Free Study Guide: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare - Free BookNotes|
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ROMEO AND JULIET: FREE BOOKNOTES
Friar Lawrence is a likable old gentleman. As a monk of the Franciscan
order, he is devoted to preaching, caring for the sick, and doing missionary
work. As the high priest of the parish, he serves as the father confessor
of all in the play, both Montagues and Capulets. A peace loving man, Friar
Lawrence is greatly concerned about the rivalry between the two families
and seeks a way to bring peace between them. Because of this desire, he
consents to secretly marry Romeo and Juliet, hoping that their union will
be able to reconcile the warring factions.
Perhaps Friar Lawrence is too kind and willing to assist all that come
to him for advice or help. When Romeo comes to him about a marriage ceremony,
he agrees to perform it quickly and in secret, even though he reproves
Romeo for fickleness and impetuousness. When Romeo hides in the Friar’s
cell after slaying Tybalt, the Friar approves of Romeo staying with him
until night, when he will go to Juliet and consummate the marriage. He
also promises to send news of Verona to Romeo during his exile in Mantua;
in fact, he tells Romeo he will try to devise a plan to reunite the two
lovers. After Juliet is forced by her father into a betrothal to Paris,
she goes to Friar Lawrence to seek his advice. The good Friar is now in
too deep to turn back. Knowing plants and poisons, he suggests that Juliet
take a potion to make her appear dead and actually gives it to her to
take back to her bedchamber to drink. By drinking the potion, fair Juliet
can prevent her marriage to Paris.
Friar Lawrence’s well-laid plan is to save Juliet from the vault and
reconcile her with her husband Romeo. Unfortunately, the Friar’s letter
to Romeo does not reach him and he must go to rescue Juliet from the vault.
Friar Lawrence arrives at the tomb after Paris, Romeo, and Juliet are
dead. Since he is present when the authorities arrive, they suspect him
of murder and arrest him. Because he has written a letter that proves
his innocence, he is soon exonerated.
As a man of religion, he is extremely sympathetic to the problems of
others, especially of Romeo and Juliet. He tries to do his utmost for
them. The preposterous nature of the means he adopts to help the lovers
only points out his humane approach to their problems. If Friar Lawrence
has a flaw, it is caring too deeply and too much.
Tybalt is the nephew of Lady Capulet. As a young man, he seems to represent
what Capulet must have been in his young days; but he has none of the
redeeming features of his uncle and is more like his aunt. With his quarrelsome
nature, Tybalt is like a fireball, ready to explode at any moment. When
he hears Romeo’s voice at the party, he calls for his sword and is ready
to kill his enemy on the spot, completely unmindful of place and time.
He persistently rejects his uncle’s remonstrance to stay calm at the dance.
He discourteously leaves only when he is threatened with disinheritance,
and even as he does so, he vows vengeance on Romeo in the future.
He later sends a letter to Romeo challenging him to fight, merely because
he has dared to enter the dance hall. He walks about the street seeking
his enemy. When he finally meets Romeo, he insults him by calling him
a villain. Romeo, because of his new found love, refuses to fight with
him. When Mercutio interferes, Tybalt fights with Mercutio and kills him.
He flees for the moment, but after some time returns to face Romeo again.
Romeo fights and slays him. The death of Tybalt snowballs the crisis for
Romeo and Juliet.
Tybalt does not possess any pleasing qualities, any superior mental
ability, or any gentlemanliness. He is hot tempered, discourteous, defiant,
and quarrelsome. His only claim to fame is as a duelist, and his only
good points are his loyalty to the Capulets and his normally proper manners.
Lord Capulet, the head of his family and father to Juliet, is about sixty
years of age but calls himself young. His evident wealth ranks him with
the many merchant princes of his time, but his social status is lower
than that of the Prince, Paris, and Mercutio. By personality, he is fiery,
pugnacious, interfering, forgetful, and domineering; but at the same time,
he can be courteous, hospitable, and generous, as he appears at his party.
He delights in entertaining lavishly and personally welcomes and jests
with his guests. When Tybalt tries to insult Romeo, one of the guests,
while at the party, Capulet tries to pacify him and then threatens to
disinherit if he does not behave under his roof.
Lord Capulet is much guiltier than Montague about continuing the rivalry
between the two houses, and it is his faction that usually provokes the
fighting. He is overly familiar with his servants, enduring their retorts
and interfering in their work. He engages twenty cooks for an elaborate
wedding feast when only twenty guests have been invited.
Capulet dearly loves his daughter Juliet, but likes to have his way with her. He is very considerate of her feelings when
he first speaks to Paris about their marriage; he states that his consent to the marriage depends upon her wishes, and tells
Paris that he needs to woo and win her. Later, when Juliet is grieving over Tybalt, he overrules any consideration of her
feelings. When she refuses to marry Paris, he becomes angry and calls her vile names, threatening to turn her out on the
street and to disinherit her. He fixes the day of the marriage for Thursday and suddenly advances it to Wednesday. He is
highly insensitive to the feelings of Juliet when she defies him.
In his good moods, Capulet’s language is smooth, genial, and courtly; in his
passion, he becomes insulting and coarse; and in his grief he is simple
Lady Capulet is still a young woman, many years younger than her sixty
year-old husband. She also has fewer redeeming qualities than he does.
She ridicules his age in the presence of others and endeavors to assert
her authority over him. Capulet completely ignores her on all occasions
thus showing she has no influence over him. She also has very little influence
over her daughter; she has had little part in her upbringing and still
treats Juliet as a child.
Lady Capulet can be demanding and conniving. When she learns that Romeo killed Tybalt, her nephew, she demands the
death of Romeo. She is incapable of seeing any justice in Romeo’s fighting Tybalt over the death of Mercutio; her
hysterical demands, however, make no impression on the Prince. Her wickedness comes to the forefront when she tells
Juliet that she plans to seek revenge on Romeo for Tybalt’s death and will poison him through a servant. Lady Capulet,
revealing very little that is admirable in her character, is created to be an unlikable and unsympathetic character
The shock that Lady Capulet receives over Juliet’s supposed death removes
all superfluity from her, and the grief-stricken mother comes out. Her
sorrow over the loss of her child is immense, which she clearly expresses
with a string of adjectives. “Accurs’t unhappy, wretched hateful day!”,
are genuinely from the heart. Lady Capulet is an unsympathetic, heartless,
scheming woman, until she is overtaken by tragedy.
Lord Montague’s social position in Verona is the same as that of the
Lord Capulet, but he, his son Romeo, and his nephew Benvolio, are far
from being eager to fight their enemies. Lord Montague is a foil to Lord
Capulet. He is self-controlled, quiet, and dignified. He loves his son
dearly and grieves over his strange behavior and his secretiveness. His
first words spoken in the play, “The villain Capulet! Hold me not, let
me go,” are dramatically intended to inform the audience, at the outset,
of the relations between the two houses. Even in this exclamation, the
reader can see his mildness and self-control. He does not want to be involved
in a fight with the Capulets.
Lord Montague’s role in the play is limited. In the opening scene, he begs
Benvolio to find out what is wrong with Romeo. In Act III, Scene 1, he
pleads with the Prince to consider that Romeo, in killing Tybalt, has
only done what the law otherwise would have done. In the closing scene,
he announces that he was grieved over Romeo’s exile; now he has to face
his son’s death. He accepts Capulet’s hand but is too much overcome with
grief to speak about forgetting the past enmity. He does, however, propose
to raise a golden statue of Juliet for her everlasting remembrance.
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