first, an expression of her own love for herself. However, I go further and argue that Juliet never overcame her narcissism. Some may argue that Juliet’s search for identity ended when she fell in love with Romeo; Romeo somehow filled-in Juliet’s self-identity. I disagree. My character analysis reveals that Juliet never finds her identity and never overcomes her narcissism. Instead, Juliet loses the one person in the world who loved her more than she loved herself. She loved Romeo for this, but not more than she loved herself. Given the results of the character analysis, it seems that Juliet’s suicide was not, in fact, a response to her loving Romeo more than herself, but instead a narcissistic response to her recognition that she lost the person who loves her most.

  • Brown, Carolyn E. “Juliet’s taming of Romeo.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 36.2 (1996): 333-355.
  • Eschenbaum, Natalie K. “Juliet’s Narcissism.” Actes des Congrès de la Société Française Shakespeare 33 (2015): 450-461.
  • Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

puzzles puzzles
Attract Only the Top Grades

Have a team of vetted experts take you to the top, with professionally written papers in every area of study.

Order Now