Who are the protagonists and antagonists in Romeo and Juliet?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The term protagonist is derived from ancient Greek and means 'player of the first part' or chief actor. A few characters in a play may, however, play equally important roles which may lead to a situation where you have not only one protagonist. Such is the situation in Romeo and Juliet. It is commonly believed that the protagonist is the 'good guy' or hero of the story, but the anti-hero or villain may just as much be the protagonist, if he or she is the chief character.

The antagonist is the character in the play who opposes the protagonist. There may obviously also be more than one antagonist. It is also important to realise that the antagonist is not necessarily a person only, but may be a situation or event that acts as a stumbling-block to the protagonist - this is also true in Romeo and Juliet.

In Romeo and Juliet, the two 'star-crossed lovers', are the obvious protagonists. They are responsible for, and central to, the unfolding of events in the play.

The antagonists, in this regard, would firstly be the 'age-old feud' between the two opposing families, the Montagues and the Capulets. Since the protagonists are each a member of an opposing family, the conflict creates a major stumbling-block in their attempt to exercise their love for one another. The feud culminates in their tragic deaths. 

Because of the feud, Romeo and Juliet's parents also are protagonists. As the heads of their households, they are against the idea of the two lovers being involved in a romantic liaison. It is almost impossible for them to consider the idea of their beloved offspring being romantically involved with each other - their contempt for each other creates the barrier that impedes our protagonists' love to flourish freely and openly.

Tybalt, a loyal member of the Capulet family, is a clear protagonist to especially Romeo, whom he openly despises. As a barrier to Juliet's affair with Romeo, he also becomes an antagonist to her, since he prevents her from achieving true happiness. By killing Mercutio Romeo's best friend, he deepens and escalates the conflict between the families. Ironically, when Romeo kills Tybalt in revenge later, he performs an antagonistic act which results in his banishment, worsening the situation.

To a lesser extent, even Paris, in his desire to marry Juliet, unknowingly plays the role of antagonist since his willingness to be her husband forces Juliet's hand and she has to consider desperate measures to escape marrying him, ultimately leading to both his and her demise.

It is clear that, because of the complicated issues at play, there is more than one protagonist or antagonist in this tragic drama.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It might be maintained that the protagonist and antagonist in Romeo and Juliet are Capulet and Montague. The other characters' lives and fates are determined by the ongoing feud between the two houses. Capulet would be regarded as the protagonist because he gets involved in the riot first in Act 1, Scene 1.

What noise is this? Give me my long sword, ho!

Montague would then be regarded as the antagonist because he arrives on the scene a little later and reacts to Capulet's involvement. It could just as well have been the other way around, with Montague the protagonist and Capulet the antagonist.

Thou villain Capulet! -- (to Lady Montague) Hold me not, let me go.

Shakespeare must have introduced Capulet and Montague in this scene in order to remind the audience that there is an ongoing feud and that these two men are keeping that feud alive.

There are many stories in which the hero and heroine are not the protagonist and antagonist but little people who are caught up in a struggle between much larger powers in conflict over different issues. Even the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible can be read as the result of a conflict between Satan and God. Tolstoy's War and Peace can be read as a great conflict between France and Russia, with the characters' lives radically affected by something they can barely understand. The same might be said of Gone with the Wind, with the North the protagonist and the South the antagonist, since General Sherman is invading Georgia and creating havoc. And the same might be said of Homer's Iliad, with the Greeks obviously the protagonists and the Trojans the antagonists.

The love affair between Romeo and Juliet is just a simple affair of two kids falling in love. Their fates were determined and their lives destroyed because of the feud between the houses of Capulet and Montague, with the two elderly lords currently representing those houses.

The protagonist and antagonist in a drama are always in conflict. It is often a confusing to look for the protagonist and antagonist among the little people when there is an enormous conflict going on between much larger forces.

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Juliet is the female protagonist and Romeo is the male protagonist or main characters.

The antagonist is a force or collection of forces that oppose the progtagonist.

The antagonists are the feuding Montagues and Capulets; Tybalt; the prince and citizens of Verona; fate.

assassinerik | Student

Honestly, I think Tybalt is the antagonist of the story. If it wasn't for him ignoring his uncle's demands, Romeo and Juliet would have never fell into deep tragedy and died in the end.

kandi125 | Student

The son of Montague, Romeo, and the daughter of Capulet, Juliet, who fall in love with each other are the "star-crossed" protagonists in the play Romeo and Juliet. This is due to the fact that their quest to openly or publicly love each other and have a relationship was hindered by the actions and failures of others to assist them in solving their dilemma.

The interesting thing about their situation is that Romeo and Juliet's relationship was practically doomed from the beginning. This is because not only were their families (Montague and Capulet) against the relationship, but almost the all the community members were also against the relationship at the onset or eventually had a change in reasoning and stopped supporting the couple's relationship in the latter part of the story. So, everybody in the novel was an antagonist apart from Romeo and Juliet. For example, Nurse, who is a friend of Juliet, eventually tries to convince Juliet to find another suitor other than Romeo.

iloveeagles123 | Student

I believe the protagonist are Romeo and Juliet, and the antagonist the families.



bbbobbery | Student

Juliet and romeo are protagonists- opposed by the antagonists- the Capulets and Montagues

butterflygirl | Student

Well this is just my take on the story, and I'm sure that there are many different answers, but I think that Juliet is the protagonist and fate is the antagonist.  i think that juliet is the pro. because she goes through the most growth.  i think fate is the anti-pro because it was fate that caused romeo and juliet death.