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What do you think of Romeo? Did you sympathise with him, thinking him a tragic young man, or did his conduct and attitudes tend to annoy you?At the start of the play, Romeo acts like a young boy with a crush. He seems to think only of himself and is self-indulgent and weak. However, as the story unfolds, Romeo grows up rapidly. As his idea of love changes into a two-way relationship with Juliet, his genuine emotions shine through and he becomes a strong, decisive and mature character.When we first meet Romeo in Act 1, scene 1 he is talking to his friend Benvolio about his unrequited love for Rosaline. He is completely self-absorbed, concerned only about his feelings. He hardly even notices that a riot has taken place. His language is so extravagant and full of poetic device that it does not seem to reflect genuine emotion. He speaks in riddles to, using oxymorons to reflect his confused state of mind: “Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,/ Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!” Romeo seem to wallow his sorrow and will not let any of Benvolio’s suggestions cheer him up. He appears to be enjoying his misery.When Romeo first sees Juliet at the party, his thoughts take a very sudden turn. As soon as he sees her, he falls in love with her. His language at first seems as elaborate and that which he used to describe Rosaline. He uses images of light and darkness to describe her beauty: “It seems she hangs upon the cheek of life/ As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear.” But when Romeo starts talking to Juliet, we can see a change in him.They flirt with each other and Juliet’s immediate attraction to Romeo is clearly shown. It is a light hearted conversation, with both Romeo and Juliet obviously very happy in each other’s company. This is in great contrast with Romeo’s former mood of despondency and can be interpreted in two ways. Either Romeo’s love for Juliet is more genuine than his love for Rosaline, because it makes him happy, or he is fickle, apt to change his mind easily. Shakespeare uses the Chorus at the end of Act 1 to draw attention to the sudden change, with the slightly ironic lines: “That fair for which love groaned for and would die,/ With tender Juliet matched is now not fair./ Now Romeo is beloved, and loves again.”Romeo’s discovery that Juliet is a Capulet, and so should be his enemy, looks as if it would make him miserable again: “Is she a Capulet? /O dear account! my life is my foe’s debt.”However, rather than give up, he takes positive action. In Act 2, scene 2 he climbs into the orchard below Juliet’s window. He knows he could be killed if he was caught, but he is so caught up in his emotions that he doesn’t think about the consequences of his actions. As Romeo talks to Juliet in this scene his language begins to change, to become less decorative and artificial. When he tries to speak in poetic language, swearing his love by the moon, Juliet becomes cross and demands that he speak from the heart: “Do not swear at all/Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self.” The “balcony” scene between Romeo and Juliet shows that Juliet feels as strongly for Romeo as he does for her, and by the end of it they have agreed to marry.Romeo shows great courage and maturity when he refused to fight Tybalt in Act 3, scene 1. Tybalt is furious with him for attending the Capulet party when he is a Montague, and challenges Romeo to a duel. Romeo is full of love and happiness after marrying Juliet in secret. He refused to do battle with Tybalt, instead telling him that he loves him. When Mercutio fights with Tybalt instead, Romeo tries to stop them both, as he knows that fighting in the street is a crime punishable by death: “Gentlemen, for shame, forbear this outrage!/ Tybalt, Mercutio, the Prince expressly hath/ Forbid this bandying in Verona streets.”However, when Romeo tries to come between them, Mercutio is fatally wounded. Then Romeo’s sensible and rational behaviour ends. Overcome with rage and guilt, he fights with Tybalt and kills him.This scene is another example of how quickly Romeo’s emotions change and how destructive this change can be. I sympathise with his actions in this scene and understand his rage at Tybalt. However, he does not fully think through what will happen. He lets his emotions rule him, and this ends in disaster.When Romeo finds out he had been banished he becomes hysterical, self-absorbed and suicidal, claiming that: “There is no world without Verona walls,/But purgatory, torture, hell itself,” and that banishment is worst than death. Just as when he was upset about Rosaline, Romeo does not try to find a practical solution to his problems. Instead he dwells on his misery, believing his situation is tragic for him and not giving a thought to anyone else. This scene shows the depth of his love for Juliet and also explains his actions at the end of the play. If he feels suicidal merely at the thought of not seeing Juliet again, he would feel completed wretched if she died. It also shows once again how easily and quickly his emotions change and how self-absorbed and irrational he becomes when miserable.After secretly spending the night with Juliet, Romeo is much more optimistic and mature. Once he has someone to protect, Romeo is sensible, making Juliet see that he must leave, otherwise he will be caught and executed: “I must be gone and live, or stay and die.” He reassures Juliet that they will meet again, and that he will contact her at every opportunity. This is a great contrast to his anguished and pessimistic behaviour in Friar Lawrence’s cell.The final scene shows the depth of Romeo’s love and the tragedy of his situation. His final speech is strong and full of love. His language in this scene is honest and moving, lacking any of the poetic artifice seen earlier in the play: “…O my love, my wife,/Death, that has sucked the honey of thy breath,/Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty.”Romeo’s final speech shows that his suicide is not the rash act it might have been when he contemplated death in Act 3, scene 3. Romeo loves Juliet more than life itself and believes that the only way they can be together is if he kills himself. He does not die out of anger, or rage at the unfairness of the situation, but because he loves Juliet and is not willing to live his life without her.In conclusion, Romeo is a very emotional and rash character, but he does show maturity in his love for Juliet. His conduct is annoying early in the play, when he is infatuated with Rosaline and again later, when he is banished. However, in his two-way love for Juliet, he is mature and sincere and thinks of Juliet before himself. Romeo becomes a strong-minded young man, battling against the odds, whose love for Juliet is not dulled by his desperate situation. At the end of the play, I sympathise with his with his despair and feel that it is a tragedy when he dies because of a feud in which he played no part.

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