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Romeo Montague

Chien He, Wong

Widely regarded as the epitome of romance, Romeo Montague is


oft portrayed and recognized solely by the amorous aspect of his
nature. Contrary to popular belief however, Romeo is not merely a
quintessential embodiment of love— but instead a far more human and
complex being. This becomes increasingly apparent upon an
examination of his behavior in Act One of R & J as Romeo, the
supposed encapsulation of romance, is revealed to be an emotionally
effusive, eloquent individual in the midst of an existential crisis.

When Romeo first acquaints himself with the audience, his


actions betray his insecurity in regard to the purpose of his existence.
Desperately attempting to acquire a sense of fulfillment in his life,
Romeo finds resolve in love— or rather, unrequited love, as the object
of his affection, Rosaline, ‘lives uncharm’d’ (1.1.205) from ‘Love’s weak
childish bow’ (1.1.205). Despite this, Romeo expresses— in a highly
linguistic manner— how this unreciprocated emotion brings him both
joy and misery in a series of oxymoronic phrases: ‘Feather of lead,
bright smoke, cold fire, sick health’. These contrasting emotions of his
are further exemplified by the paradox ‘a choking gall, and a
preserving sweet’ (1.1.188) of which speaks in an attempt to describe
his perception of love. It is thus evident that Romeo is a victim of
existential insecurity and that his behavior upon introduction is simply
a façade existing as a provisional solution.

His somewhat ostentatious desire to be in love is soon realized


upon his pivotal encounter with Juliet, whereupon he demonstrates his
extensive capacity for emotion. The dialogue our starcross’d
protagonists first engage in assumes the form of a sonnet; and in a
mere fourteen lines (1.5.92-105) the two fall in love and weave a
metaphoric image of a pilgrimage in which Romeo’s lips are depicted
as ‘two blushing pilgrims’ (1.5.94) and Juliet’s hand as the ‘holy shrine’
(1.5.93) they must venture to. Although the two have only just been
acquainted, the vehicle in the metaphor they employ is frequently
associated and ascribed to fate, something even enduring couples
rarely attribute their relationship to. Thence, from a single sonnet—
albeit one of sophisticated intricacy and genius— and the four opening
lines of a second, the transcendental quality of their rapidly developing
relationship can already be observed, and from that, his ability to love
deduced.

Romeo is a complicated character, and conveyance of the two


aforementioned traits would have required a much more diligent
analysis had his exceptional linguistic prowess been absent. His
monologue proclaiming Juliet’s beauty would be a fitting representative
of the extent of his literacy:

“O she doth teach the torches to burn bright!


It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear—
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear:
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows
As yonder lady o’er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand,
And touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”
(1.5.43-52)

In but five heroic couplets, Romeo employs a vast arsenal of literary


techniques including alliterations, enjambments, personifications,
metaphors and similes. He also cleverly manipulates each individual
verse so as to place the majority of the stresses in each iambic
pentameter upon the vowel ‘O’, an allusion to his complaints regarding
Rosaline’s disinterest in himself, ‘O brawling love, O loving hate/ O
anything of first create!’ (1.1.170-171). In doing so, he ingeniously
generates the subtext that Rosaline was the past and that the future—
his future— with Juliet is imminent.

Romeo Montague is not the iconic, archetypal lover he is


regarded to be; no, he is worthy of far more respect than that. Instead
of resorting to violence— as the Capulets and the Montagues had— to
find his place amongst the turbulent society at the time, Romeo sought
a more rational, peaceful solution: loving another profusely and
ardently so. Professing his love for Juliet with unparalleled eloquence, I
dare say he has succeeded.