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ROMEO

The same way that Juliet grows up, Romeo finds himself. Before we look at how he changes, let's look at the parts of his personality that remain constant.

1. HE IS LIKABLE

Everyone likes Romeo. Mercutio and Benvolio both want his attention, the Nurse thinks he's honest, courteous, kind, and handsome. His mother loves him so much that she dies of grief when he's banished; and even Lord Capulet calls him "a virtuous and well-governed youth" and refuses to let Tybalt bother him. Friar Lawrence loves Romeo so much that he'll do almost anything to secure his happiness. (The obvious exception to Romeo's admirers is Tybalt, and Romeo himself tells Tybalt, "Villain I am none... see thou knowest me not." [III, i, 65-66])

2. HE IS PASSIONATE

Romeo has the blessing and the curse of feeling things deeply. At the beginning of the play, he is despairing over his unrequited love for Rosaline. He is able to give himself completely to his love for Juliet, and his only trouble comes when he gives in to "fire-eyed fury" after Mercutio is killed.

3. HE IS A GENTLEMAN

He's virtuous, honest, charming, and well-mannered. He charms Juliet by reverently kissing her hand and calling her a saint; his manners win over the Nurse when she's upset by Mercutio. He is a gentleman to the end; he grants his rival's request to be buried with Juliet.

ROMEO'S GROWTH

Language is very important to Romeo. He talks while he thinks, verbally exploring the world. Because of this, we can use Romeo's growing skill with words to chart his progress throughout the play.

When we first see Romeo, he's in love with love. He has chosen a girl who'll never return his affection, and he spends more time groaning about how depressed he is than he does praising Rosaline. When he talks, he uses lots of cliches, and repeats himself. Of Rosaline, he says, "She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair / To merit bliss by making me despair." His mooning leaves him unable to act. Instead, he spends time wandering through trees or locked up in his room. This isn't like him, and his family is worried. He even says, rather proudly,

Tut! I have lost myself, I am not here; This is not Romeo, he's some other where. (I, i, 200-1)

Then he meets Juliet and discovers his true self. Their love is so right that Romeo's speech is transformed to poetry. The first time they talk together, their conversation effortlessly forms a sonnet.



This new love makes him sure of himself straight through his wedding, and makes him strong enough to fight with Tybalt. Was it mature and honorable for him to avenge Tybalt's death, or was it rash and foolish? It can be argued both ways, and you'll need to look at the evidence to see which view you agree with.

In either case, by the time Romeo gets to Friar Lawrence's cell, he has lost himself, his maturity, and his ability to act. He thinks he has also lost Juliet by killing her cousin. Again, his speech becomes repetitive. He's beyond comfort. This is much the way he was at the beginning of the play.

But when he hears that Juliet still loves him and wants him to come to her that night, he springs back to action. After his wedding night, he is more mature and more himself than before. We see that he's accepted his banishment and is willing to act on it; his words of love to Juliet as he leaves are breathtakingly beautiful. He's become a man of action, and he doesn't hesitate to act for the rest of the play.

It's a sad irony that Romeo is most himself in the tomb. At the time of his death, his words and his actions fit together perfectly. He tells us what has brought him to this point; he tells us what he's going to do and why his love for Juliet has transformed him from a boy who talks in cliches, to a man with a powerful command of speech. It's tragic that when his love is deepest, there will be no earthly use for it; when his speech is most mature, he will soon be silenced. He has found himself, only to kill himself. In his death, we watch the world lose a noble man.

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