What is Juliet's role in the play Romeo and Juliet?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As loving and passionate about Romeo as he is about her, Juliet helps drive the central drama of the play. She is a fit mate for Romeo: unlike Rosaline, who keeps Romeo at a distance, perhaps overwhelmed by his ardor, Juliet wants marriage with Romeo as quickly and with the...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

As loving and passionate about Romeo as he is about her, Juliet helps drive the central drama of the play. She is a fit mate for Romeo: unlike Rosaline, who keeps Romeo at a distance, perhaps overwhelmed by his ardor, Juliet wants marriage with Romeo as quickly and with the same intensity as he does with her. She is able to meet his quick verbal wordplay tit for tat, indicating her capacity for equal partnership in the marriage, and she is as impatient with what she perceives as her nurse's dallying over the marriage (which happens very quickly!) as Romeo is of the "delays."

Juliet is, however, a shade more prudent than Romeo: she insists on wedding before bedding, and sounds the caution, both during the balcony scene and on their wedding night, that Romeo should leave rather than being caught and killed at the Montague compound.

Juliet also suffers deeply with she hears of Romeo having killed her beloved cousin, Tybalt. She is, initially, emotionally torn, knowing she should hate her beloved for what he has done. No helpless female, Juliet takes matters into her own hands when she realizes Romeo is dead and stabs herself to death.

Shakespeare makes clear the kind of toll the feud takes on the Montague women, which, in the end, kills both Juliet and her mother. If the men clearly have a zest for the feuding, for the women it causes nothing but pain.

Posted on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Juliet is a strong woman who helps move the action of the play along and creates the choice that leads to tragedy but ends the feud.

In many ways, Romeo and Juliet is Romeo’s play.  We are introduced to him first, and he seems to get more screen time.  As the boy, he is the one that drives the plot.  He mourns the end of his relationship with Rosaline, he crashes the party, he sees Juliet, he sneaks into the orchard, he asks her to marry him, he kills Tybalt and gets banished, and he kills himself, causing her to kill herself.  He controls the action.  Or does he?

So what then is Juliet’s role? Is she just the recipient of Romeo’s actions?  Juliet is a Capulet, and she is strong-willed.  She could have consented to marry Paris, and it would have avoided a lot of problems.  Romeo would have been sad, but would he have killed himself?  It certainly would not have happened as a result of Juliet’s doom.

Juliet is a strong woman.  She stands her ground against Romeo’s proclamations of devotion, ensuring that his intentions are indeed honorable.


O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?


What satisfaction canst thou have to-night? (Act 2, Scene 2, p. 41)

Juliet also stands up to her father.  He is angry and horrified when she tells him that she does not want to marry Paris.  He threatens to throw her out of the house.  She stands up to him, and only consents as a last resort.  But she tricks him, because she never intends to marry Paris.  She goes to the friar for help.

It takes a great deal of personal strength to go to the friar and accept his potion.  Planning to take it is scary, but actually taking it is even more frightening for Juliet, yet she does it.

From here on, Juliet controls the action.  By taking that poison, she shifts the play off the path it could have headed and toward total destruction.  Romeo sees her and kills himself, and she awakens and kills herself too.  Everyone is shocked to see her bleed, because they thought she was already dead.

O heavens! O wife, look how our daughter bleeds!

This dagger hath mista'en, for, lo, his house

Is empty on the back of Montague,(215)

And it missheathed in my daughter's bosom! (Act 5, Scene 3, p. 113)

When Capulet sees the blood and realizes his daughter was not dead, but just killed herself, the reality of everything that happened comes crashing down on him.  And just like that, Juliet ends the feud.



Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

While Romeo is the main protagonist of the story, Juliet is a secondary protagonist; you could also call her the heroine of the story. A protagonist is the main character of a story, the one that the author focuses on. Occasionally, an author chooses to use parallel protagonists; this is especially true for stories about lovers or stories about sisters or other pairs, like Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Romeo is arguably the main protagonist as he is the one with the fatal character flaws. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy and, therefore, needs a tragic hero. A tragic hero, by Aristotle's acceptable definition, is a character of high social standing, such as a king, prince, or a lord's son, like Romeo. A tragic hero is also a character who is generally virtuous but also has a character flaw that leads to his/her demise. Romeo's character flaws are that he is stubborn and far too driven by his passionate emotions rather than by reason. Unlike his cousin Benvolio, Romeo behaves irrationally while Benvolio behaves calmly and rationally. While Juliet allows herself to get swept up in Romeo's passionate feelings for her, she does not have the same character flaws Romeo has. She actually tries to behave far more rationally than Romeo does. Since Juliet's death is more of a matter of circumstance rather than any character flaw, Juliet is not the tragic hero. Since Romeo is the tragic hero rather than Juliet, Romeo is the central protagonist while Juliet is a secondary lead character.

Since Juliet, at least at first, behaves and thinks far more rationally than Romeo, another role of Juliet's is to serve as Romeo's dramatic foil. A dramatic foil is a character that contrasts with another, bringing out the qualities or even flaws of the other character. We especially see Juliet behaving far more rationally than Romeo in the famous balcony scene, Act 2, Scene 2. In this scene, Romeo allows himself to be governed purely by his emotions. He allows himself to equate love with purely physical attraction, as we see when he goes on and on about Juliet's beauty, as in the lines, "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? / It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!" (II.ii.2-3). It is quite evident that Juliet feels a strong physical attraction for Romeo too, but she has the sense to try and dissuade him from making promises of love so soon, saying instead, "Although I joy in thee, / I have no joy of this contract to-night" (122-123). She also shows her rationality when she refuses to allow the relationship continue unless she knows that Romeo is proposing marriage. Hence, Romeo is purely emotional and irrational while Juliet remains level-headed and rational, proving that Juliet's other purpose is to serve as Romeo's dramatic foil.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on