How is Lady Capulet selfish in Romeo and Juliet?

Lady Capulet, the wife of Capulet and mother of Juliet, is a selfish character in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Though she is not as prominent a figure as Juliet or the feuding patriarchs of the Capulet and Montague families, Lady Capulet demonstrates selfishness in several key moments in the play. Her self-centeredness and detachment from her daughter ultimately contribute to the tragic endings for Romeo and Juliet.

Lady Capulet Pushes Juliet to Marry Paris for Her Own Benefit

One of the clearest examples of Lady Capulet’s selfishness is how she pushes Juliet to marry Count Paris, a match arranged by Capulet and Lady Capulet. Lady Capulet emphasizes the financial and social benefits of this marriage for the Capulet family over Juliet’s emotional well-being and desire.

For instance, when Juliet is grieving over Romeo’s banishment in Act 3 Scene 5, Lady Capulet assumes her tears are over Tybalt’s death. When Juliet claims she is crying over “someone else,” Lady Capulet quickly changes the subject to the idea of marrying Paris: “Well, girl, thou weep’st not so much for his death / As that the villain lives which slaughtered him” (3.5.78-79). Her swift shift demonstrates that she cares more about Paris’s proposal than her daughter’s sorrow.

Lady Capulet also scolds Juliet for her initial reluctance to marry Paris, saying she should be grateful for the “gentleman of noble parentage” who has honored her by asking for her hand (3.5.171-172). She stresses the financial security Juliet would gain, saying Paris will make her “happy in his bed” with “wealthy matches” (3.5.183-184) andeven threatens to disown her as a daughter if she refuses him.

Lady Capulet’s priority is making a socially advantageous match for her daughter, not Juliet’s happiness. She selfishly pushes the marriage for the family’s gain rather than Juliet’s desires.

She Praises Paris for His Wealth and Status, Not His Personality

In urging Juliet to marry Paris, Lady Capulet focuses entirely on his external qualities — his looks, status, and wealth. She describes him glowingly as “A man, young lady! Lady, such a man/As all the world—why, he’s a man of wax” (3.5.176-177). Here wax refers to his good looks and smooth manners.

However, Lady Capulet expresses no interest in or knowledge of Paris’s personality or inner qualities. Her praise centers on superficial traits and public reputation. She is impressed by his noble background and “beauteous villa” with abundant servants (3.5.182), but she does not mention anything substantive about his character.

Lady Capulet’s shallow view of Paris as merely a means to social advancement reveals her selfish motives. A caring mother would be more concerned with her potential son-in-law’s virtues and compatibility with her daughter. But Lady Capulet only values surface-level attributes that will elevate the family.

She Does Not Spend Time with Juliet or Know Her Well

Throughout the play, it is evident Lady Capulet has no close relationship with her daughter or understanding of Juliet’s inner thoughts and feelings. She claims not to know why Juliet is crying in Act 3 Scene 5, and she is completely unaware of Juliet’s secret marriage to Romeo as well as her deep grief when he is banished.

Their lack of meaningful interaction suggests Lady Capulet has made little effort to get to know her daughter outside of arranging her social position. When Juliet refuses to marry Paris, Lady Capulet is shocked, saying “I would the fool were married to her grave,” as if she knows nothing about Juliet’s desires (3.5.140). Even the Nurse, who is not related to Juliet, demonstrates more care for and knowledge of her.

Lady Capulet’s distance from her daughter reveals her self-absorption; she is too focused on social affairs and her own status to be an involved, nurturing mother. Her neglect of Juliet’s emotional needs also leaves Juliet isolated and contributes to the conditions that lead the young couple to destruction.

She Values Status and Wealth over Juliet’s Well-Being

Throughout her interactions regarding the marriage to Paris, Lady Capulet makes it abundantly clear that she values her family’s status, reputation and political ties above her daughter’s happiness. She is fixated on the respectable Verona families who will attend the wedding and the opulence Paris offers.

When Juliet confesses her love for Romeo to her parents in Act 4, Lady Capulet’s swift reaction is to lament the loss of the Paris match: “Oh, he’s a lovely gentleman!/ Romeo’s a dishclout to him.” She bemoans the loss of “this alliance” with Paris’s powerful family (3.5.221-223). Even as Juliet sits distraught before her, Lady Capulet’s thoughts are entirely fixed on the broken political alliance, not her daughter’s emotional health.

Lady Capulet’s obsession with advancement and reckless disregard for Juliet’s well-being is a driving factor towards the young lovers’ tragic end. A truly caring mother would put her daughter’s happiness first, not wealth and status.

Lady Capulet Sides with Capulet Over Juliet

Though Lady Capulet generally defers to her husband Capulet as leader of the household, she demonstrates her selfish alignment with his tyrannical behavior during the scene of Juliet’s refusal to marry Paris.

When Capulet flies into a violent rage and threatens to disown Juliet, even lamenting “you be not worth the time” spent raising her (3.5.192), Lady Capulet does nothing to mitigate his wrath. Rather, she echoes and amplifies his harsh sentiments.

Where a caring mother would calm the situation and defend her daughter from this cruel treatment, Lady Capulet only eggs Capulet on in his tirade, saying: “Ay, sir; but she will none, she gives you thanks. / I would the fool were married to her grave!” (3.5.141-142). She likewise suggests Capulet “drag her hence to church” to force the marriage through (3.5.164).

Lady Capulet proves utterly indifferent to Capulet’s abusive behavior and disregards for Juliet’s choice. Her complicity only isolates Juliet further, driving her towards her desperate secret plot with Friar Lawrence. A loving mother would temper Capulet’s rage and make Juliet’s interests a priority, not blindly uphold his tyrannical authority. Lady Capulet’s selfish allegiance to her husband over her daughter’s well-being is a tragic flaw.

She Uses Motherhood as a Performance for Status

Overall, Lady Capulet’s words and actions reveal that she uses her role as wife and mother primarily as means to gain status. Her interest in Juliet is shallow and performative, more about flaunting a daughter advantageously married than genuine maternal feeling.

For instance, in Act 1 Scene 3, when Paris asks to marry Juliet, Lady Capulet responds coyly: “Well, think of marriage now. Younger than she are happy mothers made” (1.3.70-71). This implies she became a mother at an even younger age to gain status, not out of maternal instinct.

Additionally, she makes a show of deference to Capulet as father and patriarch, saying Paris must win his approval before she offers her own (1.3.57-61). But when Juliet refuses the match, suddenly Lady Capulet shows no such deference to Capulet’s paternal authority. Her actions are a performance to position herself favorably as wife and mother, not out of authentic care for husband or child.

In essence, Lady Capulet dons the persona of motherhood like a costume when it suits her ambitions. But her self-centeredness shines through when her will is thwarted. She fails to fulfill the role of mother when it conflicts with her own desires.


In Romeo and Juliet, the character of Lady Capulet provides a case study in selfish motherhood. While Juliet suffers in isolation and oppression in the Capulet home, Lady Capulet only pursues her own social aspirations through arranging a marriage to Count Paris. She shows little true knowledge of or care for her daughter’s inner life and well-being. Lady Capulet’s detachment and self-centered treatment of Juliet ultimately estrange the young protagonist and indirectly lead her toward destruction. For the tragedy of this feuding family, Lady Capulet’s selfishness as a mother is partly to blame.

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