Social pressure often compels people to do things against their own will. The role of the male in a society is based on a stereotypical figure which represents what all real men should be like. In Romeo and Juliet, the protagonist is an effeminate version of the males in his society.
As a result, he is depressed and feels left out. Contrarily, Mercutio is a manlier and more provocative male which portrays the alpha male and all his obligations and responsibility that comes along in his society.
In Brokeback Mountain, Jack and Ennis portray the image of American cowboys, but ultimately are unable to maintain this image due to their desire for each other. In Romeo and Juliet and Brokeback Mountain, the term masculinity differs depending on the time frame and restrains the role of the male in the society in which they live in. Masculinity works differently in Romeo and Juliet and Brokeback Mountain as it can be represented as an obligation, a facade or a constraint due to social pressure.
In Romeo and Juliet, masculinity is regarded as a role that the male is obligated to take in order to satisfy the social construct of his time.
Romeo is forced into real society and he feels that he does not have any alternative in his life. Consequently, he is depressed and hopes for someone that could free him of this desperation. Juliet serves as a catalyst in Romeo’s life as she convinces him to be who he is. Unfortunately, his role of the alpha male takes priority as his best friend, Mercutio dies: “My very friend, hath got this mortal hurt… O sweet Juliet, / Thy beauty hath made me effeminate, / And in my temper softened valour’s steel” (Shakespeare act 3. 1, 110-15).
Even though Romeo does not want to fight, he is forced to do so or else he would be seen as a coward who let his best friend die in vain. To mask his own weakness, he finds the excuse that Juliet’s beauty blinded his judgement. Furthermore, the harsh reality of the social construct is directly reflected through the family feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. For instance, Tybalt is portrayed as a ruthless thug powered only by his hatred of the Montagues. As such, he is convinced that “[Romeo] art a villain” (Shakespeare act 3. 1, 60).
Romeo represents the complete opposite of the role of the male in his society. He is portrayed as an effeminate man driven by poetry and romance. In contrast, Tybalt plays the role of the straight forward stereotypical male of his time and shows that Romeo’s world is strictly based on duty. Shakespeare shows that masculinity reflects all males in a particular society and that it is displayed differently depending on social construct. In Brokeback Mountain, Jack and Ennis use a masculine facade to repress their own sexuality, but ultimately, their love for each other prove to be stronger.
The story takes place in the Bible Belt, a place where sexuality and races are oppressed. Due to this setting, the two lovers are unable to express their affection for each other with normal means. In fact, the fake identities that they create ultimately lead them to destruction. Jack and Ennis are unable to express their true feelings and this restricts them to reach the happiness that they strive. For instance, after their separation, “Within a mile Ennis fe[els] like someone [is] pulling his guts out… [Ennis] fe[els] about as bad as he ever had” (Proulx 18).
Unconsciously, Ennis pours his feelings out for Jack and feels that he has lost someone very important. Even though their reality does not allow their union, the desire that they have for each other is real and their bond cannot be broken easily. Furthermore, the relationship between them is special; they are unconditionally attracted to each other and express this attachment with contact. In fact after four years not seeing each other, Jack and Ennis “seiz[e] each other by the shoulders, hug[s] mightily… their mouths came together, and hard” (Proulx 21).
As they do not know how else to express their feelings, the best way for them to show their love is by actions. Jack and Ennis’ forbidden love prove to be difficult, but their strong desire for each other proves to be stronger than the image of masculinity that they forged. In both works, masculinity is an insurmountable wall that constrains the characters to move out of their comfort zones. In Romeo and Juliet, the role of the alpha male plays an important part in the story mainly because it is a stimulant which makes the story progress. For instance, Mercutio’s mouth cannot rest and this often puts him into difficult situations.
Mercutio’s ego is bigger than he can wield and this reflects in his actions in the dispute between him and Tybalt: “Men’s eyes were made to look, and let them gaze / I will not budge for no man’s pleasure” (Shakespeare act 3. 1, 53-4). Mercutio is ready to fight till the very end for his own beliefs; he is obstinate and never backs down. This show how little options the alpha male or males in general in this society have as they have to fight every moment for their beliefs since it is the only way for them to feel that they are free. In Brokeback Mountain, Jack and Ennis are engulfed in a world where males are judged by their sexuality.
Jack and Ennis are engulfed in a world where love is one dimensional. The forbidden love that the two experience is something that they cannot understand and as such, they try to hide its very existence. In fact, even after many sexual intercourses, Ennis still claims that: “‘I’m no queer,’ and Jack [also adds] in with ‘Me neither. A one-shot thing. Nobody’s business but ours’ ” (Proulx 15). By living in this oppressing environment, the two lovers are unable to express their true feelings as there are no words to express what they really feel for each other.
Jack and Ennis are afraid of the boundary that exceeds what they already know as such, they want to stay inside what they already know about love and refuses to believe that their relationship is more than physical. In both works, the stereotypical male role dictates the men’ responsibilities and thus creates a dystopia where men are unable to come across this boundary that they set for themselves. In conclusion, masculinity is an ever changing aspect of a society. It is something that defines the very being of the male in his environment.
The man in a particular society holds responsibilities that he cannot escape nor hide from where violence and viciousness is at its peak. In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio abides to his role as the alpha male, but only receive grief and misfortune. In Brokeback Mountain, Jack and Ennis try to hide their love by acting masculine, but ultimately cannot resist to their temptations. As masculinity evolves throughout societies, the term remains straightforward and stereotypical where there is no escape and where tragedy ensues.