One of the most important issues in the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is that of choice. Do the characters have the ability to choose what they want to do, or are they simply destined to participate in death and destruction? There is ample evidence of both fate and free will in the play, and the presence of both greatly affects the interpretation of the plot and the characters.
Fate as a dominating force is evident from the very beginning of the play. The Chorus introduces the power of fortune in the opening prologue when we are told that Romeo and Juliet are “star-crossed” (destined for bad luck) and “death-marked,” and that their death will end their parents’ feud. Fate and fortune are closely related in the play, as they both concern events that are out of human control. By telling us that Romeo and Juliet are destined to die because of their bad luck, Shakespeare gives us the climax of the play before it even begins. This strategy, which seems odd considering the end has been spoiled for the audience, serves two purposes: it allows the introduction of the power of fate and fortune over people’s lives by declaring the fate of Romeo and Juliet at the very beginning, and it also creates tension throughout the play because they very nearly succeed despite this terrible declaration. Thus the opening prologue sets up the fate/free will problem.
The characters themselves all believe that their lives are controlled by destiny and luck, and Romeo is a prime example of this. When Romeo and his friends journey to the Capulet’s ball in Act I, scene iv, Romeo hesitates to go because he has had a bad dream:
...[M]y mind misgivesSome consequence, yet hanging in the stars,Shall bitterly begin his fearful dateWith this night’s revels and expire the termOf a despised life, closed in my breast,By some vile forfeit of untimely death (I, iv. 106-111).
Romeo not only acknowledges the power of the stars, which tell what fate has in store through astrology, but he also believes that his destiny is to die. Romeo’s belief in fate also affects his interpretation of events. When Romeo kills Tybalt in Act III, scene i, he claims that he is “fortune’s fool” by having contributed to his own downfall. In Act V, scene i, Romeo demonstrates his belief in the power of dreams to foretell the future once again when he believes that he will be reunited with Juliet on the basis of another dream. However, when Balthasar informs him that Juliet is dead, Romeo once again rails against the power of fate: “Is it e’en so? Then I defy you, stars! / Thou knowest my lodging” (V, i. 24). Romeo finally tries to escape from his destiny at the end of the play by committing suicide to “shake the yoke of inauspicious stars,” ironically fulfilling the destiny declared by the Chorus in the opening prologue.
Other characters in the play believe in the power of fate as well. Juliet appeals to fortune when Romeo escapes to Mantua in Act III, scene v:
“O Fortune, Fortune! All men call thee fickle. If thou art fickle, what dost thou with himThat is renowned for faith? Be fickle, Fortune,For then I hope thou wilt not keep him longBut send him back” (III, v. 60-64).
Juliet demonstrates here that she not only believes in the power of luck and fate over her own situation, but that Romeo himself has faith in those concepts. Friar Laurence also shows his belief in the power of destiny over people. When Romeo runs to his cell after killing Tybalt, Friar Laurence acknowledges that Romeo does indeed have bad luck: “Affliction is enamored of thy parts, / And thou art wedded to calamity” (III, iii. ll.2-3). As a priest, Friar Laurence naturally believes that destiny exists, as God has planned out all events. However, the friar will also become a victim of fate by the end of the play. His letter to Romeo, which details Friar Laurence’s plan for Romeo to pick up Juliet at the Capulet tomb after she has awakened from the effects of the potion, could not be delivered because of the “unfortunate” quarantine of Friar John. Friar Laurence then has the misfortune of accidentally tripping over gravestones while running to meet Juliet, which delays his arrival until after Romeo has committed suicide. Friar Laurence recognizes the power of fate to overrule his good intentions when Juliet awakens: “A greater power than we can contradict / Hath thwarted our intents” (V, iii. ll.153-154). The fact that Friar Laurence, Juliet, Romeo, and the other characters in the play believe so strongly in fate and fortune is not surprising, given...
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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.