Romeo and Juliet Character Analysis

“Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”

Romeo and Juliet Prologue — William Shakespeare

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, themes of love and passion are juxtaposed with those of hatred and revenge. The longevity of this play is undoubtedly due to its eternal message – that nothing is stronger than love. Though the play ends tragically, the plot in Romeo and Juliet is driven by eloquent language and brilliant characterization. Understanding the following four main characters and the words they speak is crucial to understanding the play, as those very words are the driving force behind the story.

Romeo Montague

Romeo is the quintessential young lover. He’s passionate, lost without love, and blindly adores the lady of his desire, Juliet. Shakespeare introduces Romeo as a young man in the throes of deep depression as a result of his unrequited love for the Lady Rosaline. However, that intense passion disappears the moment he sees Juliet. From then on, the passion Romeo feels for Juliet is undeniable and as he says, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?/It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” (II, ii)

Juliet Capulet

At first glance, Juliet appears to be just another young girl infatuated with a young boy. However, upon closer analysis, it becomes clear that she is one of the earliest feminist archetypes. Juliet rebels against her parents as she says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.” (II, ii) Eventually, she loves and marries against their wishes and proves her dedication to Romeo by giving the ultimate sacrifice, her life. Juliet will forever be an example of the sanctity of life and futility of strife.

Mercutio Montague

Though Mercutio mystifies and scandalizes with his bawdy behavior, he is the comic relief in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. He is portrayed as a “wild-child” in Baz Luhrman’s 1996 movie version Romeo + Juliet and this is very much in-line with the character that Shakespeare created. Mercutio is Romeo’s cousin and best friend. His death changes Romeo and marks one of the climaxes in the play from which none of the characters ever really recover. As he falls, he cries, “A plague o’ both your houses!/They have made worm’s meat of me!” (III, i) These famous lines foreshadow the futility of the feud between the Capulets and Montagues and Romeo and Juliet’s ultimate demise.

Tybalt Capulet

Tybalt is known as the “Prince of Cats” and rightly so. He is as graceful as a cat, and as cunning. His hatred of Montagues defines him and it is that very hatred that destroys him in the end. He shows that he has no interest in peace when Romeo, freshly in love with Juliet tries to end the feud with words of love. Tybalt replies, “What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word,/As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee:/Have at thee, coward!” (III, i) Mercutio’s death at Tybalt’s hand is the catalyst for a shift in Romeo’s attitude. Romeo kills Tybalt and becomes driven by vengeance where previously he was driven by love. This vengeance destroys Romeo as it did Tybalt, and in this way, we see Tybalt’s true importance.


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