Humanities Lit. How Does the Essay

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Juliet knows there is no hope of reasoning with her father. Capulet's treatment of his daughter is symptomatic of his general lack of respect for women -- he tells the nurse to "Utter your gravity o'er a gossip's bowl" and will not listen to his wife when she tells him he is too 'hot' in his reproaches of his daughter (III.5). His attitude is why Juliet lies to him and concocts a plan with Friar Lawrence to pretend to be dead, and be reunited with Romeo. She knows what her father wants to hear: "Henceforward I am ever ruled by you," she says, after she has created the plot involving the magic potion (IV.2). She believes has no choice: he refuses to listen to her when she tries to be honest.

Although Shakespeare wrote his famous romantic play during the 16th century, the types of attitudes he portrays as existing in Italy seem to parallel contemporary Italian accounts of controlling relationships between fathers and daughters. For example, in Dante's Inferno, Dante loves Beatrice, even after her death, but he was never able to marry her because her parents did not approve of their union. The controlling and distant relationships between fathers and daughters within the Inferno of hell are eternally stormy, as in the case of Myrrha. She is shown suffering the torments of hell because she was lustfully compelled, according to myth, to seduce her own father. Myrrha's plight indicates the distance that existed between fathers and daughters in Dante's society (183). The gulf was so wide that fathers and daughters were strangers to one another, almost like prospective mates. Myrrha's story also demonstrates the similarity between controlling father-daughter and husband-wife relationships in Italy during the centuries when Dante, then Shakespeare wrote their masterpieces.

However, by the 19th century, a far more sentimentalized view of the relationship of fathers and daughters existed, as manifested in the George Eliot novel Silas Marner. The little girl Eppie redeems the miser Silas, replacing his monetary gold
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with her golden hair and pure heart. More so than sons, daughters love and remain beside their fathers: even after Eppie's true aristocratic origins are revealed, she vows to die a poor man's child. The father-daughter relationship in the novel is similar to that of many novels of the era: the girl cares for her father almost like a mother, and the father is redeemed by the gentle love of his little girl. Instead of a patriarchal relationship where the father dominates, the girl heals the man. Father and daughter are shown as having a uniquely sympathetic relationship with one another, while in Juliet's relationship with her father, she was a virtual stranger to Capulet, emotionally.

Eppie's relationship with Silas redeems him and brings him back into a circle of common humanity. Interestingly enough, while romantic relationships in the Eliot novel are largely unfulfilling, only the father-daughter relationship is portrayed as offering any hope of elevating the human condition. Silas' fiancee casts him off because of a baseless accusation; the aristocrat Godfrey Cass marries Eppie's lower-class mother, who dies of frostbite and her drug addiction. Godfrey's second marriage is barren, but rather than enter into a household headed by a conventionally romantic couple, Eppie prefers to live with her adoptive father and care for him.

In Romeo and Juliet, the daughter seeks to escape the father. In Silas Marner, Eppie cannot bring herself to leave the man who has been her only caretaker. But while the father-as-king and the daughter-as-mother models may seem to be inexorably opposed, both suggest that the daughter's relationship with her father will be a precursor of the girl's relationship with her husband. Thus, while much changed in terms of the ability of young women to exercise authority and influence through love over their fathers in literature, fundamentally women were still seen as the eternal servants of their fathers.

Works Cited

Dante. Inferno. Edited by Sandow Birk & Doug Harvey. Chronicle, 2004.

Eliot, George. Silas Marner.

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Dante. Inferno. Edited by Sandow Birk & Doug Harvey. Chronicle, 2004.

Eliot, George. Silas Marner.

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Edited by Peter Holland. Penguin, 2002.

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