Romeos character changes quite significantly throughout the course of the play. We first meet Romeo in Act one Scene one of the play, in which he comes across as an immature and sulky individual Ay me, sad hours seem long”. This also gives the impression that he is self-absorbed, and the fact that he appears to fall in love easily suggests that he is also fickle.
During Act 1 Scene 4, Romeo is finally persuaded by Mercutio into attending the Capulet party, however he was not initially willing to go, suggesting that he is not capable of making his own decisions and is influenced by his friends, this further solidifies his immaturity.
Despite this immaturity, even Old Capulet, who is an enemy of the Montague family, knows Romeo as a “virtuous and well governed youth”.
We first see a change in Romeo’s character in Act one Scene five (the party scene) when he changes from a brooding, sulking character into an impulsive and romantic one.
He expresses his feelings towards Juliet through passionate, impulsive gestures (for example kissing her when first meeting her) and poetic language – ” O she doth teach the torches to burn bright. It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night”. He also shows the kind and loving side of his character – “my hearts dear love”
During Act two Scene two, Romeo first shows responsibility, when he agrees to be married to Juliet, he then proves that he is well organised and has the ability to make his own decisions when he goes to Friar Lawrence and arranges to be married in Friar Lawrence’s cell, but is forced to do so in secret and so portraying him as devious and secretive.
However, although Romeo appears to be growing in stature and maturity, he still remains boyish and immature when with his friends in Act two Scene four when he teases the nurse – “here’s goodly gear, a sail, a sail!”
In Act three Scene one, his gentle nature is shown when he refuses to fight with Tybalt and responds calmly – “And so good Capulet, which name I tender as dearly as my own, be satisfied.”
However, when his best friend Mercutio is killed by Tybalt, Romeo becomes enraged and seeks his revenge on Tybalt. He attacks him and kills him. This proves that his love for the Capulet family name is not as strong as the loyalty towards his close friend Mercutio. Romeo is then sentenced to banishment from Verona.
The day before he is banished, Romeo seeks refuge in Friar Lawrence’s cell, where he reverts back to his emotional state in which the viewer witnessed in Act one Scene one. He claims that he may as well be dead and rejects any of Friar Lawrence’s advice. – ” Not I, unless the breath of sick-heart groans. Mist-like enfold me from the search of eyes.”
When the Nurse arrives and informs Romeo that Juliet is similarly upset, Romeo blames himself, he then collapses on the floor in sorrow and threatens to stab himself. This shows that he is still young and emotional.
The evening before he is banished, Romeo arranges to spend his last night with Juliet, where he temporarily comes out of his sad state of mind and readopts his passionate and romantic character.
He then leaves for Mantua.
Whilst in Mantua, he is visited by Balthasar, his messenger who gives him the grave news that Juliet is ‘dead’. Romeo shows strength of character when he decides to take control of his own destiny – “then I defy you stars”
He decides that he will kill himself – ” well Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight”. He knows of an apothecary that will supply him with a poison. This suggests that he is headstrong and taking control, but also means his is ruthless in his choices.
In Act five Scene three, Romeo breaks into the Capulet vault, where Paris who, unaware of Romeos love for Juliet wrongly assumes that Romeo is there to desecrate the Capulet vault challenges his. Romeo warns him -“tempt not a desperate man” however his love for Juliet drives him to get into the vault regardless.
He kills Paris, however because of Romeo’s developed character, he shows remorse and carries Paris’s body into the vault and lays it beside Juliet.
Romeo sees Juliet lying in the tomb, and swallows the poison. This shows that Romeo is driven by emotion and his total and uncompromising love for Juliet.
We first meet Juliet in Act one Scene three, where the audiences initial perception of her is that she is courteous and polite – “Madam I am here, what is your will?”
She also appears quite childlike as the Nurse still recalls anecdotes of her childhood.
We are also aware that her parents still make decisions for her, as her father arranges for her to be married to County Paris, this suggests that she is still seen as a young child.
In Act one Scene 5, she first meets Romeo at the party. They instantly fall in love and the audience first sees her romantic nature.
Despite feeling passionately towards Romeo, she still remains organised and sensible, and on their departure she says – “If thy bent of love be honourable, Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow”.
Juliet sends her nurse to meet Romeo, suggesting that she is not entirely able to do things for herself yet.
In Act two, Scene 6 they are married. This proves that they were deeply in love, however the speed in which they did so does not show a high level of thought.
When Juliet hears that her lover has been banished, she is distraught and confused by conflict of emotions. Romeo has been banished, however he killed her cousin. She shows her deep love for Romeo as she remains loyal to him when the Nurse criticises Romeo she scorns her.
In Act three Scene 5, Juliet spends the night with Romeo. When they wake on the morning of his banishment, she tries to make him stay by claiming it was the nightingale that was singing, not the lark. But when realises that Romeo would be risking his life, she becomes pragmatic and tells him that he must leave before he is found. This shows that she is sensible and wants Romeo to be safe as she cares for him.
Juliet shows her independence and growth of character when she now defies her parents when they tell her she will be married to County Paris.
In Act 4 Scene 1, she begs for the help of Friar Lawrence and he supplies her with a potion that will give her the appearance of death so she can wake up in forty-two hours and escape with Romeo. The fact that she is willing to do this shows her determination.
When she awakes in Act 5 Scene three to find Romeo dead she stabs herself. There is a strong contrast to how we first see Juliet in Act one Scene 5, as an obedient young girl who allowed her parents to make her decisions to an independent young woman who has made the most important and final decision there is, whether to live or die.
We can see therefore that during the course of the play, the characters of Romeo and Juliet develop significantly.
Romeo first appears as a sulking young boy who shows little signs of maturity. At the end of the play he has developed into a headstrong youth who is capable of making his own decisions.
Juliet first appears as a polite young girl who obeys her parents. At the end of the play she has developed into a mature young woman who makes her own choices and arrangements.
The most important point of development in this play is the transition from childhood into adulthood.
Their meeting and love for each other are major causes of this development and the tragedy is all the greater for their increased maturity and stature.
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