In Romeo and Juliet, which is more powerful: fate or the characters’ own actions?
In the opening Prologue of Romeo and Juliet, the Chorus refers to the title characters as “star-crossed lovers,” an allusion to the belief that stars and planets have the power to control events on Earth. This line leads many readers to believe that Romeo and Juliet are inescapably destined to fall in love and equally destined to have that love destroyed. However, though Shakespeare’s play raises the possibility that some impersonal, supernatural force shapes Romeo and Juliet’s lives, by the end of the play it becomes clear that the characters bear more of the responsibility than Fortune does.
Though the Prologue offers the first and perhaps most famous example of celestial imagery in Romeo and Juliet, references to the stars, sun, moon, and heavens run throughout the play, and taken as a whole that imagery seems to express a different view of human responsibility. In Act 1, scene 4, Romeo says that he fears “some consequence yet hanging in the stars” when he and his gang approach the Capulet’s ball. In his next mention of stars, however, Romeo doesn’t refer to their astrological power. Rather, he uses the image of stars to describe Juliet’s otherworldly beauty. Most of the subsequent celestial images in the play follow in this vein, from Romeo’s love-struck comparison of Juliet to the sun to Juliet’s own wish to “cut [Romeo] out into little stars” when he dies. Throughout the play, these astral images are more often associated with the two lovers than with divine fate, emphasizing that, as the play’s action escalates, we cannot simply place the blame for the tragedy on some impersonal external force.
It’s true that Romeo and Juliet have some spectacularly bad luck. Tybalt picks a fatal fight with Romeo on the latter’s wedding day, causing Capulet to move up the wedding with Paris. The crucial letter from Friar Lawrence goes missing due to an ill-timed outbreak of the plague. Romeo kills himself mere moments before Juliet wakes up. It’s also true that the lovers aren’t solely responsible for their difficult situation: Their friends, their families, and their society each played a role in creating the tragic circumstances. However, even if we allow that fate or some other divine force caused Romeo and Juliet to fall in love at first sight, thereby setting the action into motion, Shakespeare makes it clear that the characters’ own decisions push that situation to its tragic conclusion. Either Romeo or Juliet, it is suggested, could have halted the headlong rush into destruction at any of several points.
Romeo’s propensity for rash action gets him—and his beloved—in a lot of trouble. His impulsiveness has made him a romantic icon in our culture, but in the play it proves his undoing. From the very beginning, Shakespeare cautions us not to view Romeo’s sudden fits of passion too idealistically—after all, Shakespeare makes a point to show that Romeo’s love for Juliet merely displaced another, earlier infatuation. Through his hasty actions, Romeo arguably drives the play toward tragedy more aggressively than any other character. He climbs over Juliet’s wall the night they meet and presses her to bind herself to him. He kills Tybalt in a blind rage. Then, thinking Juliet dead, he poisons himself. Romeo never thinks his actions through, and his lack of foresight makes him responsible for their dire consequences.
Flirting Lessons from Romeo & Juliet
Though Juliet proves a strong-willed partner for Romeo, she bears less of the blame for their joint fate because she, at least, is wary of the speed at which they progress. In the balcony scene, she compares their love to lightning, which flares up suddenly but can just as quickly fade into darkness. Unlike Romeo, each of Juliet’s fateful choices is a logical response to a situation. She agrees to marry him because she needs evidence that he is truly committed to her. She takes the potion not out of despair, but because she believes Friar Lawrence’s plan will set things to rights. Though each of her choices ends up getting her and her lover deeper into trouble, those choices are at least the result of sober, careful reflection. Only when she sees her beloved dead does she succumb to his style of rashness, killing herself out of grief.
Romeo and Juliet concludes with a strong condemnation of the characters’ actions. In the closing family portrait, the Capulets and the Montagues gather around the tomb to witness the consequences of their absurd conflict. Even if you don’t believe that Romeo and Juliet could have saved themselves, you must admit that their families’ blind hatred caused the situation, not the gods. As the Prince notes, even “[t]he sun for sorrow will not show his head” on that tragic day—even the heavens are pained at the human foolishness they see below.
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Romeo and Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare)
Romeo and Juliet (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series)
This is the essay I wrote when I completed my study of R + J
An essay on the line that Romeo said "Worse poison to mens souls in these poor compounds that thou mayest not sell. I hath sold thou poison, thou hast sold me none." (i'm not sure the exact line, but its pretty close).
This is an essay examining Mercutio's character
Explore the Connections Between the Film Version and Shakespeare's Original Play
A TRAGEDY BROUGHT BY DESTINY
Fate seems to guide people toward their destinies. Whenever a person has a destiny, he or she cannot entirely control what happens. That person can only try to prevent the worst from happening. Sometimes bad things do happen, but fate will always bring people together. The play The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet demonstrates how fate can bring two people together.
Romeo and Juliet met by chance. Romeo was actually going to the Capulet party to see Rosaline, but fell in love when he saw Juliet. She too fell in love with Romeo before she knew who he was. When she found out he was the son of her greatest enemy, she did not really care. All she knew was that she loved him and she belonged with him. Juliet said:
The only person that helped Romeo and Juliet through their struggles the most was Friar Lawrence. Romeo, immediately after he met Juliet, went to the Friar to ask him to marry them. Friar Laurence said:
Friar Laurence was explaining that Romeo did not really know what love was. He would marry them anyway hoping that the relationship would between the two feuding families could be improves by the marriage of their children.
Finally, in the end, the price gives a very moving speech to the house of Capulet and Montaque, after their children�s death. Prince says:
What the Prince meant was that because Capulet and Montaque hated each other so much, Romeo and Juliet ended up killing themselves to be together. Both families lost something very important to them. If the families would have stopped feuding, maybe then their children we still be alive.
Fate seems to guide people toward their destines. Romeo and Juliet felt they should be together and they did not care what it took. They were willing to give even their lives. Their love ended in death. They could then be together in heaven.
Time and Fate in Romeo and Juliet
Essay courtesy of Absolutely Free Online Essays and appears here.