List of Characters
Friends and Relatives of the Montague Family:
Romeo—Son of Montague who falls in love with Juliet
Montague—Head of the family who is at war with the Capulets and father to Romeo
Lady Montague—Wife to Lord Montague and mother to Romeo
Mercutio—A kinsman to the prince and a friend to Romeo
Benvolio—A gentle and peace-loving young man who is nephew to Montague and a friend to Romeo
Balthasar—A loyal friend and servant to Romeo
Abram—A servant of the Montague family
Friends and Relatives of the Capulet Family:
Juliet—Daughter of Capulet who falls in love with Romeo
Tybalt—A fiery tempered young man who is the nephew of Lady Capulet and cousin to Juliet
Capulet—Head of the family who is at war with the Montagues and father to Juliet
Lady Capulet—Wife to Lord Capulet and mother to Juliet
Nurse—A witty nurse and friend to Juliet
Sampson—A servant of the Capulet family
Gregory—A servant of the Capulet family
Peter—A servant to Juliet’s nurse
Chorus—Introduces the play, and sets scene in Acts I and II
Paris—Kinsman to the prince and a young nobleman who asks for Juliet’s hand in marriage
Escalus—The prince of Verona
Friar Laurence—A Franciscan friar who marries the...
(The entire section is 260 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Romeo (ROH-mee-oh), the only son of old Montague, a nobleman of Verona. A romantic youth, inclined to be in love with love, he gives up his idealized passion for Rosaline when Juliet rouses in him a lasting devotion. His star-crossed young life ends in suicide.
Juliet (JEW-lee-eht), the only daughter of old Capulet. Little more than a child at the beginning of the play, she is quickly matured by love and grief into a young woman of profound grace and tragic dignity. Unable to find sympathy in her family and unable to trust her nurse, she risks death to avoid a forced marriage, which would be bigamous. Awakening in the tomb to find Romeo’s body, she too commits suicide.
Montague (MON-teh-gyew), Romeo’s father, head of the house of Montague. An enemy of the Capulets, he is a good and reasonable man and father. In the family feud, he seems more provoked than provoking. After the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, he becomes reconciled with the Capulets.
Lady Montague, Romeo’s gentle mother. Tenderhearted and peace-loving, she breaks down under the fury of the clashing houses and the banishment of her son and dies of grief.
Capulet (KAP-yew-leht), Juliet’s fiery...
(The entire section is 758 words.)
Benvolio (Character Analysis)
He is a nephew to Montague and a cousin and friend to Romeo. His name means well-wisher, which reflects to some degree Benvolio's role in the play as a loyal friend and a peace-maker. Benvolio attempts to stop the fight between the servants at the beginning of the play. Early in the play, Benvolio wishes to help Romeo's parents by learning from Romeo why he has been acting so strangely and trying to avoid everyone. When he questions Romeo gently and learns that his problem is lovesickness, he counsels Romeo to look at other beauties and forget about anyone who is not interested in him. Benvolio suggests that Romeo go to the Capulet party and see other pretty young women.
Throughout the play, Benvolio demonstrates his common sense and his loyalty to his friends. Benvolio tries to serve as a restraining influence on Mercutio, who seems to constantly be talking himself into trouble. Also, when Benvolio and Mercutio discuss the challenge from Tybalt to Romeo, he shows confidence in Romeo by stating that Romeo will answer the challenge.
In the marketplace scene in which the stabbings of Mercutio and Tybalt occur, Benvolio senses that tempers are flaring and that the hot weather will lead to trouble. When Tybalt enters and he and Mercutio exchange words, Benvolio advises that they should go somewhere private, or talk calmly in the marketplace, or just leave. This advice, of course, has no effect.
After the fight, Benvolio emphatically...
(The entire section is 316 words.)
Lord Capulet (Character Analysis)
A leading citizen of Verona and head of one of the two feuding families. His attitudes seem to display a mixture of qualities rather than conveying a sense of consistency of action. When the audience first sees him, he is calling for a sword to join in the fighting of the servants and young men in the opposing households. He acts this way even though he is an older man and a more dignified behavior would most likely be more appropriate for his age. However, he is concerned with maintaining order in his own house, especially after the prince's promise to execute any disturbers of the peace. Thus, he takes pains to prevent Tybalt from starting a brawl in his house at the party. Capulet is also motivated by his desire to appear as a good host. He jokes with the guests, compliments the dancers, orders the servants to regulate the heat in the room better by subduing the fire, and takes a peaceful attitude towards Romeo's uninvited presence at the feast.
His attitude towards Juliet shows this mixture of traits also. When Paris asks for her hand in marriage, he says that she is too young and that Paris should let two more years pass. He also seems to say that his agreement is only a part of such an arrangement and that Juliet must agree, also. Yet as negotiations with Paris continue in Act III, Capulet assumes that Juliet will do exactly as he wishes. In his conversation with Paris, he also shows more concern about his image than about his daughter's feelings....
(The entire section is 477 words.)
Prince Escalus (Character Analysis)
The ruler of Verona. Fourteenth-century Italy consisted of kingdoms, papal states, and local lordships. Verona under Prince Escalus was in the third category. The prince is physically present in three scenes (I.i, III.i, and V.iii), yet his presence is felt throughout the play for he makes the laws and the decisions in Verona.
In his first appearance, Escalus speaks very sternly about the fighting between the servants and the young men in the opposing households. He directs the fighting parties to throw their weapons to the ground, stating that they have started civil wars three times just by words alone. He threatens any disturber of the peace with death. This speech is effective in stopping the current fighting, and the prince effectively separates the angry Capulets and Montagues. Yet, the prince's approach does not put a permanent stop to the fighting, as the marketplace incident later shows.
In his second appearance, the prince must investigate the cause of the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt. He shows lenience rather than exacting the letter of the law he pronounced earlier, making his rule seem inconsistent at best: he banishes Romeo rather than executing him, although he warns that Romeo's return would incur the death penalty. Furthermore, he appears to have based this decision on his personal interests, stating that the Capulet/Montague feud has caused the death of his kinsman, Mercutio.
Both Juliet and Romeo, as well as...
(The entire section is 382 words.)
Juliet (Character Analysis)
Juliet is the daughter of Lord and Lady Capulet and one of the two title characters. When the play begins, we learn from the nurse's remarks that Juliet is about two weeks shy of her fourteenth birthday. In Juliet's first meeting with her mother and the nurse, Juliet shows herself to be a docile, dutiful child. She comes when she is called, responding respectfully to her mother: "Madam, I am here, / What is your will?" (I.iii.5-6). When her mother discusses the topic of Paris's interest in her, Juliet consents to go to the party and meet Paris. She adds that she will only allow her looks to go as far as her mother gives her permission. Juliet's youthfulness is echoed in comments by her father, who has hesitated over Paris's interest in marrying her.
The first meeting between Romeo and Juliet is a defining moment in Juliet's life. Romeo describes her as lovely and rich in beauty. Juliet speaks this way to him as well. Their words to each other complete a sonnet in which Juliet, a heretofore inexperienced child, suddenly speaks with great naturalness, insight, and understanding about love. Equally suddenly, Juliet becomes resourceful and not yet ready to share with the nurse her newfound discovery. Instead of asking the nurse Romeo's name directly, she asks the nurse about the identities of various young men leaving the party, Romeo among them. She realizes in a moment of illumination that she is in love with an enemy to her family.
(The entire section is 775 words.)
Lawrence (Character Analysis)
Also: Friar Lawrence and in some editions, Laurence
Friar Lawrence is a Franciscan monk. He lives in modest quarters suitable to someone who is a follower of St. Francis. He is a priest who is able to conduct religious ceremonies such as marriage and burial. He is also able to hear confessions and forgive sins. He serves as an adviser to Romeo and later to Juliet, and he develops several plans for the young lovers to follow. Also, he comments on the action at key points. Many of his speeches have a philosophical content to them.
When the friar first appears on stage (II.iii), he is gathering weeds and flowers in the early morning while the dew is still fresh and before the day gets hot. He makes medicines and various preparations from the plants he gathers in his willow basket. He comments that there is something powerful and potentially good in each thing on the earth but that everything must be used in a good way to preserve its good qualities.
Friar Lawrence, a friend to Romeo, knows about Romeo's infatuation with Rosaline. When Romeo comes to him early in the morning, he jokes that maybe Romeo has been out with Rosaline and did not get home to rest. He thinks that Romeo's shift in affection from Rosaline to Juliet is sudden and hasty, but he agrees to marry them because he thinks that it may help to end the hatred between the feuding households. Just before the marriage, Friar Lawrence counsels the lovers on the benefits of...
(The entire section is 641 words.)
Mercutio (Character Analysis)
Mercutio is a kinsman to the prince and friend to Romeo. Mercutio is often interpreted as a comic foil to Romeo. (A foil is a character who by strong contract underscores or enhances the distinctive qualities of another character.) Mercutio's bawdy discussions of sex, for example, and his witty and light-hearted use of language contrast sharply with Romeo's romantic view of love and his gloomy lovesickness. It will be helpful in understanding Mercutio to look at some words related to his name: mercurial, an adjective meaning changeable; Mercury, the Roman messenger god and of eloquence; and mercury, the poisonous element.
Mercutio's eloquence is displayed throughout the play. In scenes in which he appears and speaks, he tends to become the center of attention. He dominates his companions with his teasing and quick wit. When Romeo and his group of friends are walking to the Capulet party, Romeo is moping about Rosaline. The witty Mercutio tries to get Romeo's mind on something else. He also describes imagination in a powerful, memorable way in his "Queen Mab" speech (I.iii.52-94). The speech, a dramatic demonstration of Mercutio's eloquence, describes dreams as coming from a fairy creature. When Mercutio's cleverness threatens to run away with him, Romeo asks him to be quiet. When Mercutio and Benvolio look for Romeo after the Capulet party, Mercutio makes various obscene jokes at Romeo's expense, but Romeo will not reveal his hiding place. His wit and his...
(The entire section is 423 words.)
Nurse (Character Analysis)
The nurse is a servant in the Capulet household. The nurse is often interpreted as a comic foil to Juliet. (A foil is a character who through strong contrast underscores or enhances the distinctive qualities of another character.) She seems to be in higher standing than the other servants since she is a companion to Juliet, is present in private family conversations, and has her own servant, Peter. In Renaissance England, unmarried, widowed, or poor women might work for relatives in positions like the one in which the nurse finds herself. At any rate, she is trusted by the Capulets and informed about their intimate affairs.
The nurse's main role in the play is as a companion and advisor to Juliet. She feels affection for Juliet, whom she has cared for since Juliet was an infant. It is revealed that the nurse lost her own child, Susan, and perhaps she views Juliet as a daughter. The nurse's affection for Juliet remains constant throughout the play, even if her advice is of questionable value. Juliet trusts the nurse enough to send her to Romeo the morning after the balcony scene to learn what Romeo's intentions are. On this errand, the nurse takes it upon herself to make sure that Romeo's intentions are honorable, since Juliet is young and inexperienced. When Juliet learns of what has happened in the marketplace, the nurse tries to comfort her and decides to bring Romeo to Juliet. On the morning after the lovers' one night of married happiness together,...
(The entire section is 585 words.)
Romeo (Character Analysis)
Romeo is the son to Lord and Lady Montague and one of the two title characters. Romeo's first love interest is not Juliet but a young woman named Rosaline, who, like Juliet, happens to be a Capulet. When characters first refer to Romeo, he is described as acting in a peculiar way. His friend and cousin, Benvolio, discovers why: the cause is hopeless, incurable lovesickness. Rosaline has vowed to live unwed and without a lover. (Rosaline, incidentally, never appears in the play.) Romeo's infatuation with Rosaline and her resoluteness to remain celibate inspire Romeo's behavior. He goes out walking near the woods before dawn. If anyone sees him, he runs away into the woods to avoid having company. When the sun comes up, he returns home, retreats into his bedroom, and won't come out. Benvolio advises Romeo that his feelings are infatuation, based on a lack of experience with women. After being encouraged to do so by Benvolio and Mercutio, Romeo attends the Capulet party and sees Juliet. When they meet, they fall in love immediately.
Romeo is surrounded by a group of young male friends. Like his friends, Romeo enjoys joking. However, Romeo's jokes, unlike Mercutio's in particular, usually do not have a sexual double meaning. He also tends to be more serious than his friends. In speaking about going to the Capulet party, Romeo says that he plans to stand at the side of the dance floor and watch the other dancers. He even wonders whether they should be going at...
(The entire section is 719 words.)
Tybalt (Character Analysis)
He is a nephew to Lord Capulet and a cousin to Juliet. He does not speak many lines, but he influences the entire course of the play to a degree that exceeds his seemingly minor role in it. Throughout the play, he demonstrates his angry, resentful, and stubborn nature. When Tybalt first appears, Benvolio is attempting to stop the servants of the Capulet and Montague households from fighting. By contrast, Tybalt urges on the fight and succeeds in drawing Benvolio in to fighting with him. At the Capulet party, Tybalt recognizes Romeo's voice and within ten words is calling for his sword. He also refers to Romeo as a "slave" (I.v.55). Tybalt says he does not consider it a sin to strike Romeo dead.
Tybalt shows his stubbornness at the Capulet party. Lord Capulet urges Tybalt to control himself, telling him that he is acting like a boy trying to be a man. Although Tybalt has to give in to his uncle, he vows to get revenge on Romeo for coming to the Capulet party uninvited. The next day, Tybalt sends a letter to Romeo's house challenging him to a duel.
Tybalt's actions in Act III influence the remaining events of the play. He quarrels with Mercutio and challenges Romeo to a sword fight. Tybalt insults Romeo, and he insists that Romeo draw his sword and fight with him. Romeo refuses to fight, and Mercutio instead takes up the challenge. Tybalt is a skilled fighter, according to Mercutio, who comments that Tybalt has studied dueling. Thus, when...
(The entire section is 318 words.)
Other Characters (Descriptions)
He is a servant of the Montagues. Abram appears in the first scene of the play and quarrels with the Capulet servants, Sampson and Gregory.
In some editions of the play, Anthony and Potpan are named as servants of the Capulet household.
The apothecary is a druggist in Mantua. He only speaks a few lines, but Romeo offers an insightful description of his poor shop and of his appearance. The apothecary is thin and wears ragged clothes. His shop has a few strange things spread throughout, perhaps to make it look like more than it is: a tortoise, a stuffed alligator, skins of strange fish, green pots, seeds, rose petals pressed into cakes for perfume. He is so poor that he sells Romeo a deadly, fast-acting poison even though it is against the law in Mantua to do so.
As the ruler of Verona, Escalus is accompanied by attendants. The attendants are described as the prince's Train in I.i and simply as attendants in the final scene of the play.
He is a servant to Romeo. Balthasar appears with Abram in the first scene of Act I, but does not participate in the quarrel with the Capulet servants. He is loyal to Romeo and tries to help him. After Juliet's funeral, he rushes to Mantua to bring the news of Juliet's "death" to Romeo. He shows his concern for Romeo and asks him to remain patient, to not act hastily. Balthasar...
(The entire section is 2145 words.)