Who do you think is more admirable, Romeo or Juliet?

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Michael Foster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

On the surface, both Romeo and Juliet look like two young people who fall in love and then kill themselves for love. If they are looked at in depth, however, they show a vast difference in their characters, and thus their “admirability.” Romeo, at the opening of the play, is madly in love with Rosaline, who has no interest in him in return. Yet he is in love with her, and cannot go on living without her—until Juliet shows up. Then he is madly in love with her. In a matter of days, they are married. In a few more days, they are dead. Romeo lives by his emotions, which do not stay the same for long. Who is to say that, a week later, he will not find another woman to be madly in love with, forgetting Juliet as fast as he forgot Rosaline? In the famous balcony scene, he starts to swear by the moon, but Juliet begs him to “swear not by the moon, th’ inconstant moon, / That monthly changes in her circled orb, / Lest that thy love prove likewise variable” (Act 2, Scene 2, lines 114-116). In fact, this is a good representation of Romeo. He is as inconstant as the moon. It is difficult to admire him, since he is so untrustworthy in the constancy of his feelings.

Juliet, however, puts more thought into their relationship. She tries to slow Romeo down, rather than rushing into a relationship. She gives in and marries him, but when Romeo kills Tybalt, Juliet ponders what she should do. Where should her true loyalty lie? Perhaps unwisely, she chooses Romeo, her lawfully wedded husband. This choice is based on reason more than emotion, which is all that Romeo exhibits. This can make her more admirable, since she is at least capable of wisdom, despite her final choice.