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Shakespeare's Characters: Romeo (Romeo and Juliet)

Romeo, the hero of Romeo and Juliet, is in love with Rosaline at the beginning of the play. He soon falls in love with and marries Juliet (2.6). The Prince banishes him from Verona for killing Tybalt (3.1), and he flees to Mantua (3.3) where he slays Paris and dies along side Juliet (5.3).

No one has summarized Romeo’s character better than the 19th-century scholar, Dr. Maginn:
Lightning, flame, shot, explosion, are the favourite parallels to the conduct and career of Romeo. Swift are his loves; as swift to enter his thought, the mischief which ends them forever. Rapid have been all the pulsations of his life; as rapid, the determination which decides that they shall beat no more.

A gentleman he was in heart and soul. All his habitual companions love him: Benvolio and Mercutio, who represent the young gentlemen of his house, are ready to peril their lives, and to strain all their energies, serious or gay, in his service. His father is filled with an anxiety on his account so delicate, that he will not venture to interfere with his son’s private sorrows while he desires to discover their source, and if possible to relieve them. The heart of his mother bursts in his calamity; the head of the rival house bestows upon him the warmest panegyrics; the tutor of his youth sacrifices everything to gratify his wishes; his servant, though no man is a hero to his valet de chambre, dares not remonstrate with him on his intentions, even when they are avowed to be savage-wild,

More fierce, and more inexorable far,
Than empty tigers or the roaring sea

but with an eager solicitude he breaks his commands by remaining as close as he can venture, to watch over his safety. Kind he is to all. He wins the heart of the romantic Juliet by his tender gallantry: the worldly-minded nurse praises him for being as gentle as a lamb.

When it is necessary or natural that the Prince or Lady Montague should speak harshly of him, it is done in his absence. No words of anger or reproach are addressed to his ears save by Tybalt; and from him they are in some sort a compliment, as signifying that the self-chosen prize fighter of the opposing party deems Romeo the worthiest antagonist of his blade (from The Shakespeare Papers, quoted in Bentley's Miscellany, 66).

The Shakespeare Papers by Dr. Maginn are available for download on Google books.

How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Romeo. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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