How do the characters of Romeo and Juliet develop throughout the play?

The characters of Romeo and Juliet develop because of their love for one another. Romeo moves from drifting in unrequited love to becoming purposeful. Juliet develops a set of desires and opinions independent of her family's. Both find a stronger sense of personal identity through their love.

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The characters of Romeo and Juliet develop throughout the play because of their decisions to be independent of their families and to live, however briefly, as adults. Their relationship and decision to marry and then to die shows how far their characters develop in the tragedy.

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The characters of Romeo and Juliet develop throughout the play because of their decisions to be independent of their families and to live, however briefly, as adults. Their relationship and decision to marry and then to die shows how far their characters develop in the tragedy.

It is important to remember that Romeo and Juliet would be considered children or adolescents in modern society. Juliet’s nurse says that Juliet is not even 13 years old in the scene in which Lady Capulet asks Nurse to call Juliet.

Even her mother believes that Juliet is too young to marry at this point, although some other young girls have already married, and the family discusses marriage for Juliet. Yet, when Juliet meets Romeo, she decides to disobey her family’s wishes and marry him. The action to marry also requires planning and subterfuge, which is something that the more innocent Juliet of the earlier scenes did not seem capable of.

It is also important to remember that when the play opens, Romeo is too heartbroken over Rosaline to even consider dancing at the Capulet’s party. Shakespeare shows how immature and fickle he is by how he is struck once he sees Juliet and how quickly he forgets Rosaline. Yet, once he and Juliet fall in love, they make decisions that neither would have even considered at the beginning of the play.

The reader knows that their decisions will prove ruinous to the young couple, but they choose to pursue their adult goals and accept the consequences as adults. By behaving independently and making decisions that were unthinkable when they were less mature, they have gone from being young lovers mooning over one another to two adult characters who take control of their lives (and deaths).

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As the play takes place over a very short period of time, Romeo and Juliet don't have too much opportunity to grow, but falling in love does change them.

Juliet starts the play as a pliable daughter not sure of what she wants. When her father brings up Paris as possible suitor, she has no objections and expresses her openness to the idea of him as a husband. It is only after she meets and falls in love with Romeo that she develops an independent set of opinions. From that time forward, her loyalties and heart will be with Romeo, even when she is badly shaken by the news he has killed her beloved cousin Tybalt. After Romeo comes into her life, Juliet becomes, to her father's distress, suddenly resistant to marriage with Paris. She knows her own mind well enough, at the play's end, to realize that she would rather take her own life than live without Romeo.

Romeo starts out as a character who is stuck in a state of limbo over his unrequited love for Rosaline. He grows from a listless lover into a person actively engaged in love for Juliet, energized and enlivened by the fact she returns his ardor. This motivates him to marry her and to try to avoid fighting with Tybalt. Romeo becomes purposeful rather than simply drifting through life.

Both characters appear to find themselves through love of one another and to base their decisions on that love.

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Juliet begins the play as a beloved daughter, still under the protective wing of her nurse, doing nothing without her nurse's knowledge if not her mother's.  When her mother presents the idea of Paris as her future husband, Juliet agrees to consider him. She says, "no more deep will I endart mine eye / Than your consent gives strength to make it fly" (1.4.104-105).  In other words, she will not permit herself to feel more than what her parents deem proper.  By the end of the play, however, she is more than willing to completely disobey them; she refuses the engagement to Paris procured by her father, even though he essentially disowns her as a result.  Further, and perhaps more significantly, she hides her plans even from her beloved Nurse when she drinks the potion that makes her seem dead.  Juliet develops total independence from her parents and the Nurse by the play's end.

Romeo develops some independence and maturity when he becomes galvanized by his love for Juliet.  Initially, he is really mopey and kind of whiny about Rosaline and her vow of chastity, but once he meets Juliet, he is all action.  First, he climbs over her garden walls and then he arranges for a marriage ceremony with the friar.  He is coolheaded when Tybalt insults him in the street and, even when goaded by his best friend, he perseveres in demonstrating his newfound maturity.  Then, when he does not receive the news about Juliet and the friar's plan, he storms her grave, prepared to end his life to be with her.  Sadly, inaction would have served them both better, but his love for Juliet pushes him to act when his feelings for Rosaline never did.

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Both Romeo and Juliet mature during the play. In Act I, scene i, Romeo is in love with Rosaline without hope, for she has sworn to remain chaste and single. He is moody and depressed, and in the next scene, when Benvolio suggests he attend the Capulets' ball in order to find a new love, he only agrees so that he will have the opportunity of gazing on Rosaline. As soon as he sees Juliet, however, he forgets his infatuation with Rosaline as he truly falls in love.

Romeo's love for Juliet helps him see beyond the brawl between his family and the Capulets so that in III.i, he tries to stop the fight between Tybalt and Mercutio and even steps between them. He only fights Tybalt after Mercutio has been killed and he feels he must revenge his friend's death. Again, in Act V, he immediately makes plans when he hears of Juliet's supposed death, and when he kills Paris in his attempt to get to Juliet, he honors Paris's wish of being laid next to Juliet in death.

In the beginning of the play Juliet is the model young and innocent daughter. When asked if she would like to be married, she replies, "It is an honor that I dream not of." But after she marries Romeo, Juliet matures beyond her fourteen years and assumes the responsibilities of a wife. She gives up her dependency on her nurse and risks pain and death to remain true to Romeo.

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