The True Hero:
The Superior Character in Romeo and Juliet
The play of Romeo and Juliet is different from William Shakespeare’s other tragedies in that there is not a clear distinction of individual heroes. The two protagonists are more passive than active; both are naïve and lacking understanding. The hero is often thought to be the romantic, yet often hysterical, Romeo. But Romeo’s immoral background, emotional outbursts, mishap murders, and foolish actions make him a poor candidate for a hero. Juliet proves to be more innocent than Romeo because she possesses more rigorous moral ethics. Juliet is also more successful in overcoming the obstacles that she is faced with throughout the play. While both characters are not without faults, there is more understanding towards Juliet’s regrettable actions than that of Romeo’s. Through these concepts, the character of Juliet is seen to be the superior character and the true heroine in Romeo and Juliet.
Before her first meeting with Romeo, Juliet is seen to be an innocent, young woman who is in a sheltered state; she exists in the care of her parent’s and nurse. When asked by her mother if she can love Paris, Juliet replies, “I’ll look to like, if looking liking more; / But no more deep will I endart mine eye / Than your consent gives strength to make me fly” (1.3.98-100). It is surmised that there are few large decisions that she is able to make without the consent of her parent’s whom she desires to please. Juliet’s innocence is further demonstrated as thoughts of love and lust appear to be completely absent in Juliet’s mind. Her innocence towards sexuality, being only thirteen years of age, is not uncommon; however, she is pronounced by her mother to be old enough for marriage: “Well, think of marriage now; younger than you, / Here in Verona, ladies of esteem, / Are made already mothers…” (1.4.70-72). Juliet says of marriage, “It is an honour that I dream not of” (1.4.67). Although her innocence goes hand in hand with her youth and ignorance, her lack of knowledge seems to have fastened good values in her. This shows that in the beginning of the book Juliet is sexually inexperienced and obedient to her parents thus portraying her strong moral ethics.
Juliet’s ingenuousness and sexual innocence are contrary to Romeo‘s character. When Romeo first comes onto the scene, he proclaims that he is in love with a woman named Rosaline and says that “She is rich in beauty…” (1.1.214). Rosaline has sworn chastity and wants nothing to do with Romeo. But, this doesn’t stop Romeo from attending a party to see her, where his mind is quickly turned away from Rosaline as he sets his sites instead on the young Juliet. He speaks praises to Juliet’s beauty before ever uttering a word to her saying, “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! / For ne’er saw true beauty till this night” (1.5.55-56). Both of these attractions are deduced to be feelings of mere infatuation.
Romeo’s lusty desires and sexual experience are further portrayed by the personalities of Romeo’s kinsmen. Romeo carouses with “lusty gallants” such as Mercutio and Benvolio, who stalk the streets at night speaking of woman as sport. However, whether the union of Romeo and Juliet is formed from love or lust, the devotion that the one holds for the other is proven true throughout the course of the story. It is certain that Romeo is easily persuaded by lust in the beginning of the story, but once Juliet arrives on the scene, “the mutual attraction is so strong that any further of his fickleness is wasted” (Stauffer 29). Half way through the play, the friar rebukes Romeo, “for doting, not for loving…” (2.3.82). However, the friar does approve of the love affair between Romeo and Juliet, which is evident when he marries them and attempts to help them to be together. The friar’s ultimate goal is to put an end to the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets by bringing the two families together...