Romeo and Juliet characters guide studies each  player's role and motivation in this famous play
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Romeo and Juliet Characters

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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 Romeo.

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 despair...

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 betraying Juliet.

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...

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