In Romeo and Juliet, what are the differences and similarities between the characters of Romeo and Juliet?

Both Romeo and Juliet are very emotional individuals, as both almost immediately fall in love with one another. One significant difference between Romeo and Juliet is that while Romeo is incredibly mercurial, he is moved from depression over Rosaline to ecstasy for Juliet in the span of just a day, Juliet is a little more levelheaded—she tells him to not swear by the inconstant moon.

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Romeo and Juliet are alike in being young people who fall quickly and passionately in love, are impatient to get married, and are willing to ignore the feud between their families to be together. Both would rather die than be apart.

Romeo , however, is much more in love with...

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Romeo and Juliet are alike in being young people who fall quickly and passionately in love, are impatient to get married, and are willing to ignore the feud between their families to be together. Both would rather die than be apart.

Romeo, however, is much more in love with the idea of being in love than Juliet is. This makes him, therefore, the less constant of the two characters. Romeo starts off the play, for example, pining for Rosaline, who refuses to return his love. It's for this reason that his two friends, Benvolio and Mercutio, drag him to the Capulet party: they hope he will meet a girl who will take his mind off Rosaline. Romeo insists there can be no other woman in the world for him but Rosaline; then, almost comically, he falls in love with Juliet the moment he sets eyes on her.

Juliet has no similar history of love. She is willing, coolly, to entertain the idea of marrying Paris, but Romeo appear to be the first person she has ever fallen head over heels in love with (after all, she is only thirteen).

Juliet is also more likely to exercise caution than Romeo. She is embarrassed that Romeo overheard her speaking aloud of her attraction to him on the balcony when she had no idea he was lurking below. She doesn't want him to take advantage of her confession: she wants some guarantee he really cares about her and isn't planning to love her and leave her. She is as anxious and impatient as Romeo to be wed the next day, but while for him it is all about love and passion, for Juliet, security enters into the picture as well.

We also never see Juliet with girlfriends as we do Romeo with his male friends. We have to take her word, too, that she is as upset as she is about Tybalt's death, turning for a moment to hatred of Romeo for killing him before she catches hold of herself. Since we haven't seen Juliet and Tybalt interact, we can't understand Juliet's feelings for him the way we can Romeo's at the death of Mercutio.

Juliet also questions the friar's plan to have her feign death, worrying it won't work—especially, that she might really die—while Romeo is not one to second-guess an idea once it occurs to him. Therefore, he doesn't seek out more information when he hears that Juliet is dead, preferring simply to rush out, buy poison, and head for Juliet's tomb.

Both love deeply, but Juliet's love is the more careful of the two, and she shows herself to be a less impulsive person that Romeo.

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In terms of how they use language, they are very different too.  A good example of this is the way we first meet both of them.  Romeo is lovesick and spends many words in his opening scene with Benvolio describing love and how "lovesick" he is. He says:

Love is a smoke made with the fumes of sighs;

Being purg'd, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes;

Being vex'd, a sea nourish'd with lovers tears;

What is it else?  A madness most discreet,

A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.

In contrast, in her opening scene, Juliet has only two lines, one of which is in response to her mother's and the Nurse's invitation to check out the very eligible bachelor, Paris, whom she will meet at that night's party.  She doesn't seem interested in Paris or falling head over heels for him.  She says:

I'll look to like, if looking liking move,

But no more deep will I endart mine eye

Than your consent gives strength to make it fly.

So, while Romeo is consumed by love, its highs and lows, and going on and on about it with Benvolio, Juliet is much less talkative and seems (before she meets Romeo) not at all interested in love.

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I'm sure you'll get plenty of responses to this question, as there is so much information in the play that can lead audiences to compare the two characters.  Foremost, they are both young, from families that are "both alike in dignity," and they are both capable of selfless love. 

In Act 2, scene 2 (the balcony scene), we see evidence of a difference between the two.  Here, Juliet is a little more level-headed than Romeo, who is easily carried away by his poetic and idealistic views on romance.  When Romeo starts to make a promise to Juliet ("Lady, by yonder blessed moon I vow..."), she chides him:

O, swear not by the moon, th' inconstant moon

That monthly changes in her circled orb,

Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.

Essentially, Juliet recognizes that while it might sound like a good idea to swear by the moon, the moon is changing and inconstant.  So, Juliet tells Romeo not to swear by the moon unless his love will change like the moon does.

When Romeo persists, Juliet tells him that she is wary of the relationship:

Although I joy in thee,

I have no joy of this contract tonight.

It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden,

Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be

Ere one can say it lightens.

Again, these lines show a difference between Romeo and Juliet; she is a little more cautious than he is at this point in the play. 

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Romeo and Juliet have many similarities and differences. Let's begin with their similiarities.

Similarities:

  • Emotional/Dramatic: We find Romeo a depressed wreck in the beginning, then upon meeting Juliet he's a lovesick schoolboy. Juliet is anxious about her relationship with Romeo and pesters the nurse with good humor to find out about her new love.
  • Persistent: As stated above, Juliet's patience for the nurse's return was just about more than she could handle. She prodded to get the news about her Romeo. Later in the story, she is willing to go to any length not to marry Paris. Romeo, likewise, pushed this engagement through with all of his power. He went immediately to the Friar and got the marriage sealed that afternoon.
  • Impulsive: I find Romeo a little more impulsive than Juliet, but they both rushed into this secret relationship and they both rushed into death when they thought the other was dead.

Differences: These are a little bit harder to come by. Remember, these guys are teenagers. There is no other time in life that conformity is so huge. Plus, they are all struggling with hormones that affect the teenage body and soul.

  • Romeo - changeable; Juliet - steady: Romeo changed his opinion about Rosaline on a dime, how do we know when a prettier girl comes along that he isn't going to go for her? Juliet remained consistent throughout the play regarding her ideas about Paris. She said she'd, "look to like if looking liking move" but she wasn't going to just decide to be with him without checking him out. Once she saw him, she wasn't interested.
  • Dealing with parents: Juliet speaks with them, and she remains truthful until she feels they try to hurt her. Then she lies. Romeo just doesn't really even talk to his parents.

 

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The greatest contrast between Romeo and Juliet is found in the circumstances that we meet both these characters in. When we first hear about Romeo, it is his parents and his cousin, on the street, discussing him. Romeo's parents ask Benvolio what the cause of his sadness is. They then exit before Romeo approaches. Romeo and his parents never share a scene together until the end when his father discovers his dead body. So, from that we can assume quite a bit about their relationship. 

Conversely, when we first meet Juliet, her presence is being requested by her mother. She is safely tucked away in her bedroom, and obedient to a fault to her mother's wishes to consider marriage to Paris. 

So, Romeo is on the street avoiding his parents, and Juliet is in her bedroom agreeing to her parents' wishes.

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