Romeo and Juliet

by: William Shakespeare

Act 2, scenes 2–3

Friar Lawrence also returns the specter of Rosaline to the play. The friar cannot believe that Romeo’s love could turn so quickly from one person to another. Romeo’s response, that Juliet returns his love while Rosaline did not, hardly provides evidence that Romeo has matured. The question of Rosaline continues on into the next scene when Mercutio begins to ridicule Romeo’s lovelorn ways by mockingly comparing Rosaline to all the beauties of antiquity (it is interesting to note that one of these beauties, Thisbe, is found in a myth that very closely resembles the plot of Romeo and Juliet). The events of the play prove Romeo’s steadfast love for Juliet, but Romeo’s immature love for Rosaline, his love of love, is never quite erased. He remains too quick to follow the classic examples of love, up to and including his suicide.

In addition to developing the plot by which Romeo and Juliet will wed, Act 3, scene 3 offers a glimpse of Romeo among his friends. Romeo shows himself to be as proficient and bawdy a punner as Mercutio. This punning Romeo is what Mercutio believes to be the “true” Romeo, suddenly freed from the ludicrous melancholy of love: “Why, is not this better than groaning for love? / Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo” (2.3.76-77). In the last scene, Juliet tried to battle the social world through the power of her private love; here Mercutio tries to assert the social language of male bravado and banter over the private introspection of love. Interestingly, both Juliet and Mercutio think they know the “real” Romeo. A conflict emerges; even friendship stands in opposition to Romeo’s love. Romeo must remain both the private lover and the public Montague and friend, and he must somehow find a way to navigate between the different claims that his two roles demand of him.