Romeo and Juliet

by: William Shakespeare

Point of View

Like so much in Romeo and Juliet, the play’s point of view is shared between the two lovers. In the first half of the play, Romeo’s is the dominant point of view. We spend most of our time with him, and he is the character who does most to advance the action. When we first meet Romeo, he is despairing over the unrequited love of Rosaline. Since we see his decision to attend the Capulet party from his point of view, we know he is going in hopes of seeing Rosaline. Similarly, we first see Juliet at home with her mother and her Nurse, discussing a potential marriage to Paris. Like Romeo, she plans to attend the party to check out a prospective mate. By introducing the audience to each character before they meet each other, the play lets us see who they are as individuals, and how they are changed by love. Romeo initially seems more in love with the idea of love than Rosaline herself, while Juliet seems hesitant to fall in love at all, saying marriage “is an hour that I dream not of.” (1.3.)

In the second half of the play Juliet’s point of view becomes the dominant one. Now Juliet is the one advancing the action, by hatching a plan to avoid her wedding to Paris. In the later scenes of the play we spend more time with Juliet than we do with Romeo: he does not appear in Act Four at all. Juliet also has more soliloquies than Romeo does, so we have greater access to her inner thoughts and feelings as the couple’s story turns from romantic to tragic. Because we see so much of the action through Juliet’s point of view, and hear so many of her inner thoughts, we believe that her love for Romeo is authentic, and she is willing to do anything to sustain that love. By giving Juliet so much volition in the later part of the play, Shakespeare portrays Juliet as an equally powerful and important character as Romeo. The shared point of view of the play helps the audience understand that the plot is driven by both characters acting together in pursuit of a common goal, rather than a male character pursuing a female character who eventually acquiesces.

Several characters in Romeo and Juliet offer counterpoints to the lovers’ point of view. Mercutio’s wit and charisma invite the audience to share his cynical view of love and romance. While the lovers believe that their love is pure and all-important, Mercutio believes that in reality love boils down to sexual desire: “this drivelling love is like a great natural that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole” (2.4). Because we feel close to Mercutio’s point of view, we are upset when he is killed, and sympathize with Romeo’s desire to avenge Mercutio’s death. Friar Lawrence’s point of view also offers some perspective on the extreme passions of the play’s other characters. His calm, well-reasoned and balanced speeches show us how far the play’s other characters have been swept away by passion. His speeches are also long, measured, and a little boring. While he speaks, we yearn to return to the excitement of the lovers’ infatuation. Because Friar Lawrence is a religious man, the contrast between his point of view and the lovers’ suggests that passion is a temptation, and one which we ourselves are vulnerable to.