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.
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.