What are examples of indirect and direct characterization in "Romeo and Juliet"?

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Direct characterization involves an explicit statement which tells the audience about a character's personality or feelings, using the thoughts of other characters. In a novel, the narration could also be used for this purpose, but in a play, speech is the only avenue available. In this play, we see direct characterization of Romeo when, for example, in the opening scene, Lady Montague says of her son, “away from light steals my heavy son.” This indicates that Romeo is unhappy, and is supported further by Romeo's declaration that "sad hours seem long."

Continuing on this theme, an example of indirect characterization of Romeo as being in a depression and desirous of being left alone can be found later in Act One, Scene One. Romeo's cousin Benvolio states that when he approached Romeo, "he was ware of me and stole into the covert of the wood" (line 117). This is not a direct statement about Romeo's character and feelings but leads the audience to make an inference. 

Many more examples of both indirect and direct characterization can be found throughout the play, but these examples should help you tell the difference.

dneshan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An example of indirect characterization comes from Act 1, scene 5.  In this scene, Romeo has seen Juliet for the first time and is commenting on her beauty.  Romeo says, "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! / It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night / Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear; / Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!" (Act I, sc. v)

Whereas there are many examples of indirect characterization in this play, there are far less examples of direct characterization and are sometimes difficult to locate because of the language of Shakespeare.  The example of direct characterization occurs in Act 2 , scene 4, when Romeo is discussing Mercutio's love of himself with the Nurse.  In this examples, Romeo says, "A gentleman, nurse, that loves to hear himself talk, / and will speak more in a minute than he will stand / to in a month." (Act II, sc. iv)

brotherdown | Student

The difficulty with identifying any direct characterization in any play is due to the absence of a narratorial voice (unless the work provides a narrator). Generally all drama is mediated through characters, so, given this "charactered" mediation, all characterization will be indirect, or "shown" through the actions or words of the character or through the character's effect(s) on other characters, if I'm not mistaken. Perhaps the only direct characterization you might find in R&J would be in the stage direction . . . but I don't have a copy with me. You will, however, find ample examples of direct characterization in a novel or short story. Hope this helps. Cheers!

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Romeo and Juliet

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