Romeo and Juliet Characters guide studies each character's
role and motivation in this play.
Escalus: The Prince of Verona, his continued
annoyance with the ongoing feud between the Capulet
and Montague families leads him to warn both families
that further fighting between the two will be punished
by death. Escalus is also responsible for banishing
Romeo from Verona after Romeo killed Tybalt, an act
of mercy on the Prince's part. At the end of the play
when both Romeo and Juliet are dead, Escalus tells the
two grieving families they are largely to blame for
this tragedy in addition to his own lack of intervention
to stop the Capulet / Montague feud... (Lines 281-295)
Paris: A young nobleman, Kinsman to the Prince.
Introduced to us in Act I, Scene II, it is Capulet's
desire that the young Paris marry his daughter Juliet.
Juliet later reveals her reluctance to be married so
early in life rather than a dislike of Paris personally.
When Juliet falls in love with Romeo, Paris is increasingly
ignored by Juliet but remains polite, perhaps ignorant
that Juliet does not want to marry him nor that she
does not love him. At the end of the play (Act V, Scene
III), he is killed by Romeo, but has his death wish
of being placed near Juliet whom he loved, granted by
Romeo. (Lines 73 & 74)
Montague and Capulet: The heads of two houses
opposed to each other. Their feud has been going on
for some time, described in the Prologue as an "ancient
grudge" (Line 3). We never learn the cause of it,
only that it continues to this day. Montague's
son is Romeo, Capulet's daughter is Juliet. The
two heads of their respective households never fight,
only it appears do their servants, nephews and children.
At the end of the play each man loses their beloved
child. Montague's role in the play appears to be limited
to concern for his son, and his last act in the play
in Act V, Scene III is to raise a gold statue of his
former enemy's daughter Juliet. Capulet's role,
however is much greater. First we see him as the wise
and charismatic, charming man who prevents Tybalt fighting
Romeo at his party and graciously talks with various
guests, then later as the firm, ruthless father who
would see his daughter marry against her will rather
than have his rule questioned...
Romeo: The son of Montague, Romeo is first introduced
to us as a sad, melancholic, apathetic youth. His reason
for sadness is universal; Rosaline his love will not
return his affections. Not initially daring, it is his
friends Mercutio and Benvolio who suggest he gatecrash
or arrive uninvited at the Capulet party to see Rosaline.
There he meets Juliet falling instantly in love. From
this point on, Romeo no longer is melancholic, but dynamic
and courageous, risking his life at the Capulet's
house to be near Juliet and later breaking a banishment
order which threatens death for him, to see his Juliet
again. Well regarded even by Capulet, his enemy, Romeo
is a thoughtful man, unwilling to provoke fighting unlike
the hot-blooded, adversarial Tybalt, whom he kills.
Romeo also kills Paris but in both encounters sought
to avoid fighting, winning only to defend his life.
At the end of the play, he commits suicide, rather than
live without Juliet, the ultimate display of loyalty
for his love Juliet since his life obviously no longer
had meaning without her...
Mercutio: Kinsman to the Prince, Mercutio displays
a fine if disrespectful tongue, especially towards Juliet's
nurse. An unlikely source of wisdom, he tells a depressed
Romeo to, "Prick love for pricking, and you beat
love down" meaning Romeo should be rough with love if
it is rough with him, and to regain his enthusiasm for
love (Act I, Scene IV, Line 28) . Mercutio meets his
death in Act III, Scene I when he rashly draws his sword
on Tybalt who had been trying unsuccessfully to provoke
Romeo into fighting. Famous for the words, "a
scratch, a scratch; marry, 'tis enough" which describe
his fatal wound by Tybalt, Mercutio's death results
in Tybalt's death when Romeo avenges the death
of his friend (Line 98). It has been argued in some
literary circles that Mercutio was "removed"
as he was increasingly stealing the show from Romeo,
the lead character (with Juliet) in this play...
Benvolio: Nephew to Montague, and friend to
Mercutio and Romeo, his role in the play is minor, serving
mainly as a friend to Romeo.
Tybalt: Nephew to Lady Capulet, this rash, hot-blooded
young man is adversarial and hateful towards all Montagues,
especially Romeo. When he sees Romeo at the Capulet
party, his immediate instinct is to fight, but only
the increasingly firm warnings from Capulet to hold
his peace restrain him. Tybalt is slain by Romeo in
Act III, Scene I, after he had killed Romeo's friend,
Mercutio. Until this point, Tybalt had failed to provoke
Romeo into fighting, but dies when he finally fights
Friar Laurence: A Franciscan priest, he plays
a crucial role in the play by marrying Romeo and Juliet's
in his cell in the hope that the feud between the Montague's
and the Capulet's will now end. A friend of Romeo,
he initially does not take Romeo's love for Juliet
seriously, remembering Romeo's obsession with Rosaline.
Later he unwittingly plays a part in the two lover's
deaths when he first puts Juliet to sleep with a deathlike
potion which fools Romeo into thinking Juliet is dead
leading to his suicide by self administered poison followed
by Juliet's death after her discovery that Romeo is
dead. Friar Laurence's letter to Romeo explaining
that Juliet was not really dead never made it to Romeo.
At the end of the play, despite his own admission of
guilt for Romeo's and Juliet's death, Escalus,
The Prince of Verona forgives him.
Friar John: Of the same order as Friar Laurence,
this Friar's detainment by quarantine in Verona
(Act V, Scene II) leads to Romeo not receiving Friar
Laurence's letter of explanation that Juliet was
not really dead, leading to Romeo killing himself in
Balthasar: Servant to Romeo, he witnesses the
final moments of Romeo's life at the churchyard
from a hiding place. He later backs up Friar Laurence's
explanation of events to Escalus, Prince of Verona.
Sampson and Gregory: Servants to Capulet, these
two men initially try to pick a fight with their opposites
from the Montague family, Abraham and Balthasar in Act
I, Scene I, establishing the feud that exists between
Capulet and Montague families by showing that their
mutual hatred even extends to their servants. This fight
in a civic space leads Escalus to warn both families
that further fighting will be punished by death...
Peter: Servant to Juliet's nurse.
Abraham: Servant to the Montague family, he
is involved in the fight in Act I, Scene I.
An Apothecary: A minor character, he supplies
the poison that Romeo uses to end his life. At first
he is unwilling to sell poison to Romeo but later sells
it out of necessity against his conscience.
Lady Montague: The wife of Montague, she worries
about her son's happiness in Act I, Scene I. Later
she dies, grief stricken that her son was banished from
Verona. "Grief of my son's exile hath stopp'd her breath"
Montague later explains (Act V, Scene III, Line 211).
Wife to Capulet: Juliet's mother, we see
her as a distant figure in Juliet's life; Juliet's
nurse remembers more about Juliet's childhood than
Lady Capulet, suggesting a distance between mother and
daughter. Nonetheless she appears close to her daughter,
assisting her husband to convince Juliet into marrying
Paris. When Capulet orders Juliet to marry Paris, Lady
Capulet, falls into line, agreeing with Capulet and
Nurse to Juliet: In many ways a surrogate mother
to Juliet, she cares deeply for Juliet's best interests,
even encouraging Juliet's dangerous relationship
with Romeo in the hope that it will make Juliet happy.
After Tybalt's death, however, Nurse becomes less
sympathetic and later when Capulet orders Juliet to
marry Paris, she defends Juliet at first but later pragmatically
suggests that Paris would not be so bad after all...