Romeo — The sixteen-year-old son of Montague and Lady Montague. He is cousins with Benvolio, and friends with Mercutio and Friar Laurence. Romeo's defining characteristic is the intensity of his emotions—whether in anger, love, or despair. Romeo is also intelligent, quick-witted, loved by his friends, and not a bad swordsmen. Over the course of the play, Romeo grows from a an adolescent who claims to be in love with Rosaline, but in reality seems more in love with the idea of love and with being a miserable wretch in the mold of classical love poets, to a young man who shares a deep and passionate love with Juliet and is willing to face the obstacles of friends, family, the law, fate, and, ultimately, death in order to be with her.
Juliet — The beautiful thirteen-year-old daughter of Capulet and Lady Capulet, and cousins with Tybalt. The Nurse is her closest friend and advisor. Juliet is naïve and sheltered at the beginning of the play, and has given almost no thought to love. But as soon as she meets and falls in love with Romeo she quickly develops into a woman of remarkable strength and resolve in pursuing what she wants. Like Romeo, she is willing to face all obstacles of society, fate, and death to be with her love. Yet even while head over heels in love, Juliet remains more grounded than Romeo. She even calls him on his silliness when he gets overly poetic. It seems possible to attribute much of Romeo's transformation from a callous youth to a passionate lover to Juliet's influence.
The Nurse — The Nurse is a servant who nursed Juliet as a baby (the Nurse's own baby died just before Juliet was born), and raised her through childhood. She is Juliet's best friend and confidante, and in many ways is more her mother than Lady Capulet is. The Nurse can be quite sentimental, but also tends to go on and on with bawdy and sometimes embarrassing stories. Though the Nurse will do anything for Juliet, and helps Juliet to marry Romeo, in the end she proves herself to be pragmatic when it comes to love.
Mercutio — Romeo's close friend, and a kinsmen of Prince Escalus. Mercutio is a wild, antic, and brooding youth. He is a whiz with wordplay and is constantly dropping sexual puns, but beneath this playful and sarcastic veneer lies a bitter world-weariness. Mercutio hates romantic ideals of any sort, whether about honor or love, and mercilessly mocks those who hold them.
Friar Laurence — A Franciscan monk and a friend to both Romeo and Juliet. He preaches moderation because he understands that intensity of any kind of emotion, good or bad, can lead to disaster. Yet he gets caught up in his own hope for ending the feud between Montagues and Capulets. In the process, he shows himself to be quite a schemer.
Capulet — Juliet's father, Lady Capulet's husband, and Tybalt's uncle. He is the leader of the Capulet family, and an enemy of Montague. Capulet tries to appear like an even-minded and loving man, and he certainly does love his daughter, but he believes he knows what's best for her, never consults her about her feelings, and is quick to anger when crossed or disobeyed.
Lady Capulet — Juliet's mother, and Capulet's wife. A woman who married Capulet when she was Juliet's age (thirteen), she loves her daughter but is a flighty woman and an ineffectual mother who left most of the raising of her daughter to the Nurse. When it comes to marriage, Lady Capulet believes more in the material happiness a "good match" can bring than in love.
Benvolio — Montague's nephew, Romeo's cousin., and Mercutio's friend. Of the three boys, he is the most calm and the least quick-witted. On a few occasions he tries to keep the peace rather than fight. Yet Benvolio is seldom successful in his peacekeeping efforts, and will fight if pushed.
Tybalt — The nephew of Capulet, and Juliet's cousin. A hothead consumed by issues of honor and well known for his skill with a sword, Tybalt hates the Montagues with a profound passion. He seems to look for excuses to fight.
Paris — A kinsman of Prince Escalus who wants to marry Juliet. Paris is a good-looking and wealthy man, but is rather pompous, a tad boring, and lacks Romeo's passion. His love for Juliet seems genuine, but, like Capulet, he seems to think he can make Juliet's decisions for her.
Prince Escalus — The Prince and leader of Verona. Escalus is concerned primarily with keeping order in the city. He will do anything in his power to stop the feud between the Montagues and Capulets from affecting the other citizens of the city.
Montague — Romeo's father, Lady Montague's husband, and Benvolio's uncle. The leader of the Montague household, and quick to anger at his bitter rival, Capulet.
Lady Montague — Montague's wife and Romeo's mother. She barely appears in the play.
Friar John — A Franciscan friar.
Balthasar — Romeo's servant.
Samson and Gregory — Capulet servants.
Abraham — Montague's servant.
Peter — An illiterate Capulet servant.
The Apothecary — A poor apothecary (a drug seller) in Mantua.
Rosaline — A young woman who has taken a vow of chastity, yet with whom Romeo is infatuated at the beginning of the play.
The Chorus — An on-stage commentator on the events of the play (usually a single person).