The name Romeo, in popular culture, has become nearly synonymous with “lover. ” Romeo, in Romeo and Juliet, does indeed experience a love of such purity and passion that he kills himself when he believes that the object of his love, Juliet, has died. During the course of the play, Romeo matures from adolescence to adulthood as a result of his love for Juliet and his unfortunate involvement in the feud, marking his development from a comic character to a tragic figure.
The power of Romeos love, however, often obscures a clear vision of Romeos character, which is far more complex.
Even Romeos relation to love is not so simple. At the beginning of the play, Romeo pines for Rosalie, proclaiming her the paragon Of women and despairing at her indifference toward him. Taken together, Romeos Rosalie induced histrionics seem rather juvenile. Romeo is a great reader of love poetry, and the portrayal of his love for Rosalie suggests he is trying to re- create the feelings that he has read about.
He is initially presented as a Patriarchal lover, a man whose feelings of love aren’t reciprocated by the lady he admires and who uses the poetic language of sonnets to express his motions about his situation.
Romeos exaggerated language in his early speeches characterizes him as a young and inexperienced lover who is more in love with the concept of being In love than with the woman herself. Among his friends, especially while bantering with Mercuric, Romeo shows glimpses of his social persona. He is intelligent, quick-witted, fond of verbal jousting (particularly about sex), loyal, and unafraid of danger. The plays emphasis on characters’ eyes and the act of looking accords with Romeos role as a blind lover who doesn’t believe that there could be another lady more fair than his Rosalie.
Romeo denies that he could be deluded by love, the “religion” of his eye. This zeal, combined with his rejection of Venison’s advice to find another love to replace Rosalie, highlights Romeos immaturity as a lover. Similar imagery creates a comic effect when Romeo falls in love at first sight with Juliet at the Capsule feast. When Romeo sees Juliet, he realizes the artificiality of his love for Rosalie: “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I newer saw true beauty till this night” (1. 552-53).
After first kissing Juliet, she tells him ‘You kiss by the’ book,” meaning that he sizes according to the rules, and implying that while proficient, his kissing lacks originality (1. 5. 107). In reference to Rosalie, it seems, Romeo loves by the book. Rosalie, Of course, slips from Romeos mind at first sight Of Juliet. But Juliet is no mere replacement. The love she shares with Romeo is far deeper, more authentic and unique than the clinchd puppy love Romeo felt for Rosalie. Romeos love matures over the course of the play from the shallow desire to be in love to a profound and intense passion.
As the play progresses, Romeos increasing maturity as a lover is marked by the change n his language. He begins to speak in blank verse as well as rhyme, which allows his language to sound less artificial and more like everyday language. One must ascribe Romeos development at least in part to Juliet. Her level- headed observations, such as the one about Romeos kissing, seem just the thing to snap Romeo from his superficial idea of love and to inspire him to begin to speak some of the most beautiful and intense love poetry ever written.
Yet Romeos deep capacity for love is merely a part of his larger capacity for intense feeling of all kinds. Put another way, it is possible to scribe Romeo as lacking the capacity for moderation. Love compels him to sneak into the garden of his enemy’s daughter, risking death simply to catch a glimpse of her. When Table kills Mercuric, however, Romeo (out of loyalty to his friend and anger at Table’s arrogance) kills Table, thus avenging his friend’s death. In one ill-fated moment, he placed his love of Juliet over his concern for Mercuric, and Mercuric was killed.
Romeo then compounds the problem by placing his own feelings of anger over any concerns for Juliet by killing Table. Anger compels him to kill his wife’s cousin in a reckless duel to avenge the death of his friend. Romeos immaturity is again manifest later when he learns of his banishment. He lies on the floor of the Friar’s cell, wailing and crying over his fate. When the nurse arrives, he clumsily attempts suicide. The Friar reminds him to consider Juliet and chides him for not thinking through the consequences of his actions for his wife. Despair compels him to suicide upon hearing of Gullet’s death.
Such extreme behavior dominates Romeos character throughout the play and contributes to the ultimate tragedy that befalls the lovers. Had Romeo restrained himself from killing Table, or waited even one day before killing himself after hearing the news of Gullet’s death, matters might have ended happily. Of course, though, had Romeo not had such depths of feeling the love he shared with Juliet would never have existed in the first place. Later, when Romeo receives the news of Gullet’s death, he exhibits maturity and composure as he resolves to die.
His only desire is to be with Juliet: ‘Well Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight” (V. 1. 36). His resolution is reflected in the violent image he uses to order Blathers, his servant, to keep 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 remorsefully takes pity on him and fulfils Paris’ dying wish to be laid next to Juliet. Romeo notes that both he and Paris are victims of fate and describes Paris as: “One writ with me in sour misfortune’s book” (V. 3. 3) Since Paris experienced an unarticulated love from Juliet similar to Romeos unrequited love for Rosalie. Romeo is also filled with compassion because he knows that Paris has died without understanding the true love that he and Juliet shared. Romeos final speech recalls the Prologue in which 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 Having not quite reached her fourteenth birthday, Juliet is of an age that stands on the border between immaturity and maturity.
At the plays beginning however she seems merely an Obedient, sheltered, naive child. Though many girls her age-?including her mother-?get married, Juliet has not given the subject any thought. When Lady Capsule mentions Parish’s interest in marrying Juliet, Juliet dutifully responds that she will try to see if she can love IM, a response that seems childish in its obedience and in its immature conception of love. “I’ll look to like, if looking liking move” (1. 3. 97). However, Juliet promises to consider Paris as a possible husband to the precise degree her mother desires.
While an outward show of obedience, such a statement can also be read as a refusal through passivity. Juliet will accede to her mother’s wishes, but she will not go out of her way to fall in love with Paris. This is a show of steely determination. (I’m not sure about this point) Juliet seems to have no friends her own age, and she is not comfortable liking about sex (as seen in her discomfort when the Nurse goes on and on about a sexual joke atheist’s expense in Act 1, scene 3). Juliet, like Romeo, makes the transition from an innocent adolescent to responsible adult during the course of the play.
In Gullet’s case, however, there is a heightened sense that she has been forced to mature too quickly. The emphasis throughout the play on Gullet’s youth, despite her growing maturity, establishes her more as a tragic heroine. Juliet is presented as quiet and obedient; however, she possesses an inner strength that enables her to have maturity beyond her years. When she meets and falls in love with Romeo, she is prepared to defy her parents and marry Romeo in secret. In her relationship with Romeo, Juliet is loving witty, loyal, and strong.
When Romeo and Juliet kiss at the feast, Juliet teases Romeo for using the popular imagery of love poetry to express his feelings and for kissing according to convention rather than from the heart: “You kiss both’ book” (1. 5. 1 10). This establishes a pattern for their relationship in which Juliet displays greater maturity, particularly in moments of great emotional intensity. This first meeting with Romeo propels her full- force toward adulthood. Though profoundly in love with him, Juliet is able to see and criticize Romeos rash decisions and his tendency to romanticizes things.
Juliet is aware of the foolhardiness of their love: “It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden. ” This sense of rushing headlong accurately characterizes their love, yet despite her premonition, Juliet is the one who suggests later in the scene that they marry. The news of Table’s death initially produces conflicting feelings for Juliet because she’s torn between her love for her husband and the loyalty she feels for Table, her slain cousin: “Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband? ” (111. . 98).
Gullet’s love for Romeo soon resolves the conflict: 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 Ill, Scene 5, Capsule demands his right as her father to marry her to Paris, threatening her with disinheritance and public shame. Juliet, however, is resolute in her decision to die rather than enter into a false marriage: “If all else fail, myself have power to At this point, when Juliet is most isolated from her family, even the Nurse betrays Gullet’s trust by advising her to forget Romeo and comply with her father’s wishes.
When Romeo is banished, Juliet does not follow him blindly. She makes a logical and heartfelt decision that her loyalty and love for Romeo must be her guiding priorities. Essentially, Juliet cuts herself loose from her prior social moorings-?her nurse, her parents, and her social position in Verona-?in order to try to reunite with Romeo. Gullet’s decision in Act Vito take the Friar’s potion rather than enter into a bigamous marriage with Paris increases Gullet’s stature as a tragic heroine. She reflects on the plan but prepares to face the dangers involved bravely: “My dismal scene I needs must act alone. When she wakes n the tomb to find Romeo dead, she does not kill herself out of feminine weakness, but rather out of an intensity of love, just as Romeo did. Juliet suicide actually requires more nerve than Romeos: while he swallows poison, she stabs herself through the heart with a dagger. Gullet’s development from a wide-eyed girl into a self-assured, loyal, and capable woman is one of Shakespearean early triumphs of characterization. It also marks one of his most confident and rounded treatments of a female character. Mercuric Kinsman to the Prince, Mercuric displays a fine if disrespectful tongue, especially towards Gullet’s nurse.
An unlikely source of wisdom, Mercuric is an anti-romantic character who, like Gullet’s Nurse, regards love as an exclusively physical pursuit He advocates an adversarial concept of love that contrasts sharply with Romeos idealized notion Of romantic union. In Act l, Scene 4, when Romeo describes his love for Rosalie using the image of love as a rose with thorns, Mercuric mocks this conventional device by punning bawdily: If love be rough with you, be rough with love; Prick love for pricking and you beat love down. (I . 427-28) He means that Romeo should be rough with love if it is rough with him, and o regain his enthusiasm for love.
The witty skeptic, Mercuric is a foil for Romeo, the young Patriarchal lover. Mercuric mocks Romeos vision of love and the poetic devices he uses to express his emotions: 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) The Queen MBA speech in Act l, Scene 4, displays Americium’s eloquence and vivid imagination, while illustrating his cynical side. Mercuric, unlike Romeo, doesn’t believe that dreams can act as portents. Fairies predominate in the dream world Mercuric presents, and dreams are merely the result of the anxieties and desires of those who sleep.
Americium’s speech, while building tension for Romeos first meeting with Juliet at the Capsule ball, indicates that although Mercuric is Romeos friend, he can never be his confidant. As the play progresses, Mercuric remains unaware of Romeos love and subsequent marriage to Juliet. Mercuric meets his death in Act Ill, Scene I when he rashly draws his sword on Table who had been trying unsuccessfully to provoke Romeo into fighting. Famous for the words, “a scratch, a scratch; marry, ‘its enough” which describe his fatal wound by Table, Americium’s death 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 centrality of the Friar’s role suggests a notable failure of parental love. Romeo and Juliet can’t tell their parents of their love because of the quarrel between the two families. A Franciscan priest, he plays a crucial role in the play by marrying Romeo and Gullet’s in his cell in the hope that the feud between the Montage’s and the Caplet’s will now end. He is a friend of Romeo and initially can’t believe how quickly Romeo has abandoned Rosalie and fallen in love with Juliet, and does not take Romeos love for Juliet seriously, remembering Romeos obsession with Rosalie.
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 Montages and the Capsules. 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 Gullet’s clandestine marriage.
The conflict between youth and old age also manifests itself in the Friar’s relationship with Romeo and Juliet. When Friar Laurence tries to soothe Romeos grief at the news of his banishment with rational argument, Romeo quickly responds that if the Friar was young and in love, he wouldn’t accept such advice any better. “Thou cants speak of that thou dost not feel. Wert though as young as I Juliet thy love, An hour but married, Table murdered, Doting like me, and like me banished, then might thou speak, then might thou tear thy hair, And fall upon the ground, as I do now, Taking the measurement Of an unmade grave. (3. 3. 63-70) Later he unwittingly plays a part in the two lover’s deaths when he devises the plan to reunite Romeo and Juliet through the deceptive ruse of a sleeping action that seems to arise from almost mystic knowledge. This mystical knowledge seems out of place for a Catholic friar; why does he have such knowledge, and what could such knowledge mean? He first puts Juliet to sleep with a deathlike potion which fools Romeo into thinking Juliet is dead leading to his suicide by self administered poison followed by Gullet’s death after her discovery that Romeo is dead.
Friar Laurence letter to Romeo explaining that Juliet was not really dead never made it to Romeo. The Friar’s knowledge of plants -? especially their dual qualities to heal and hurt, play an important role in the action that follows. His attempts to heal the feud by reversing nature, causing Gullet’s “death” in order to bring about acceptance of her life with Romeo is notably unnatural. The Friar must extricate Juliet from the tomb in order to save her life -? another reversal of nature.
This use of nature for unnatural purposes precipitates many of the consequences leading to the tragic conclusion of the play. At the end of the play, despite his own admission of guilt for Romeos and Gullet’s death, Callus, The Prince of Verona forgives him. Friar Lawrence occupies a strange position in Romeo ND Juliet. He is a kind hearted cleric who helps Romeo and Juliet throughout the play. He performs their marriage and gives generally good advice, especially in regard to the need for moderation. He is the sole figure of religion in the play.
But Friar Lawrence is also the most scheming and political of characters in the play: he marries Romeo and Juliet as part of a plan to end the civil strife in Verona. In addition, though Friar Lawrence plans all seem well conceived and well intentioned, they serve as the main mechanisms through which the fated tragedy of the play occurs. Ultimately, the Friar acts strictly human -? he flees the tomb and abandons Juliet. Nurse In many ways a surrogate mother to Juliet, she cares deeply for Gullet’s best interests, even encouraging Gullet’s dangerous relationship with Romeo in the hope that it will make Juliet happy.
The Nurse’s key function within the play is to act as a go-between for Romeo and Juliet, and is the only other character besides Friar Laurence to know of their wedding. The Nurse, despite being a servant in the Capsule household, has a role equivalent to that of Gullet’s mother and regards Juliet as her own daughter. The Nurse’s relationship with Juliet focuses attention on Gullet’s age. In Gullet’s first scene, the Nurse repeatedly asserts that Juliet has not yet had her 14th birthday. In contrast to Gullet’s youth, the Nurse is old and enjoys complaining about her aches and pains.
The Nurse, like Mercuric, loves to talk at length. She often repeats herself, and her bawdy references to the sexual aspect of love set the idealistic love of Romeo and Juliet apart from the love described by other characters in the play. The Nurse doesn’t share Gullet’s idea of love. For her, love is a temporary and physical relationship, so she can’t understand the intense and spiritual love Romeo and Juliet share. When the Nurse brings Juliet news of Romeos wedding arrangements, she focuses on the pleasures of Gullet’s wedding night, “l am the drudge, and toil in your delight, / But you shall bear the burden soon at night” (11. . 75-?76). This clash in outlook manifests itself when she advises Juliet to forget the banished Romeo and marry Paris, betraying Gullet’s trust by advocating a false marriage: think it best you married with the County. O, he’s a lovely gentleman. Romeos a dishcloth to him. (111. 5. 218-220) After Table’s death, Nurse becomes less sympathetic and later when Capsule orders Juliet to marry Paris, she defends Juliet at first but later pragmatically suggests that Paris would not be so bad after all.
Juliet can’t believe that the Nurse offers such a course of action after she praised Romeo and helped bring the couple together. The Nurse is ultimately subject to the whims of society. Her social position places her in the serving class -? she is not empowered to create change around her. Her maternal instinct toward Juliet buoys her to aid Juliet in marrying Romeo; however, when Capsule becomes enraged, the Nurse retreats quickly into submission and urges Juliet to forget Romeo. MINOR CHARACTERS:
Benevolent: Nephew to Montague, and friend to Mercuric and Romeo, his role in the play is minor, serving mainly as a friend to Romeo. Table: Nephew to Lady Capsule, this rash, hot-blooded young man is adversarial and hateful towards all Montages, especially Romeo. When he sees Romeo at the Capsule party, his immediate instinct is to fight, but only the increasingly firm warnings from Capsule to hold his peace restrain him. Table is slain by Romeo in Act Ill, Scene l, after he had killed Romeos friend, Mercuric. Until this point, Table had failed to provoke Romeo into fighting, but dies when he finally fights Romeo.
Callus: The Prince of Verona, his continued annoyance with the ongoing feud between the Capsule and Montague families leads him to warn both families that further fighting between the two will be punished by death. Callus IS also responsible for banishing Romeo from Verona after Romeo killed Table, an act of mercy on the Prince’s part. At the end of the play when both Romeo and Juliet are dead, Callus tells the two grieving families they are largely to blame for this tragedy in addition to his own lack of intervention to stop the Capsule / Montague feud… Lines 281-295) Paris: A young nobleman, Kinsman to the Prince. Introduced to us in Act l, Scene II, it is Caplet’s desire that the young Paris marry his daughter Juliet. Juliet later reveals her reluctance to be married So early in life rather than a dislike of Paris personally. When Juliet falls in love with Romeo, Paris is increasingly ignored by Juliet but remains polite, perhaps ignorant that Juliet does not want to marry him nor that she does not love him.
At the end of the play (Act V, Scene Ill), he is killed by Romeo, but has his death wish of being placed near Juliet whom he loved, granted by Romeo. (Lines 73 ; 74) Montague and Capsule: The heads of two houses opposed to each other. Their feud has been going on for some time, described in the Prologue as an “ancient grudge” (Line 3). We never learn the cause of it, only that it continues to this day. Montage’s son is Romeo, Caplet’s daughter is Juliet. The two heads of their respective households never fight, only it appears do their servants, nephews and children.
At the end of the play each man loses their beloved child. Montage’s role in the play appears to be limited to concern for his son, and his last act in the play in Act V, Scene Ill is to raise a gold statue of his former enemy’s daughter Juliet. Caplet’s role, however is much greater. First we see him as the wise and charismatic, charming man who prevents Table flitting Romeo at his party and graciously talks with various guests, then later as the firm, ruthless father who would see his daughter marry against her will rather than have his rule questioned.
Lady Montague: The wife of Montague, she worries about her son’s happiness in Act l, Scene I. Later she dies, grief stricken that her son was banished from Verona. “Grief of my son’s exile hath stopped her breath” Montague later explains (Act V, Scene Ill, Line 211 Lady Capsule: Gullet’s mother, we see her as a distant figure in Gullet’s life; Gullet’s nurse remembers more about Gullet’s childhood than Lady Capsule, suggesting a distance between mother and daughter. Nonetheless she appears close to her daughter, assisting her husband to convince Juliet into marrying 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, this Friar’s detainment by quarantine in Verona (Act V, Scene II) leads to Romeo not receiving Friar Laurence letter of explanation that Juliet was not really dead, leading to Romeo killing himself in despair… Blathers: Servant to Romeo, he witnesses the final moments of Romeos life at the churchyard from a hiding place. He later backs up Friar Laurence explanation of events to Callus, Prince of Verona.
Sampson and Gregory: Servants to Capsule, these two men initially try to pick a fight with their opposites from the Montague family, Abraham and Blathers in Act l, Scene l, establishing the feud that exists between Capsule and Montague families by showing that their mutual hatred even extends to their servants. This fight in a civic space leads Callus to warn both families that further fighting will be punished by death… Peter: Servant to Gullet’s nurse. Abraham: Servant to the Montague family, he is involved in the fight in Act l, Scene l.
An Apothecary: A minor character, he supplies the poison that Romeo uses to end his life. At first he is unwilling to sell poison to Romeo but later sells it out of necessity against his conscience. Motifs and Symbols 1) Light/Darkness One of the plays most consistent visual motifs is the contrast between light and dark, often in terms of night/day imagery. This contrast is not given a particular metaphoric meaning-?light is not always good, and dark is not always evil. On the contrary, light and dark are generally used to provide a sensory contrast and to hint at opposed alternatives.
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