Romeo and Juliet Study Guide

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

In Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare's tragic plays, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet fall in love, despite the fact that their families are bitter enemies. Undeterred by this obstacle, the two begin a passionate romance that is interrupted by their feuding relatives. The lovers' final attempt to be together results in the death of them both, leaving their families, and the reader, to contemplate the power of love and question the meaning of violence.

Romeo Montague

Romeo is the only son of Lord and Lady Montague. He is young, impulsive, and above all else, passionate. Once Romeo sets his heart on something—or someone—he is convinced that there are no other alternatives. At the beginning of the play, Romeo is so heartbroken over Rosaline that he can barely function. He devotes every waking breath and thought to the woman he cannot have, but he forgets about her as soon as he lays his eyes upon Juliet. Once he meets her, his ideas of love mature with him. While he can finally grasp the true meaning of love, he is still unable to control his impulsive behaviors. As a result, Romeo acts before he thinks, and he often suffers consequences that could have otherwise been avoided. The most obviouscase of this type of behavior is when Romeo drinks poison because he believes his wife is dead. If he had thought about the ramifications of his plans before he acted upon them, Romeo could have potentially lived a long life with his Juliet.

Juliet Capulet

Though she is not yet 14 years old, Juliet’s maturity far exceeds that of Romeo. At first, she seems to be merely obedient and her actions strive to please those she cares about. As the play progresses and Juliet falls in love with Romeo, she becomes rational, strong, and mature. She chooses her words wisely and rarely acts on impulse. When Romeo was banished from Verona, Juliet could have easily packed her bags and left with him. Instead, she chose to do the logical thing and wait for a time when they could be peacefully reunited. Unfortunately, there would never be a time for them to reunite. When Juliet realizes this, she choosesdeath over life without her husband. However, it is important to note that she kills herself over her pure grief, not because she needs a man to survive.

Friar Lawrence

Though he is a kind and religious man who often gives good advice, Friar Lawrence is also responsible for a great deal of conflict in this play. He frequently comes up with good-intentioned schemes that make situations worse than they need to be. It is quite possible that if he didn’t secretly marry Romeo and Juliet, the Capulets and Montagues could have ended their quarrel. If he did not allow Romeo to sneak into Juliet’s room before fleeing for Mantua, there is a good chance that the lovers would have felt less passionate about each other. If he did not concoct a mystical potion to make Juliet appear dead, two lives could have been saved. Of course, Friar Lawrence cannot be blamed for all that happened. Romeo and Juliet’s largest downfall was fate—Father Lawrence simply lent fate a helping hand.

The Nurse

Juliet’s Nurse is a kind, funny woman who loves Juliet as if she were her own child. She has nursed Juliet since infancy and the two of them are extremely close to one another. She goes out of her way to make Juliet happy, and she only wants what is best for her. The Nurse is Juliet’s only friend andconfidante until she gives Juliet advice that she doesn’t want to hear.

Mercutio

Mercutio is Romeo’s best friend and the Prince’s kinsman. He is a clever, witty character who loves to make puns. His cold logic is the foil to Romeo’s love-crazed personality. Mercutio is a good friend to Romeo, Benvolio, and nearly everybody he meets—so long as they are not Capulets. Mercutio strongly believes in honor and self-respect, which is why he becomes so enraged when Romeo allows Tybalt to verbally attack him.

Tybalt

Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin and he is deeply loved by his family. He typically thinks with his sword, not with his head. He is easily angered and it does not take much persuasion for him to draw his sword. He takes great joy in fighting, especially when he fights with the hated Montagues and of course Romeo.

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