The name Romeo is now closely associated with the concept of love. In Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s love for Juliet is so intense that he takes his own life upon hearing of her death. Throughout the play, Romeo undergoes a transformation from a young and naive character to a more mature and tragic individual due to his love for Juliet and his involvement in the feuding families. However, the depth of Romeo’s love often hinders an understanding of his intricate character.
Even Romeo’s relationship with love is not so simple. In the beginning, he longs for Rosalie and calls her the perfect example of a woman, becoming distraught when she shows no interest in him. When we consider Romeo’s dramatic reactions to Rosalie, they appear quite childish. Romeo is well-versed in love poetry, and his infatuation with Rosalie indicates that he is attempting to recreate the emotions he has encountered in his readings. Initially, he is portrayed as a traditional lover, a man whose affection for the woman he admires is unrequited. He utilizes sonnets to express his feelings about his situation.
Romeo’s early speeches reveal him to be an inexperienced lover who is more infatuated with the idea of love than with the woman he is pursuing. This exaggerated language characterizes him as young and naive. In his interactions with his friends, especially when teasing with Mercutio, Romeo displays glimpses of his social personality. He comes across as intelligent, witty, enjoys playful arguments (especially about sex), loyal, and fearless. The play’s focus on the characters’ eyes and the act of looking aligns with Romeo’s role as a love-struck individual who believes that no other woman could be more beautiful than his beloved Rosaline.
Romeo denies that he could be deceived by love, which he considers the “religion” of his eye. This passion, along with his refusal to listen to Venison’s advice to find another love to replace Rosalie, highlights Romeo’s immaturity as a lover. A similar use of imagery creates a humorous effect when Romeo falls in love at first sight with Juliet at the Capsule feast. Upon seeing Juliet, Romeo acknowledges the superficiality of his love for Rosalie: “Did my heart ever really love before? Disregard it, vision! Because I never saw true beauty until tonight” (1. 552-53).
After their first kiss, Juliet criticizes Romeo’s technique by telling him “You kiss by the book,” suggesting that he follows a set of prescribed rules and indicating that although skilled, his kisses lack originality (1.5.107). It appears that Romeo approaches his love for Rosalie in a similar manner. However, upon seeing Juliet for the first time, Rosalie quickly fades from Romeo’s thoughts. Juliet is not just a substitute; the love they share is much deeper, more genuine, and unparalleled compared to the superficial infatuation Romeo felt for Rosalie. Throughout the play, Romeo’s love evolves from a shallow yearning to be in love to a profound and intense passion.
As Romeo’s affection deepens throughout the play, his growth as a lover is evident through his evolving language. He starts incorporating blank verse alongside rhyme, resulting in a more natural and relatable tone. Juliet significantly contributes to Romeo’s development, as her sensible remarks, like the one about his kissing, jolt him out of his superficial notion of love and ignite a passion that leads to the creation of some of the most exquisite and passionate love poetry ever penned.
Despite his deep capacity for love, Romeo’s intense feelings extend beyond just his romantic emotions. In other words, Romeo can be seen as lacking moderation in his actions. His love for Juliet drives him to trespass into the garden of his enemy’s daughter, risking his life for a mere glimpse of her. Yet, when Table kills his friend Mercutio, Romeo’s loyalty and anger lead him to retaliate by killing Table. In this tragic moment, Romeo prioritizes his love for Juliet over his concern for Mercutio, resulting in Mercutio’s death.
Romeo exacerbates the problem by prioritizing his anger towards Tybalt over his concern for Juliet, resulting in him killing Tybalt. Acting out of rage, he engages in a reckless duel to avenge his friend’s death. Romeo’s lack of maturity is once again evident when he finds out about his banishment. He lies on the floor of the Friar’s cell, lamenting and despairing over his fate. In a clumsy attempt at suicide, he is interrupted by the nurse. The Friar reminds him to think about Juliet and scolds him for not considering the consequences of his actions on his wife. Overwhelmed by despair, Romeo eventually takes his own life upon hearing about Juliet’s death.
Such extreme behavior dominates Romeo’s character throughout the play and contributes to the ultimate tragedy that befalls the lovers. If Romeo had shown restraint and not killed Tybalt, or if he had waited even one day before taking his own life after hearing about Juliet’s death, perhaps their story could have had a happier outcome. However, it is worth noting that if Romeo didn’t have such intense emotions, the love he and Juliet shared would not have existed. Later, when Romeo learns of Juliet’s death, he demonstrates maturity and composure by deciding to die alongside her.
His only desire is to be with Juliet: ‘Well Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight” (V. 1. 36). He demonstrates his determination by using a violent image to tell his servant, Blathers, to stay out of the tomb: The time and my intents are savage-wild, More fierce and more inexorable far Than empty tigers or the roaring sea. (V . 3. 37-?40) After killing Paris, Romeo shows remorse and grants Paris’ dying wish to be laid next to Juliet. Romeo empathizes with Paris, recognizing that they are both victims of fate and describes him as: “One writ with me in sour misfortune’s book” (V. 3. 3) Romeo feels compassion for Paris because he knows that Paris died without understanding the true love that he and Juliet shared. In Romeo’s final speech, he references the Prologue, where the “star-rose’s” lives of the lovers are sacrificed to end the feud: O here Will set up my everlasting rest And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars From this world wearied flesh. (VA 109-112) Juliet, who is nearly fourteen years old, is at an age between immaturity and maturity.
At the beginning of the play, Juliet appears to be an obedient and sheltered young girl. Unlike many girls her age, including her mother, Juliet has not given any thought to marriage. When her mother mentions Paris’s interest in marrying her, Juliet obediently says she will try to see if she can love him, showing her naivety and immaturity in understanding love. She says, “I’ll look to like, if looking liking move.” However, Juliet promises to consider Paris as a potential husband exactly as her mother wants her to.
While appearing obedient, this statement can also be interpreted as a passive refusal. Juliet will comply with her mother’s wishes, but she will not actively pursue a romantic relationship with Paris. This demonstrates her strong determination. (I am uncertain about this point) Juliet appears to lack friends of her own age and she is uncomfortable with discussions about sex (as shown by her discomfort when the Nurse makes a sexual joke at another person’s expense in Act 1, scene 3). Similar to Romeo, Juliet undergoes a transformation from an innocent teenager to a responsible adult throughout the play.
Despite her growing maturity, Gullet’s case evokes a feeling that she has had to mature too quickly. The play consistently highlights Gullet’s youth, further positioning her as a tragic heroine. Although Juliet is portrayed as quiet and obedient, her inner strength allows her to possess maturity that surpasses her age. Upon meeting and falling in love with Romeo, she is ready to defy her parents and marry him clandestinely. Juliet demonstrates love, wit, loyalty, and strength in her relationship with Romeo.
When Romeo and Juliet kiss at the feast, Juliet mocks Romeo for using clichéd expressions of love and for kissing conventionally instead of passionately: “You kiss by the book” (1. 5. 110). This sets a precedent for their relationship in which Juliet demonstrates greater maturity, especially during emotionally charged moments. This initial encounter with Romeo propels her into the realm of adulthood. Despite being deeply in love with him, Juliet can discern and critique Romeo’s impulsive choices and tendency to idealize situations.
Juliet recognizes the recklessness of their love, describing it as impulsive and unwise. She acknowledges the rushing nature of their affections. However, despite her forewarning, it is Juliet herself who proposes marriage later in the scene. Upon hearing of Table’s death, Juliet experiences conflicting emotions as she is torn between her love for her husband and her loyalty towards Table, her deceased cousin. She questions whether it is appropriate to speak ill of the man she is married to.
Gullet’s love for Romeo quickly resolves the conflict. She states, “My husband lives, that Table would have slain, And Table’s dead, that would have slain my husband. All this is comfort.” (111. 2. 105-107). In Act III, Scene 5, Capsule asserts his authority as Juliet’s father and insists on marrying her off to Paris. He threatens her with disinheritance and public shame. However, Juliet remains steadfast in her decision to die rather than be forced into a false marriage. She declares, “If all else fail, myself have power to…” At this moment of extreme isolation from her family, even the Nurse betrays Gullet’s trust. She advises Juliet to forget about Romeo and comply with her father’s desires.
When Romeo is banished, Juliet does not blindly follow him. She makes a logical and heartfelt decision that her loyalty and love for Romeo must be her main priorities. In essence, Juliet decides to separate herself from her previous social connections, such as her nurse, parents, and social standing in Verona, in order to try and reunite with Romeo. Juliet’s decision in Act V to take the Friar’s potion instead of entering into a bigamous marriage with Paris elevates her status as a tragic heroine. She contemplates the plan but prepares to face the dangers bravely, stating “My dismal scene I needs must act alone.” When she wakes in the tomb to discover Romeo dead, Juliet’s suicide is not due to feminine weakness but rather an intense love, similar to Romeo’s. In fact, Juliet’s suicide requires more bravery than Romeo’s: he ingests poison while she stabs herself in the heart with a dagger. Juliet’s character development from an innocent girl to a confident, loyal, and capable woman is one of Shakespeare’s early successes in characterization. It also represents one of his most assured and well-rounded portrayals of a female character. Mercuric, who is related to the Prince, displays a sharp but disrespectfully sarcastic attitude towards Juliet’s nurse.
An unlikely source of wisdom, Mercuric is an anti-romantic character who, like Gullet’s Nurse, sees love as solely a physical pursuit. He promotes a confrontational concept of love that sharply contrasts Romeo’s idealized view of romantic union. In Act l, Scene 4, when Romeo compares his love for Rosalie to a rose with thorns, Mercuric sarcastically mocks this common symbol by suggesting that Romeo roughen his treatment of love if it is rough with him, in order to regain his passion for it.
Mercuric, a clever skeptic, serves as a contrast to Romeo, the youthful lover who believes in patriarchal love. Mercuric makes fun of Romeo’s romantic ideals and the poetic devices he uses to express his feelings. He says to Romeo, “Humors! Madman! Passion! Lover! Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh, Speak but one rhyme and I am satisfied.” (11. 1. 7-9) In Act l, Scene 4, Americium’s speech at the Queen MBA showcases his eloquence and vivid imagination while also revealing his cynical nature. Unlike Romeo, Mercuric doesn’t believe that dreams can predict the future. Mercuric’s dream world is full of fairies and he believes dreams are simply a product of people’s anxieties and desires.
Americium’s speech creates tension for Romeo’s first meeting with Juliet at the Capsule ball. The speech indicates that Mercuric, who is Romeo’s friend, can never be his confidant. Throughout the play, Mercuric remains unaware of Romeo’s love for Juliet and their subsequent marriage. In Act III, Scene I, Mercuric meets his death when he impulsively draws his sword on Table, who had been unsuccessfully trying to provoke Romeo into a fight. Americium is famous for his words, “a scratch, a scratch; marry, ‘its enough,” which describe the fatal wound inflicted by Table. The death of Americium ultimately results in…
Table’s death when Romeo avenges the death of his friend (Line 98). He says wishes a plague upon the two houses, showing that he, unlike the rest of the characters, blames the tragedy on the people involved (Capsule and Montague), rather than fate. He is down to earth. Friar Lawrence Friar Laurence is presented as a holy man who is trusted and respected by the other characters. The Friar’s role as the friend and advisor to Romeo and Juliet highlights the conflict between parents and their children within the play.
The significance of the Friar’s role suggests a notable deficiency in parental affection. Romeo and Juliet cannot disclose their love to their parents due to the ongoing conflict between their families. Acting as a Franciscan priest, he plays a critical part in the story by marrying Romeo and Juliet in his confinement, hoping that this union will bring an end to the hostility between the Montagues and the Capulets. The Friar is Romeo’s friend and initially finds it hard to believe how quickly Romeo has forsaken Rosaline for Juliet, as he recalls Romeo’s prior infatuation with Rosaline.
He reminds Romeo of the suddenness of his decisions. In their isolation, Romeo and Juliet turn to the Friar, who can offer neutral advice. The Friar uses the formal language of rhyme and proverbs to stress the need for caution to Romeo. However, he agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet in the hope that their marriage will heal the rift between the Montagues and the Capulets. His decision to marry the lovers is well-meaning but indicates that he has been naive in his assessment of the feud and hasn’t reflected on the implications of Romeo and Juliet’s clandestine marriage.
The conflict between young and old also shows in the Friar’s relationship with Romeo and Juliet. When Friar Laurence tries to comfort Romeo’s sadness about his banishment with rational arguments, Romeo quickly responds that if the Friar were young and in love, he wouldn’t appreciate such advice. “You cannot speak of something you don’t feel. If you were as young as I am and in love with Juliet, just an hour after getting married, seeing Tybalt killed, feeling lovesick like me, and banished like me, then you’d be able to speak and mourn just like I’m doing now, imagining an unprepared grave” (3.3.63-70). Later, the Friar unknowingly contributes to the deaths of the two lovers when he creates a plan to reunite Romeo and Juliet using a deceptive scheme involving a sleeping potion that appears to be from some mystical knowledge. This mystical knowledge seems odd for a Catholic friar. Why does he possess such knowledge, and what does it mean? He initially puts Juliet into a deep sleep with the potion that makes Romeo think she’s dead, leading to his self-inflicted death by poison, followed by Juliet’s death after she discovers Romeo is dead.
Friar Laurence’s letter to Romeo, explaining that Juliet was not actually dead, did not reach Romeo. The Friar’s understanding of plants, particularly their ability to both heal and harm, plays a significant part in the subsequent events. His efforts to mend the feud by defying nature, faking Juliet’s “death” to ensure acceptance of her life with Romeo, are noticeably unnatural. The Friar must rescue Juliet from the tomb to save her life, once again going against the natural order.
This misuse of nature for unnatural purposes causes many of the results that lead to the tragic ending of the play. In the end, even though Romeo and Juliet’s deaths are partly Romeo’s fault, The Prince of Verona forgives him. Friar Lawrence holds a peculiar role in Romeo and Juliet. He is a compassionate priest who assists Romeo and Juliet throughout the play. He conducts their wedding ceremony and gives generally wise guidance, particularly regarding the importance of moderation. He is the only religious figure in the play.
But Friar Lawrence is not only the most scheming and political character in the play – he marries Romeo and Juliet as part of a plan to end the civil strife in Verona. Despite appearing well conceived and well intentioned, the Friar’s plans ultimately serve as the main mechanisms that lead to the fated tragedy of the play. In the end, Friar Lawrence acts like any human – he flees the tomb and abandons Juliet. Nurse, on the other hand, acts as a surrogate mother to Juliet, deeply caring for her best interests. She even encourages Juliet’s dangerous relationship with Romeo, hoping it will bring her happiness.
The Nurse in the play serves as a mediator between Romeo and Juliet and is the only character, aside from Friar Laurence, who is aware of their marriage. Although she is a servant in the Capulet household, the Nurse plays a motherly role to Juliet and considers her as her own daughter. The Nurse’s connection with Juliet highlights her young age. In the first scene with Juliet, the Nurse emphasizes that she has not turned fourteen yet. In contrast to Juliet’s youth, the Nurse is elderly and frequently complains about her physical discomforts.
The Nurse is talkative and often repeats herself, similar to Mercuric. Her bawdy references to the sexual aspect of love distinguish the idealistic love of Romeo and Juliet from the love described by other characters. Unlike Juliet, the Nurse believes that love is temporary and physical, making it difficult for her to comprehend Romeo and Juliet’s intense and spiritual love. When the Nurse informs Juliet about Romeo’s wedding plans, she focuses on the pleasures of Juliet’s wedding night instead of the emotional significance. This clash in perspectives is evident when she advises Juliet to forget Romeo and marry Paris, betraying Juliet’s trust by suggesting a false marriage. Despite initially defending Juliet when Capulet orders her to marry Paris, the Nurse pragmatically suggests that Paris may not be so bad in the end.
Juliet is astonished by the Nurse’s suggestion, considering that she had previously spoken highly of Romeo and played a role in bringing the couple together. The Nurse is ultimately at the mercy of societal norms, as her lower social status prevents her from having the power to effect change. Despite her motherly feelings towards Juliet, the Nurse quickly succumbs to Lady Capulet’s anger and advises Juliet to move on from Romeo. These characters play minor roles in the story.
The benevolent character in the play is a nephew to Montague and a friend to Mercutio and Romeo. He does not play a major role in the story and mainly serves as Romeo’s friend. On the other hand, there is a hot-blooded young man named Tybalt who is the nephew of Lady Capulet. He strongly dislikes the Montagues, particularly Romeo. When he encounters Romeo at the Capulet party, his initial reaction is to start a fight, but Lady Capulet’s firm warnings prevent him from doing so. Tybalt is eventually killed by Romeo in Act III, Scene I after he murders Romeo’s friend Mercutio. Despite attempting to provoke Romeo into a fight earlier, Tybalt only engages in combat with him at the end.
The Prince of Verona, known as Callus, is annoyed by the ongoing feud between the Capsule and Montague families. He warns both families that any further fighting will result in death as punishment. Callus is also responsible for exiling Romeo from Verona after he kills Table. This act was seen as a compassionate move by the Prince. At the end of the play, after Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, Callus blames both families for the tragic outcome and admits his own lack of intervention in stopping the feud between the Capsule and Montague families (Lines 281-295).
Another character, Paris, is a young nobleman who is related to the Prince. Introduced in Act l, Scene II, Paris is interested in marrying Caplet’s daughter, Juliet. However, Juliet reveals her reluctance to marry at such a young age rather than having any personal dislike for Paris. As Juliet falls in love with Romeo, she begins to ignore Paris, although he remains polite and unaware that she does not want to marry him or that she does not love him.
At the end of the play (Act V, Scene III), Romeo kills him, but Romeo grants his dying request to be placed near Juliet, whom he loved (Lines 73-74). Montague and Capulet are the heads of two opposing houses. Their ongoing feud is described as an “ancient grudge” in the Prologue (Line 3). The cause of the feud is never revealed; it is only known that it continues to this day. Romeo is Montague’s son, and Juliet is Capulet’s daughter. The heads of the households never fight each other, only their servants, nephews, and children seem to engage in conflict.
Both Montague and Capulet experience the tragic loss of their cherished children by the end of the play. Montague’s involvement in the play seems to be confined to his concern for his son, while his ultimate action in Act V, Scene III is to raise a golden statue of his former enemy’s daughter, Juliet. On the other hand, Capulet has a much larger role. He first appears as a wise and charismatic host at his party, where he prevents a fight between Tybalt and Romeo and gracefully converses with various guests. Later on, he transforms into a firm and ruthless father who would rather force his daughter to marry against her will than have his authority questioned.
Lady Montague worries about her son’s happiness in Act l, Scene I, but later dies from grief over her son’s banishment from Verona. Montague explains, “Grief of my son’s exile hath stopped her breath” (Act V, Scene III, Line 211). Lady Capulet, Gullet’s mother, is portrayed as a distant figure in Gullet’s life. The nurse remembers more about Gullet’s childhood than Lady Capulet, implying a lack of closeness between mother and daughter. However, Lady Capulet does support her husband in convincing Juliet to marry Paris.
When Capsule orders Juliet to marry Paris, Lady Capsule, falls into line, agreeing with Capsule and betraying Juliet. Friar John, of the same order as Friar Laurence, is detained by quarantine in Verona (Act V, Scene II), which leads to Romeo not receiving Friar Laurence’s letter of explanation that Juliet was not really dead. This leads to Romeo killing himself in despair. Blathers, a servant to Romeo, witnesses the final moments of Romeo’s life at the churchyard from a hiding place. He later backs up Friar Laurence’s explanation of events to Callus, Prince of Verona.
Sampson and Gregory are servants to the Capsule family. They try to start a fight with Abraham and Blathers, who are servants to the Montague family, in Act l, Scene l. This demonstrates the feud that exists between the Capsule and Montague families and shows that even their servants share a mutual hatred. The fight takes place in a public space, prompting Callus to warn both families that any further fighting will result in death. Peter is a servant to Gullet’s nurse, and Abraham is a servant to the Montague family who is involved in the fight in Act l, Scene l.
An Apothecary: A supporting character, he provides the poison that Romeo uses to end his life. Initially, he refuses to sell the poison to Romeo but later does so reluctantly. Motifs and Symbols 1) Light/Darkness: A recurring visual motif in the play is the juxtaposition of light and dark, often represented through references to night and day. This contrast does not have a specific symbolic meaning – light is not always associated with goodness and dark is not always associated with evil. Instead, light and dark are used to create a sensory contrast and suggest opposing possibilities.