Romeo and Juliet, one of the most famous tragedies in literature, written by Shakespeare in 1597, is a story about two “star crossed lovers” who end up taking their lives days after they meet. With more than five centuries of existence, the piece has been adapted into many forms of theatre, cinema, music and literature. By using the unrhymed iambic pentameter technique, many literary devices and writing in a very epic, passionate and poetic style, Shakespeare developed a unique plot that has intrigued millions of readers and spectators around the world because of its intensity and quickness. He wrote the play in a way that every character and event played an important role in the death of Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet. The Capulets, Romeo and Juliet’s personalities, along with fate, greatly contributed to the young couple’s tragic demise.
Although Juliet’s family, the Capulets, were not aware of Juliet and Romeo’s relationship, they were constantly interfering with Juliet’s love life, and can be held responsible for the death of their precious daughter. To begin, Lady Capulet and Juliet had a very strained and distant relationship; she was oblivious of Juliet’s relationship with Romeo and consequently misunderstood Juliet’s sorrow. Therefore, Juliet, without any support from her mother, went to Friar Lawrence for advice and agreed to follow his plan to fake her death, which eventually killed both her and Romeo. Similarly, Lord Capulet also contributed to the tragedy as he became furious when Juliet refused to marry Paris and shouted:
Hang thee, young baggage, disobedient wretch!
I tell thee what: get thee to church a’Thursday,
Or never after look me in the face.
Speak not, reply not, do not answer me!
(III, 5, 160-163)
Lord Capulet’s arrogance aggravated Juliet’s sense of rebellion, causing her to consult Friar Lawrence. He was also the one responsible for arranging the precipitated marriage to Paris that made Juliet extremely angry and impeded her relationship with Romeo. Finally, Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, who was easily angered and very stubborn, did not obey the Prince’s orders, and provoked the brawl that killed Romeo’s best friend, Mercutio. After seeing Mercutio dead, Romeo impulsively killed Tybalt, which lead to the death of both him and Juliet. Juliet’s family plays an important role in motivating her actions, conflicts, and choices. Lady Capulet, Lord Capulet and Tybalt aggravated Juliet’s rebellion and the tension between the families; they are indirectly responsible for the deaths of the two young lovers.
Juliet’s family was an important contributing factor, but Juliet and Romeo were the protagonists of their own tragedy. The youthfulness and the impulsiveness in their personalities lead to very poor decisions and a terrible outcome. They often acted rashly and without thinking of the consequences. Romeo had a tendency to be impulsive and was determined to have a relationship with Juliet no matter the circumstances. For example, after the death of his best friend, Romeo did not control his anger, and impulsively killed Tybalt, who was responsible for Mercutio’s death. This led him to be banished from Verona, which eventually caused their demise. Also, when he sees Juliet supposedly dead, he immediately takes his own life without giving it any thought. Juliet recognized Romeo’s impulsiveness as well; after the party, when Juliet goes to the balcony and the two lovers exchange expressions of devotion, Juliet says that their love is, “too rash, too unadvis’d, too sudden,” (II, 2, 118). This does not impede her from loving Romeo, instead she later proposed to him, proving to be as impulsive as Romeo. Her impatience to marry Romeo contributes to the events after their wedding and her impulsiveness after seeing him dead causes her to kill herself immediately. Lastly, another aspect of their personality that was very important on their death was their over romanticization of love. They were blinded by an extreme passion that put someone else’s existence ahead of their own. Romeo and Juliet were willing to sacrifice themselves for each other, because their love became the reason of their existence. When Romeo is about to kill himself with the poison, he dedicated his death to Juliet, saying:
Come, bitter conduct, come unsavoury guide!
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run out
The dashing rocks thy seasick weary bark!
Here’s to my love!
(V, 3, 116-119)
When they saw the other no longer alive, they had no reason to keep living, so they committed suicide. Romeo’s and Juliet’s impulsive personalities and their behaviour when faced to challenging situations greatly contributed to the ultimate tragedy.
Although there are several aspects of the story that contribute to the numerous deaths, fate is the main factor that causes the tragedy. Shakespeare soon introduces the reader fate’s control over Juliet’s and Romeo’s destinies, telling that “a pair of star-cross’d lovers take their lives;” (Prologue, 6). Their destiny is shown as inevitable as all events throughout the book seem to contribute to it. For example, a Capulet’s servant, completely by chance, found Romeo and Benvolio to read him the guest list to the Capulets’ party. Another situation that emphasizes the role of fate is when the plague spread when the messenger was trying to deliver the letter to Romeo. Therefore, he did not receive the message he was supposed to, causing him to believe Juliet was dead. Finally, it was also fate that caused Romeo and Juliet to fall in love at first sight. They immediately fall in love regardless of the feud and all the obstacles in between them. Shakespeare described their love with biblical and heavenly imageries, showing that their love is almost a divine intervention and meant to exist. Romeo and Juliet were trapped by fate since the beginning of the play and the unexplainable events of finding Romeo to read the guest list, the messenger being late and their instant love only contributed to their tragic destiny: death.
To conclude, the epic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet occurs mainly because of fate, Romeo and Juliet’s impulsive personality, and their own families; although every single character and event plays a role in the final outcome. It is a tragedy that questions destiny, rashness and lack of family’s support since those greatly contributed to Romeo and Juliet’s demise. Regardless of what the contributing factors were, their deaths brought about a start to Verona because like Friar Lawrence said, “Within the infant rind of this small flower/Poison hath residence and medicine power.” (II,3, 23-24)