Who is the main character of "Romeo and Juliet"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Romeo and Juliet," because Romeo is pivotal to the main actions of the plot, he is the main character.  For, his impetuous decisions are what effect the most poignant moments of this tragedy:

  • Romeo forces his way into the party for Juliet, approaches Juliet, and declares his love to her although she avoids getting involved with him.:  "Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much" (I,v,92).  Insistent, Romeo pursues and woos her.
  • He crashes into the orchard of Juliet's home--

What man art thou that, thus bescreened in night,/So stumblest on my counsel? (II,ii,52-53)

and refuses to leave until she agrees to marry him.

  • He rushes to Friar Lawrence asking the priest to marry him and Juliet.  When the friar refuses, Romeo indicates that he will agressively pursue Juliet.  So, the priest, worried that Romeo will sin with Juliet, agrees to marry the couple:

Come, come with me, and we will make short work,/For, by your leaves, you shall not stay alone/Till Holy Church incorporate two in one. (II,vi, 35-37)

  • After Romeo is married, he encouters Tybalt and Mercutio arguing in the street.  Meaning well, Romeo tells Tybalt that he cannot be his foe, "But love thee better than thou canst devise" (III,i,57).  However, when he neglects to explain himself, Mercutio thinks that Romeo is cowardly--"Oh, calm, dishonorable, vile submission!"(III,i, 61)--and attacks Tybalt seriously in order to defend the Montague honor.
  • Seeking to intervene again, Romeo rushes between Tybalt and Mercutio, causing Mercution to receive a mortal wound that he would not have without Romeo's interference.
  • As a result of Mercutio's death for which he is inadvertently responsible, Romeo is banished.  This banishment causes Juliet's situation to become compromised, for she cannot reveal her marriage.  When her father demands that she marry Paris, she must agree.  But because she is already married to Romeo, she becomes extremely anxious and contemplates suicide.
  • Friar Lawrence seeks to prevent her suicide with a plan to stall for time so he can reach Romeo and  cause the parents of Juliet to rethink their harsh dictates to Juliet.  Juliet drinks a potion to make her appear dead.  But, Romeo misses Friar Laurence's explanation when the messenger is prevented from entering the town he is in and Romeo alone discovers Juliet in the Capulet tomb.
  • Again with characteristic impetuosity, Romeo assumes that Juliet is dead and drinks poison himself and dies.  His death is apparent to Juliet as she comes out of her drugged state; in despair at this tragic end to her beloved, she then stabs herself.

In the final analysis, Romeo, causes all the tragic incidents of Shakespeare's play. For this reason, he is the main character of "Romeo and Juliet."



Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare's drama of love set against the backdrop of familial stife feature two "star crossed lovers" as the main characters.  Romeo Montague seems to be distant from his friends at the start of the play, only heightening his complete submersion in his pursuit and love of Juliet.  Of the many critiques of Romeo, one cannot doubt the veracity of his beliefs in being in love with Juliet.  Romeo also represents the emotions one experiences when they are actually in love with someone.  Romeo is a main character, but as important is the subject of his love, Juliet Capulet.  Unlike Romeo who seems detached at the start of the play, Juliet seems to be "fitting" well within her social order, but like Romeo, is transformed into being in love upon first sight of him.  Juliet is in love with Romeo, and like him similarly represents the experience of both being in love with another.  Set amidst the social feud of the Montague and Capulet feud which tears apart Verona, both Romeo and Juliet are the main characters in Shakespeare's drama.

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Romeo and Juliet

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