Romeo and Juliet Romeo
by William Shakespeare

Although the name “Romeo” evokes the word “romance,” and although it has become a synonym for “lover” in English, Romeo’s character in the play is actually more complex: he is a character who experiences intense emotions of all kinds, not just love.

Romeo’s primary interest is love, but as the play begins, it is an interest in love as he believes it should be based on the romantic poetry he has read. His interest in Rosaline, coupled with his despair at her indifference towards him, suggests that he is trying to play the “lover” in romantic poetry and has chosen Rosaline to play the “beloved,” regardless of Rosaline’s opinion.

When Romeo meets Juliet, however, his understanding of love begins to change. Rather than attempting to act out something he has read, Romeo develops a love for Juliet as the person she is. Juliet acts as the catalyst for this transformation from their first meeting when she says to him, “You kiss by the book.” This gently-teasing comment begins to shake Romeo out of his idea of what love should be and allow him to experience his love for Juliet as it actually is.

In addition to loving intensely, Romeo also expresses intense anger, as when he kills Tybalt to avenge the death of Mercutio, and intense despair, as when he threatens to kill himself upon hearing Juliet is distraught about his banishment from Verona. He acts recklessly in buying the poison and rushing to Juliet’s tomb. If he had paused only briefly instead of acting instantly on his emotions, Romeo might not have died before Juliet could wake and explain the plan. He might not have killed Tybalt and thus gotten himself banished from Verona in the first place. Yet, if Romeo were more even-tempered, he may never have fallen in love with Juliet at all.

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