At a Glance

  • Romeo Montague, a romantic youth who falls in love with Juliet at a ball hosted by her father.
  • Juliet Capulet, who fakes her death to be with Romeo and then stabs herself with his dagger after finding him dead.
  • Mercutio, Romeo's friend, who dies while attempting to defend Romeo's honor.
  • Juliet's nurse, a comic figure.
  • Friar Laurence, a kind, well-meaning priest who tries to help Romeo and Juliet, only to lead them to disaster.
  • Lord and Lady Capulet, Juliet's parents.
  • Lord and Lady Montague, Romeo's parents.
  • Paris, a young nobleman to whom Juliet is arranged to be married.
  • Benvolio, Romeo's friend and cousin.
  • Tybalt, Juliet's cousin, who slays Mercutio in a duel and is himself slain by Romeo.

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Romeo

Romeo is one of the titular characters in Shakespeare’s famed romantic tragedy and Juliet’s young lover. He is the only son of Lord and Lady Montague, nobles of Verona. Although intelligent, he is also immature, impetuous, and reckless. His one focus throughout the play is love, though not necessarily the women to whom he alleges his love. (Read extended character analysis for Romeo.)

Juliet

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. (Read extended character analysis for Juliet.)

Mercutio

Mercutio is Romeo’s friend and the prince’s kinsman. His name—which recalls the adjective “mercurial,” meaning volatile; mercury, the ungraspable, fluid metal; and Mercury, the Roman God of messages and trickery—sheds light on his complex character. (Read extended character analysis for Mercutio.)

The Nurse

Juliet’s nurse is a servant in the Capulet family who wet nursed Juliet as an infant and has raised her ever since. After the death of her infant daughter, Susan, the Nurse treats Juliet as her own daughter. She serves as Juliet’s main confidante and companion; Juliet trusts her nurse with her most intimate secrets. (Read extended character analysis for the Nurse.)

Friar Laurence

Friar Laurence is a good-hearted Franciscan friar who marries Romeo and Juliet in hopes that their union will end the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. He is one of the most peaceful and wise characters, whose well-intentioned efforts ironically lead to the two lovers’ deaths. (Read extended character analysis for Friar Laurence.)

Benvolio

Benvolio is Lord Montague’s nephew and Romeo’s cousin and friend. Benvolio is the calmest and most even-keeled of the Montagues. Throughout the play, he serves as the peacemaker between the two feuding families by advocating against violence and demonstrating common sense. However, his efforts at reconciliation ultimately fail.

Benvolio’s name, which means “good will” in Italian, signals his role within the play. In act I, scene I, he breaks up a fight between the servants of the Capulet and Montague clans, saying “Part, fools! Put up your swords; you know not what you do.” When he sees that Romeo is crestfallen, he prods his friend and discovers that he is suffering from lovesickness. Benvolio recommends that Romeo attend the Capulet party to get over Rosaline and meet other women.

Benvolio serves as a foil to Romeo’s hot-headed friend Mercutio. While Mercutio is constantly instigating fights, Benvolio tries to keep the peace. In act III, scene I, Tybalt baits Romeo into fighting him. Romeo refuses to fight, but Mercutio starts provoking Tybalt. Benvolio anticipates a fight in the marketplace, and he tries to de-escalate the argument between Mercutio and Tybalt by asking that they speak together privately. The men ignore Benvolio’s sage advice and fight, resulting in Mercutio's fatal wounding. After the fight, Benvolio urges Romeo to flee the scene to save himself from execution. Benvolio is left to tell the prince what happened in the marketplace, defending Romeo's actions as proper behavior and stating...

(The entire section is 2,547 words.)