Defining Romeo in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Defining Romeo in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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Defining Romeo in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies. It was
written it about 1597 by William Shakespeare and was set in the
northern Italian city of Verona. It is based on the long poem 'The
Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet (1562)', by Arthur Brooke. In
this essay I will analyse the changes in Romeo's character during
Shakespeare's play.

The first scene I will analyse is Act 1 Scene 1. In this scene Romeo
is very unhappy about a girl named Rosaline. We can tell this by the
language he uses. Romeo uses riddles and oxymoron's to suggest
confusion about how he feels for Rosaline, e.g.: "Feather of lead". He
is also wallowing in his own misery, as though he is enjoying being so
miserable because he feels so in love with Rosaline, although he
barely knows her. Romeo and Rosaline is an example of 'Courtly Love',
which would have been around in the days of Shakespeare. Courtly Love
was where the man fell in love with a woman of higher social class and
she rejected him at first to save her honour and grace. This made the
mans passion increase, and only his faith in god would keep him going.
This is how Romeo and Rosalines relationship appears to be, as Romeo
believes Rosaline does not like him.

The next scene is Act 1 Scene 5. In this scene Romeo meets Juliet for
the first time. He instantly falls madly in love with her. This shows
how fickle his love for Rosaline was, he forgets about her the moment
he sees Juliet. However this time his language is a lot different. He
begins to talk of images of light and jewels whilst describing Juliet:

"O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright." In this scene he is
now not fickle. The language he uses in the flirtatious sonnet (a poem
usually about love) is more convincing because they are talking to
each other and it shows that they do genuinely love each other, rather

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than his 'love' for Rosaline, which he only used as an excuse to be
miserable. In the sonnet however it could be fake as they have only
just met and barely know each other. However their true love is
confirmed when they realise their names are Montague and Capulet:

"My only love, sprung from my only hate." This shows how much they
love each other and want to be together but their surnames will never
let it happen.

The next scene is Act 2 Scene 1, the balcony scene. In this scene
Juliet tries to get Romeo to prove how true his love for her is.
Romeo's language is much more sincere than how it was when they first
met and when he was talking of Rosaline, although he does exaggerate
in places. This in the end annoys Juliet, and she gets impatient with
his "swearing" and over-exaggerated promises:

"Although I rejoice in thee…It is too rash, too unadvised, too
sudden." Then Juliet tells Romeo that to show her if he really loves
her, he must marry her. Romeo reacts to this maturely by saying he
will visit Friar Lawrence immediately and arrange a marriage:

"Hence will I go to my ghostly sire's close cell, his help to crave
and my dear hap to tell." This is still a little childish however as
they only met that day and how can they know that they love each

The next scene I will analyse is Act 3 Scene 1. In Act 3 Scene 1,
Romeo shows impressive maturity when he refuses to fight Tybalt. This
however, is completely dispelled when, after Mercutio's death, Romeo
gets very angry and kills Tybalt. However this is very understandable
as Mercutio is one of Romeo's oldest and best friends.

In Act 3 Scene's 2 + 3, Romeo learns of his exile from Verona
following his murder of Tybalt. Romeo's reaction to this is very
immature, selfish and irrational. He pulls a dagger out and threatens
to kill himself:

"In what part of this vile anatomy Doth my name lodge? Tell me that I
may sack The hateful mansion!" This is very selfish and he is not
thinking of Juliet and what she might want, and throughout his
hysterical speech, he hardly mentions her name, apart from to say the
HE won't see her anymore now he is banished. He also says he would
rather be killed, and this is not what Juliet wants at all, so he is
just thinking of himself again. Juliet's reaction, however, is a lot
more rational. She talks of being upset, but only because he is her
"beloved husband" and she will no longer be able to see him, rather
than thinking of herself and doing and saying silly, immature things
like Romeo.

In Act 3 Scene 5, however, our opinion of Romeo is changed completely
again. While Juliet is begging him to stay another minute, he is
denying her and saying he must go, or he will be killed, which shows
maturity and thoughtfulness:

"Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day."

"I must be gone and live, or stay and die." This is totally different
to how he was in the previous scene where he pulled a dagger out on
himself and was hysterical and stupid.

The last scene for analysis is Act 5 Scene 3, the final scene. In this
scene Romeo and Juliet both take their own lives in a thrilling climax
to Shakespeare's play. Before this, however, Romeo kills Paris who is
mourning Juliet's 'death'. This is an example of how much he feels he
needs to see her and how he feels he must join her in death, although
we know she is not dead and it is part of the plan. His suicide is not
very well thought out as if he had waited 15 minutes for the friar
they both would have been alive and neither of them would have died.
However Romeo is so in love with Juliet he cannot bear to be apart
from her. His language in the scene also reflects on this. He uses
sincere, honest and loving language and it is clear he could not live
without her:

"Death that hath sucked the honey of thy breath Hath had no power yet
upon thy beauty." The final speech he gives tells us all throughout
that he was not lying and he had loved her from the moment he saw her.
When Juliet awakes she is a little more hysterical and searches
frantically for a last drop of poison, and then finds his dagger and
she too takes her own life.

In conclusion, I think that Romeo can be very loving, sincere and
mature, but on other occasions can be silly, childish, thoughtless and
immature in general. If I were directing the play I would like to have
Romeo presented as a mature young man in most scenes, such as in Act 3
Scene 5 where he is telling Juliet he must leave. If I were directing,
I would have the actor be calm, well-spoken and mature. However in
some scenes I think he should be presented as a childish young boy who
does not deserve the clothes he is wearing. For example in Act 3
Scenes 2 and 3, I would have the actor be in hysterics and to be
shouting and screaming like a little baby child, as this is how Romeo
acts in these Scenes, like a childish baby.[1]
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