In Romeo and Juliet there are obviously two main characters (the clue is in the title!), but there are also a range of secondary and minor characters who play crucial parts in Shakespeare’s play. With this guide we’ve provided everything you need to know about these characters to achieve great things in your GCSE exams.
In your GCSE exam you will have to answer a question on either a character or a theme. It’s on these two areas that you need to focus your revision. Check out our Romeo and Juliet themes guide for everything you need to know there, and keep reading this page to learn all the details on the characters.
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- Romeo is a young, passionate and naïve character.
- He acts quickly based on emotion and without properly thinking things through. This drives the speed of the play, moving from first meeting Juliet to marriage to death in no time at all.
- Shakespeare presents Romeo’s understanding of love as quite immature. Romeo is initially madly in love with Rosaline – and terribly upset that she doesn’t feel the same – but then quickly changes his affections to Juliet in Act 2 as soon as he meets her at Capulet’s party.
- He seems to mature briefly following his marriage to Juliet. Romeo attempts to heal some of the divides between Montague and Capulet by declaring his affection for Tybalt.
- This is, however, only short-lived. Romeo’s passionate side takes hold following the death of Mercutio and he kills Tybalt in revenge. He even declares that Juliet must have made him effeminate for not initially challenging Tybalt. The audience sees Romeo’s wish to fit into the violent and honour-based society in which he lives.
- Tybalt’s murder is another example of Romeo acting based on emotion. As a result, he’s banished from Verona and separated from Juliet – driving the main tragedy of the play.
- Finally, we see another example of Romeo acting quickly in the final Act 5 Scene 3. On hearing that Juliet is dead Romeo rushes to her tomb, he’s set on killing himself to be with her and nothing will stand in his way. The unfortunate Paris finds this out as Romeo looks to enter the tomb. Here is more death and confusion driven by a misunderstanding and Romeo’s passions.
- Of course this creates great tension and drama for the audience given the dramatic irony with Juliet’s plan. It’s more evidence, however, of Romeo’s obsessive love, naivety and passion.
All quotes from Romeo unless stated.
- Chorus: ‘A pair of star-crossed lovers take their lives’ (Prologue)
- ‘Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love. Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!’
- ‘Is she a Capulet? O, dear account! My life is my foe’s debt’
- ‘But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun…It is my lady, O it is my love! O, that she knew she were!’
- ‘My life were better ended by their hate, than death prorogued, wanting of thy love.’
- ‘Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee doth much excuse the appertaining rage to such a greeting: villain am I none; therefore farewell; I see thou know’st me not.’
- ‘Good Capulet,- which name I tender as dearly as my own,- be satisfied.’
- ‘My reputation stain’d with Tybalt’s slander,- Tybalt that an hour hath been my kinsman! O sweet Juliet, thy beauty hath made me effeminate and in my temper soften’d valour’s steel!’
- ‘O, I am fortune’s fool!’
- ‘Ha, banishment! Be merciful, say “death”, for exile hath more terror in his look’
- ‘Is it even so? Then I defy you, stars!’
- ‘O true apothecary, they drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.’
- Juliet shares quite a few character traits with Romeo. Juliet is a young and naïve character. She’s also passionate, often driven to quick actions by her emotions, and very headstrong.
- Juliet is very young. Capulet tells Paris that Juliet is only 13. As a context point here: it was normal at the time for girls to be married at a very young age. It would not have been unusual for a 13 year old girl to be married in Shakespearean times.
- Juliet falls immediately in love with Romeo when she meets him at her father’s party. She’s initially unaware that he is a Montague, but she is not put off by the discovery – showing her independence and headstrong character.
- Juliet quickly decides to go against her father and her family to marry Romeo, demonstrating the strength of her feelings.
- These decisions are all driven by emotions though, and lead to irreversible actions.
- Juliet shows considerable bravery in going through with Friar Lawrence’s plan at the climax of the play (or possibly doesn’t think through the consequences).
- The audience also sees a genuine devotion to Romeo at the end of the play. Juliet would rather die than live without Romeo.
All quotes from Juliet unless stated.
- Chorus: ‘A pair of star-crossed lovers take their lives’ (Prologue)
- ‘My grave is like to be my wedding bed.’
- ‘My only love sprung from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, and known too late! Prodigious birth of love it is to me, that I must love a loathed enemy.’
- ‘O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet.’
- ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’
- ‘That “banished”, that one word “banished” hath slain ten thousand Tybalts.’
- ‘O fortune, fortune! All men call thee fickle’
- ‘Romeo, I come! This do I drink to thee.’
- Mercutio is always a favourite character with the audience. He provides plenty of humour in the early stages of the play – often mocking Romeo’s impulsive nature and his attitude to love.
- His popularity with the audience makes his death all the more shocking and tragic.
- He is not part of either the Capulet or Montague family, but he is close friends with the young men in the Montague family, including Romeo.
- He is a ‘kinsman’ of the Prince, meaning Mercutio is related to the Prince. His status makes his death even more shocking to the people of Verona in the play.
- Mercutio sums up the pain caused by the Montague and Capulet feud in his final speech, ‘a plague on both your houses’.
All quotes from Mercutio unless stated.
- ‘If love be rough with you, be rough with love; prick love for pricking, and you beat love down.’
- ‘And but one word with one of us? Couple it with something; make it a word and a blow.’
- ‘Consort! What dost thou make us minstrels?… look to hear nothing but discord’s: here’s my fiddlestick; here’s that shall make you dance. ‘Zounds, consort!’
- ‘Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives’
- ‘A plague o’both your houses!’
- ‘Ask for me tomorrow, and you will find me a grave man.’
- ‘Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm.’
- Friar Lawrence is a close confident and friend to Romeo. Romeo seeks help and advice from Lawrence that he wouldn’t get from his family or other friends.
- Friar Lawrence is initially a little annoyed by Romeo’s quickly changing affections. He comments on how Romeo was madly in love with Rosaline just a few days before falling in love with Juliet.
- However, Lawrence quickly realises that Romeo and Juliet share great love for each other. He then acts quickly to try to help the young couple. Friar Lawrence marries them in secret, helps Romeo to flee after he has killed Tybalt and develops the tragic plan for Romeo and Juliet to be together following Romeo’s exile.
- All of his actions are aimed at helping Romeo and Juliet, but his final plan is so risky that it leads to the death of both main characters. Friar Lawrence realises the extent of the risks posed by the two emotionally driven main characters too late.
- Friar Lawrence provides an important character then at the end of the play because he has the knowledge of Romeo and Juliet’s full story. His final act is to relay this to the Prince, Capulet and Montague before leaving the stage in sorrow.
All quotes from Friar Lawrence unless stated.
- ‘Young men’s love then lies not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.’
- ‘In one respect I’ll thy assistant be; for this alliance may so happy prove, to turn your households’ rancour to pure love’
- ‘These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die’
- ‘O deadly sin! O rude unthankfulness!’
- ‘Unhappy fortune!’
- ‘Fear comes upon me: O, much I fear some ill unlucky thing,’
- ‘A greater power than we can contradict hath thwarted our intents.’
- The nurse provides a similar support for Juliet as Friar Lawrence does for Romeo. She clearly has great love for Juliet and has cared for her since she was born.
- The Nurse is close to Juliet and trusted by her. Much more so than Juliet’s own mother.
- Both Romeo and Juliet find closer, more caring ties with characters outside of their own family.
- The nurse facilitates Romeo and Juliet’s early meetings. She carries messages between the two lovers and shows a protective nature towards Juliet. The nurse initially questions Romeo to try to ensure he has good intentions towards Juliet and will not hurt her.
All quotes from the Nurse unless stated.
- ‘Thou wast the prettiest babe that e’er I nursed. An I might live to see thee married once, I have my wish.’
- ‘first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her into a fool’s paradise, as they say, it were a very gross kind of behaviour, as they say: for the gentlewoman is young.’
- ’I think you are happy in this second match, for it excels your first’ [referring to Paris after Romeo has been banished]
- Tybalt is the villainous character of the play. He is confrontational, loves fighting and hates Montagues. He’s always looking to take on the Montagues in a fight and often declares his desire to kill them.
- Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin and a key member of the Capulet family.
- He is feared by the audience and we can tell that he is going to have a deadly role in the play – it’s only a matter of time.
- Tybalt kills Mercutio in a fight, which shocks the audience.
- He has a crucial role in driving forward the plot. His animosity towards the Montagues helps to demonstrate the hatred between the families and his role in the dramatic fight scene with Mercutio and Romeo completely changes the course of the play.
- After Romeo marries Juliet, he seeks reconciliation with the Capulets and Tybalt is the first family member he meets in the street. Romeo even talks about ‘the reason I have to love thee’ when he meets Tybalt. However this doesn’t last long and Tybalt’s hatred of the Montagues pushes Romeo into the fight which leads to him killing Tybalt.
All quotes from Tybalt unless stated.
- ‘What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word, as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee’
- ‘’Tis he, that villain Romeo.’
- ’Why, uncle, ‘tis a shame’
- ‘Patience perforce with wilful choler meeting makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting. I will withdraw: but this intrusion shall now seeming sweet convert to bitter gall.’
- ‘Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries that thou hast done me; therefore turn and draw.’
- ‘Romeo, the hate I bear thee can afford no better term than this,- thou art a villain.’
- Romeo: ‘Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee doth much excuse the appertaining rage to such a greeting: villain am I none; therefore farewell; I see thou know’st me not.’
- Capulet has an important role in the play. He is the head of the Capulet household, with huge responsibilities and power. He is uneasy at the peace enforced by the prince and we get the sense he’s waiting for the opportunity to resume conflict with the Montagues.
- Capulet’s other role is in trying to arrange Juliet’s marriage to Paris. As the patriarch of the family he cannot believe the Juliet might defy his wishes and not accept the marriage to Paris.
- He becomes very angry and forces Juliet to agree to marry Paris. This forces Juliet into her desperate attempt to be with Romeo as quickly as possible after he is exiled.
- Capulet regrets his anger and attitude at the end of the play following Juliet’s death. He knows his actions have contributed directly to the tragedy of the play.
All quotes from Capulet unless stated.
- ‘But Montague is bound as well as I, in penalty alike; and ‘tis not hard, I think, for men so old as we to keep the peace.’
- ’My child is yet a stranger in the world; she hath not seen the change of fourteen years’
- ’But woo her gentle Paris, get her heart, my will to her consent is but a part’
- ‘But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next, to go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church, or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither. Out, you green-sickness carrion! Out, you baggage! You tallow-face!’
- ‘Hang thee, young baggage, disobedient wretch! I tell thee what: get thee to church o’Thursday, or never after look me in the face: speak not, reply not, do not answer me’
- ‘O brother Montague, give me thy hand’
- Lady Capulet is Capulet’s wife and seems to fear him and go along with his wishes.
- She is Juliet’s mother, but does not show the sort of love and care we would expect her to show towards Juliet. The nurse has the motherly role towards Juliet.
- Lady Capulet’s dialogue with Juliet always seems formal and has some sort of agenda behind it (usually trying to convince Juliet to marry Paris).
- As a context point, Lady Capulet can be seen as an example of a traditional Elizabethan woman. It would have been very common for a wealthy Elizabethan family to employ a nurse to look after their child throughout childhood.
- The nurse, therefore, has the much closer relationship with Juliet.
All quotes from Lady Capulet unless stated.
- ‘Talk not to me, for I’ll not speak a word, do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee’
- ’Speak briefly, can you like of Paris’ love?’
- ‘Nurse, where’s my daughter? Call her forth to me’
- ‘I would the fool were married to her grave!’
Lord and Lady Montague
- Lord and Lady Montague are Romeo’s parents, but they have a lesser role in the play than Lord and Lady Capulet.
- We see, for example, much more interaction between the Capulets and Juliet than we do between the Montagues and Romeo.
- Shakespeare does show Montague’s active role in the conflict between the families. He looks to get involved in the fight in the first scene and is only prevented by the intervention of the Prince.
- The audience also sees that both Lord and Lady Montague do care about Romeo. They enquire with Benvolio about why Romeo is upset and plead for mercy from the Prince after Romeo kills Tybalt.
- Montague is distraught at the end of the play following the deaths. He pledges to end the family feud and to build a monument to Juliet.
- Lady Montague: ‘Thou shalt not stir a foot to seek a foe.’
- Lady Montague: ‘O, where is Romeo? Saw you him to-day? Right glad I am he was not at this fray.’
- Montague: ‘Black and portentous must this humour prove, unless good counsel may the cause remove.’
- Montague: ‘Not Romeo, prince, he was Mercutio’s friend; his fault concludes but what the law should end, the life of Tybalt.’
- Montague: ‘Alas, my liege, my wife is dead to-night; grief of my son’s exile hath stopped her breath’
- Montague: ‘I will raise her statue in pure gold; that while Verona by that name is known, there shall no figure at such rate be set as that of true and faithful Juliet.’
- Benvolio is a loyal, caring and trustworthy character.
- He is Romeo’s cousins and a key member of the Montague family. He clearly cares about Romeo and tries to help him whenever he can.
- Benvolio is a peacemaker. He consistently tries to stop the fighting between Capulet and Montague. He does this in the first scene and then again in Act III he looks to prevent the deadly fights with Tybalt.
- The audience views Benvolio as a positive, honest character. A clear contrast to Tybalt on the Capulet side.
All quotes from Benvolio unless stated.
- ‘Part fools! Put up your swords ; you know not what you do.’
- ‘I do but keep the peace, put up thy sword, or manage it to part these men with me. ’
- ‘One fire burns out another’s burning, one pain is lessened by another’s anguish’
- ‘I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire: the day is hot, the Capulets abroad, and , if we meet, we shall not scape a brawl’
- ‘This is the truth, or let Benvolio die’
- Paris is another kinsman of the Prince. He is an important person in Verona.
- He spends much of the play seeking to marry Juliet. Firstly, he persuades Capulet that he is the right man for Juliet.
- When Juliet fakes her death, Paris is distraught and mourns at her burial site. He challenges Romeo and fights him, thinking he is there to cause trouble. Paris’s death at the hands of Romeo adds to the tragic ending to the play.
All quotes from Paris unless stated.
- ‘Sweet flower, with flowers thy bridal bed I strew, – o woe! thy canopy is dust and stones; – which with sweet water nightly I will dew’
- ‘This is that banish’d haughty Montague, that murder’d my love’s cousin, with which grief, it is supposed, the fair creature died; and here is come to do some villainous shame to the dead bodies: I will apprehend him.’
- Prince Escalus is in charge of Verona. He is a powerful man with responsibility for the city.
- He is clearly annoyed and angry at the Capulets and Montagues for their continued fighting and disruption to his city.
- We only see the Prince reacting to trouble and fighting though. He appears on stage after fights and deaths to try to provide some justice. He doesn’t really try to reconcile the two families properly until the full tragedy of Romeo and Juliet has played out.
All quotes from The Prince unless stated.
- ‘Mercy but murders, pardoning those that kill.’
- ‘See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate, that heaven finds means to kill your joys with love. And I for winking at your discords too have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punished.’
- ‘For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.’
There is plenty to learn about the characters in Romeo and Juliet. Once you’ve reviewed all the details in this guide, then have a go at completing your own table on the key details for each of the characters. You can also review the excellent information on the Royal Shakespeare Company website for details on the plot and on past performances.