Last Updated on November 5, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 546
Extended Character Analysis
Juliet is one of the titular characters in Shakespeare’s tragic love story and Romeo’s lover. The only daughter of Lord and Lady Capulet, Juliet is almost fourteen years old when the play opens. She is characterized early on in the play by her compliance and respect for authority. She is shy about discussing marriage and sex; for example, when her nurse recites bawdy jokes, Juliet recoils in embarrassment. She obeys her parents and her nurse, and she dutifully attends the ball where she is to meet her potential suitor, Paris.
The ball marks a turning point in Juliet’s character development. She meets Romeo at the ball and falls in love with him. While Romeo speaks in overly sentimental sonnets, Juliet’s approach to love is more level-headed, displaying an insightful and measured understanding of love. She weighs her love of Romeo with her knowledge that he is, by name, her enemy. As she says, “‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy / Thou art thyself, though not a Montague / What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot … What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet” (act II, scene II). Juliet is able to overlook her family’s generational feud to see that names are arbitrary. She understands that a name should not tinge her love for Romeo. In contrast to Romeo, who often acts impulsively and speaks about Juliet’s ethereal beauty, Juliet roots her love for Romeo in reality. This can be seen in the most recognizable scene of the play, in which Romeo professes his love to Juliet as she stands on the balcony. Juliet, more grounded in reality, asks Romeo directly, “Dost thou love me?” She encourages Romeo to speak plainly, to love her genuinely, and to be frank with her.
While Romeo is fantastical in his approach to love, Juliet is sensible, developing a resourcefulness and discretion in her actions. She arranges their night together and plans for their wedding. Juliet sternly refuses Paris’s proposal of marriage, and when her nurse encourages her to marry Paris, she ceases to share intimate details of her life with her. Juliet’s love for Romeo is so sincere and genuine that she sunders her relationship with her family and destroys her social standing in order to protect it. In the final scenes of the play, Juliet again demonstrates her practicality by weighing all of the outcomes of taking Friar Laurence’s sleeping potion.
From a naive, docile, and acquiescent teen, Juliet emerges as the more mature and logical of the eponymous couple. She reigns in Romeo’s sentimentality and arranges the more practical matters of their relationship. Critics argue that even in the last moments of her life, Juliet demonstrates courage and strength. When Romeo mistakenly believes Juliet to be dead and poisons himself, Juliet stabs herself in the heart with a dagger in an effort to join him in death. By killing herself in such a way, she illustrates her valor and her devotion to Romeo. The deaths of Juliet and Romeo bring together the two feuding families. Juliet dies not only for her love but also to help the Capulets find peace with the Montagues.
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