Romeo and Juliet - Character

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at the characters in William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. The play has a somewhat lengthy dramatis personae, considering that the focus of the play is very much on the two young lovers. In addition to these two, Friar Laurence and Nurse play large roles, followed by Romeo’s friend Mercutio, Count Paris, and the Capulets: Juliet’s parents and their nephew Tybalt. Other characters include Montague, his wife, Benvolio, and various servants and citizens of Verona. Several of these play important roles, even if they have few lines. The Prince, for example, appears three times, but makes his presence count by threatening death to those who disturb the peace, banishing Romeo and pronouncing judgement at the end of the play.

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The two key strands of the play concern the fatal feud of the Capulets and the Montagues and the love affair of Romeo and Juliet. Most of the male characters are caught up in the feud and the audience often sees these men encountering one another in public. A few of the male characters are caught up in love: Romeo, who is lovelorn in the beginning of the play, Mercutio who teases him mercilessly, Capulet and Paris, who attempt to arrange a marital alliance and Friar Laurence, who aids the lovers. By contrast Capulet’s Wife, Juliet and Nurse converse in private and focus almost exclusively on love, except when the violence of Verona intrudes on their lives, as when Tybalt is murdered.

The primary means by which we understand characters in drama are their speech, their actions and their interactions with other characters. Although gesture and costume are left to a reader’s imagination, in performance the audience of a play is able to understand characters better through these aspects. Watching a production of a play is also a good way to see how its characters have been interpreted by others. When reading Romeo and Juliet, pay close attention to soliloquys and to private dialogues where you can learn what characters might be thinking and what their motivations are. Many of the characters engage in complex word-play, full of double meanings. This complexity requires especially close attention in order to appreciate what each character is communicating to themselves, to others and to the audience.

Answer the questions below to see how well you understand the characters in this play.

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  1. When Paris requests to marry Juliet, Capulet agrees on the condition that Juliet gives her own consent. Which of the following quotations does NOT contradict his statement?
    Capulet refers to Paris as "son" and presumes that Juliet will follow his wishes. When he hears that she does not wish to marry Paris, he responds by threatening to disinherit her
  2. For what do Romeo's friends tease him at the beginning of the play?
    Romeo is love-sick for Rosaline, who does not return his love
  3. Knowing that Romeo is banished and the Capulets have ordered Juliet to marry Paris, what does Nurse advise Juliet to do?
    Nurse is always pragmatic and not always governed by morality
  4. Capulet's Wife is not given a name of her own, but is defined by her relationship to Juliet's father. How does her character function in the play?
    Capulet's Wife often functions as a messenger or mediator between Capulet and Juliet. Father and daughter speak directly only when Juliet refuses to marry Paris. You might notice that in films of the play, she is often called "Lady Capulet", rather than by the title given her in the play
  5. Friar Laurence encourages Juliet to run away with him when their plans fail. What does her refusal indicate about her character?
    Friar Laurence promises to hide Juliet away in a convent. Steadfast faith to Romeo drives her instead to a quick suicide
  6. Which of the following character traits leads most directly to Romeo's death?
    Romeo's passion for Juliet leads him to wish to die by her side; this same passion is also responsible for his tendency to act immediately. If he were a more patient character, he might have lived to see Juliet recover from the effects of the potion
  7. Which of the following best describes Mercutio?
    Mercutio is very quick-tempered and easily provoked. His name is related to the word "mercury", which is also called "quicksilver"
  8. "I'll look to like, if looking liking move, / but no more deep will I endart mine eye / Than your consent gives strength to make it fly." What does Juliet's comment to her mother tell us about her character?
    Juliet agrees to try to like Paris while pointing out that looking and liking are not the same. She obeys her mother's request at the same time as mocking it: she promises to look exactly the right amount and in the right way at Paris
  9. Why does Paris go to Juliet's tomb?
    Paris's expressions of grief for Juliet resemble Romeo's sorrow in the opening scene for his unrequited love of Rosaline. Paris, unlike Romeo, has no intention of dying with his beloved
  10. Speaking to Paris, Friar Laurence says, "You say you do not know the lady's mind? / Uneven is the course. I like it not." Which of the following is true of the Friar?
    A marriage required the consent of both parties in order to be valid. Romeo and Juliet shows how family pressure could override an individual's power to choose

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