Romeo and Juliet Character Analysis

Antonia Blankenberg
Note by , created almost 2 years ago

Learn more about all the major characters in Romeo and Juliet - from the main protagonists to Tybalt, Paris, Friar Lawrence and more. Each study note contains the main traits to know about each characters as well as how their actions and outlook changes throughout the course of the play.

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Antonia Blankenberg
Created by Antonia Blankenberg almost 2 years ago
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Page 1

Romeo

Romeo is one of the two protagonists of Romeo and Juliet. He is a young boy from the Montague family and falls in love with Juliet, a girl from the Capulet family. Romeo is quite indifferent to the family feud between the Montagues and Capulets and is even willing to drop his family name when he finds out that Juliet is a Capulet.    At the beginning of the play, Romeo is introduced as a hopeless romantic. He is seen pining for Rosaline; his exaggerated language in these 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. Romeo's character here is quite juvenile, allowing the audience to see his growth throughout the play.    Romeo's use of language varies depending on who he is talking to. Among his friends, especially while bantering with Mercutio, Romeo shows glimpses of his social persona. He is intelligent, quick-witted, fond of verbal jousting (particularly about sex), loyal, and unafraid of danger. This completely changes with Juliet and Friar Lawrence.    There is a clear shift in Romeo's use of language when he meets Juliet. At the beginning of the play, he speaks mostly in sonnets and rhyming verses, but when he meets Juliet, he begins to speak in blank verse as well as rhyme. This makes his character seem more mature and his speech sound a bit more normal and less desperate.   Romeo is heavily controlled by his emotions throughout the play and is quick to act on what happens around him. His love for Juliet is what makes him sneak up to Juliet's window, his loyalty to Mercutio drives him to kill Tybalt, and his despair at seeing Juliet's death makes him commit suicide. Had Romeo waited instead of acting on his emotions, the play would be completely different.    Romeo is quite an immature character, this is seen 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 the effect of his actions on her.

Page 2

Juliet

Juliet is only thirteen at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet. Far more of the plot takes place around Juliet as she makes the change from immaturity to maturity. Juliet's parents and family members feature heavily in the plot and control most of her actions in the play. Juliet's youth is emphasised throughout the plot. This, despite her growing maturity, establishes her as a tragic heroine.   Juliet is presented as quiet and obedient in earlier scenes; however, she possesses an inner strength that enables her to have maturity beyond her years. When Lady Capulet suggests that she marry Paris, Juliet says that she will attempt to love him to make her happy.    Juliet is the dominant figure in her marriage with Romeo; she is the one who makes all of the plans for them to meet and solves the problem of her engagement to Paris. She is much more in control of her actions than Romeo, who seems to have most of his problems fixed for him. Juliet matures rapidly into this figure when she meets Romeo for the first time, changing from the innocent daughter to the heroine we see at the end of the play.    Juliet's love for Romeo changes her character completely. She becomes independent and defiant, disobeying her parents and the Nurse. In act 3, Lord Capulet 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 with Paris. At this point, when Juliet is most isolated from her family, even the Nurse betrays Juliet's trust by advising her to forget Romeo and comply with her father's wishes.   While Juliet is willing to give up her family name when she talks to Romeo on the balcony, her loyalty to her family doesn't change as the plot develops. She, like Romeo, is not concerned with the feud, but when Romeo is banished, she is hesitant to leave because of the death of Tybalt. She is clearly upset at the loss of her cousin and this is the first time we see her question her husband; "Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?".    The moment when Juliet wakes up from the Friar's potion is one of the most tragic points of the play. We see her devastation at Romeo's suicide and in one of her only rash decisions, she stabs herself to join him in death. 

Page 3

The Prince

The Prince (also known as Prince Escalus) is the ruler of Verona, where Romeo and Juliet is set. He tries his best to maintain peace and harmony in his city and attempts to stop the conflict between the Montagues and the Capulets.   The Prince is a just character and ensures not to take sides in the conflict between the families. When Tybalt is killed by Romeo, the Capulets are punished in the death of their nephew and the Montagues lose their son to exile. The Prince’s judgment is free from personal vengeance, both families are equally punished for their disorder.    Though he is the absolute ruler of Verona, he lacks insight into character and practical sense; his instructions do not quell the feuding and violence in the city. His decisions, particularly banishing Romeo, are one of a few factors that bring about the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet at the end of the play. Even though the Prince's decisions are fair, they are often quick and ineffective. 

Page 4

Friar Lawrence

Friar Lawrence is a holy man and friend to Romeo and Juliet throughout the play. He acts as an advisor to Romeo in particular, even sheltering him during his banishment.   However, 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 violence in Verona and he devises the plan to reunite Romeo and Juliet through the deceptive ruse of a sleeping potion.   The conflict between youth and old age manifests itself in the Friar's relationship with Romeo and Juliet. When Friar Lawrence tries to help Romeo after his banishment, Romeo quickly responds that if the Friar were young and in love, he wouldn't accept such advice any better.   Friar Lawrence is one of the drivers of fate in Romeo and Juliet, but he is also quite naive in his actions. He marries Romeo and Juliet without thinking about the impacts of their marriage and he then gives Juliet the sleeping potion with the assumption that his note will get to Romeo.    The Friar's relationship with plants shows his connection with nature. This knowledge is what drives the plot. His attempts to heal the feud by reversing nature (making Juliet appear dead so she can be with Romeo) is notably unnatural. In Act 5, the Friar goes to take Juliet from the tomb when she wakes up from the potion, another reversal of nature. In the end, however, the Friar acts distinctly human, fleeing the tomb and abandoning Juliet.

Page 5

The Nurse

The Nurse acts as a mother-figure to Juliet throughout the play, caring for her and giving advice to her. However, her main function is to act as a messenger between Romeo and Juliet because she's the only character apart from the Friar that knows about their wedding.    The Nurse's old age is a direct contrast to Juliet's youth, particularly when she arrives back with a message from Romeo in Act 2, Scene 5.    She is a very talkative character, often going on at length about Juliet.   The Nurse's 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. Her opposing outlook to marriage manifests itself when she advises Juliet to forget the banished Romeo and marry Paris.

Page 6

Lord and Lady Capulet

Lord Capulet is introduced as a good father figure to Juliet. The audience see him questioning Paris about his intentions with Juliet and tells him that it is Juliet's choice if she wants to marry.    Capulet's character changes, however, when Juliet disobeys him. He becomes tyrannical and aggressive, threatening Juliet with violence and abandonment; "my fingers itch".    Lord Capulet clearly takes pride in his family, a trait that drives the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues.   Lady Capulet doesn't have a very close connection with Juliet when compared with the Nurse. When Juliet asks for help in postponing the marriage to Paris, Lady Capulet sticks with Lord Capulets decision rather than helping her daughter.    Lady Capulet takes the traditional role of a wife at this time. This contrasts Juliet's character and position in her own marriage with Romeo. 

Page 7

Paris

While Paris is seen as a "villain" in Romeo and Juliet, he is a character that shows true affection for Juliet throughout the play.    Paris has no idea that Juliet has been secretly married to Romeo. When they meet, Paris thinks that his proposal will cheer Juliet up after Tybalt's death, despite her reluctance to talk to him. However, he is quite possessive of her in this scene (Act 4, Scene 1), saying that her face is his: "Thy face is mine, and thou hast slandered it".    In the final scene, Paris mourns Juliet's death. When Romeo arrives, Paris thinks that he is trying to mock her death and decides to fight him. In his dying moments, he asks to be laid beside Juliet. It's clear that he honestly loves Juliet and was merely subject to unrequited love, just as Romeo was at the beginning of the play. 

Page 8

Mercutio

Mercutio is a friend to Romeo and one of the more comedic characters in Romeo and Juliet. He is extremely quick-witted and says some of the most memorable lines in the play. Mercutio exists outside of the feud between the Montagues and Capulets and doesn't take the concept of love very seriously.   Mercutio is an anti-romantic character and believes that love is merely a physical relationship, similar to the views of the Nurse. He consistently mocks Romeo's view of love and his constant misery in trying to find love.    The Queen Mab speech in Act 1 shows Mercutio's imagination, while also illustrating his cynical side. Mercutio, unlike Romeo, doesn't believe that dreams can act as portents. Fairies predominate in the dream world Mercutio presents, and dreams are merely the result of the anxieties and desires of those who sleep.   Mercutio is seen to have a short temper and is quick to draw his weapon. He also has a strong sense of honour; once Romeo turns down a fight from Tybalt, Mercutio is quick to step in and take his place, causing his death. The death of this comedic character marks a distinct turning point in the play as tragedy begins to overwhelm comedy, and the fates of the protagonists darken.   Mercutio is one of the few characters to blame fate for what happens in the play. Even as he is dying, he directly curses the Montagues and the Capulets for their ongoing feud: ""I am hurt. / A plague o' both your houses! I am sped". 

Page 9

Benvolio

Benvolio's main purpose in the play is to act as a peacemaker. He tries to stop fights from the very first scene: "Part, fools! Put up your swords; you know not what you do". This quote also links back to Christ's last words on the cross in the Bible ("Father forgive them; for they know not what they do"), suggesting that Benvolio's peacemaking is similar to that of Jesus'.    Benvolio is a compassionate and loyal friend to Romeo. He often acts as a voice of reason and tries to help him, unlike Mercutio, who continues to tease him.   Benvolio is truthful and trustworthy. After the brawl in the first scene, Benvolio tells the Prince what has happened without favouring one side over the other, despite being cousin to the Montagues. 

Page 10

Tybalt

Tybalt is the nephew of Lord and Lady Capulet and the most antagonistic character in Romeo and Juliet. He is aggressive, loyal, and quick to draw his sword. Tybalt acts as a contrast to Benvolio, who is just and peaceful.    Tybalt takes his position in the Capulet family and in the larger feud more seriously than any other character in the play. As soon as he hears Romeo's voice at the Capulet ball, he is ready to fight.    Most of Tybalt's lines come in rhyming couplets: "I will withdraw, but this intrusion shall / Now seeming sweet, convert to bitterest gall." This shows his aggressive tone and hatred towards Romeo in particular.