Romeo & Juliet Romeo and Juliet is a Shakespearian tragedy about two young lovers who are destined to be together. Their two families hate each other bitterly, which forces them to realise that they would rather be dead than live their lives apart. After analysing and interpreting the text I have developed a neutral view point regarding the following statement, “Romeo and Juliet’s reckless and thoughtless actions had been responsible for the tragic events in the play”. There are many incidents in the play which contribute to the tragedy, some of which are owed to immature mindset and the impulsive actions by both Romeo and Juliet.
However, one should consider that it was not one particular factor that solely lead to their demise but the series of unfortunate events that kept them apart and ultimately killed them, which will be discussed in this essay. In my opinion, the main factors that caused this tragic loss of life were; fate, the feud, the nurse, Old Capulet, Friar Lawrence and the star-crossed lovers themselves. Even though fate traps Romeo and Juliet by their fatal flaw, many things happen to their misfortune and is not their fault. For example, the letter sent by the Friar does not reach Romeo by a random incident.
Secondly, fate puts Romeo and Juliet in opposite Houses and therefore puts their relationship in jeopardy. However, Romeo and Juliet made their own choices throughout the play. Romeo goes to the Capulet ball despite his premonitions and knowing that Capulet is his bitter enemy. Juliet makes a choice when she discovers that Romeo is her enemy where she has the chance to end her relationship. Although they make their decisions they may have been under the influence of ’True’ love and this could have been a series of unfortunate coincidences.
This relates to Shakespeare’s idea of a tragedy where a tragedy was not one major unfortunate event but a series of unfortunate events or coincidences. The first lines of the prologue tell us about the hate between the two houses. “Two households, both alike in dignity… From ancient grudge to new mutiny“ Prologue, 1-3. No leader of either household ever thought about making peace. This made it impossible for Romeo and Juliet to have an open relationship, which made them have to go around in secret.
The feud meant that Tybalt was automatically up for a fight whenever he saw a Montague; this did not help Romeo and Juliet with their problems. Also the fact that it was “wrong” for Romeo and Juliet to be together made them stronger and willing to do all they could to be together in life or death. The nurse is slightly two-faced as she failed Juliet by not supporting her decision to remain married to Romeo. When Juliet first informs the Nurse of her love for Romeo, she is excited and encourages Juliet and help with preparations for the wedding.
In Act 1 scene 4 the Nurse agrees to be the messenger to Romeo. After Romeo’s banishment and Tybalt’s death, the Nurse turned on Juliet and takes Tybalt’s side as she is part of the Capulet household and Tybalt was Juliet’s cousin. The Nurse tells Juliet to marry Paris after Romeo’s banishment, this is bigamy and a sin yet Elizabethan’s were very religious. The Nurse fails Juliet in Act 3 scene 5 as when her father is shouting at her to marry Paris. Capulet is also responsible for the death of the young lovers as he fails Juliet and contradicts what he says about her marriage to Paris.
At first, in the play Capulet feels that he should wait a couple of years until Juliet and Paris know each other properly. ”Let two more summers with her in their pride, here we may think her ripe to be a bride”. Capulet also feels that he should give time for Paris to win Juliet’s heart. ”But woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart. “Nevertheless, Capulet changes his mind about Juliet and Paris’ marriage and move it forward when he was determined to wait two summers. The moving of the wedding meant that it gave the Friar less time to get the letter to Romeo.
Friar Lawrence’s actions throughout played a part in the lovers’ deaths. He married them, which began the disastrous events in the play. Friar Laurence said to Romeo: ”In one respect I’ll thy assistant be. For this alliance may so happy prove, To turn your households’ rancour to pure love. “ Act 2 scene 3 line 86-88. When he says this, he is stating he will assist Romeo by marrying the two, because through the marriage their families may learn to love each other and end the feud. However, he did not think about the consequences of this and the fact that an ancient grudge could not be resolved in one day by marriage.
A second reason the Friar is partly responsible is the fact that he gave Juliet a remedy in order to ’fake‘ her death. Friar Laurence tells Juliet: ”Take thou this vial, being then in bed, And this distilled liquor drink thou off. When presently through all thy veins shall run, A cold and drowsy humour, for no pulse, Shall keep his native progress, but surcease. “ Act 4 Scene 1 line 93-97. In this quote Friar Laurence is telling Juliet to take the vial and to drink it when she goes to bed. This fluid (while going through her veins) will make her cold and drowsy and make it appear as if she does not have a pulse.
Romeo’s friend Mercutio was a very witty energetic man. If he held his tongue and thought about what he said before acting on them he would not have gotten into so many fights. Mercutio should not have tried to tease Tybalt because of the rivalry between Tybalt’s family and Romeo’s family. While avenging Mercutio, Romeo should have thought about the consequences of slaying Tybalt. On one hand he filled the urge to kill the man who had killed his friend. On the other hand he killed his wife’s cousin. How can one justify killing a member of their wife’s family?
Another consequence he should have taken into consideration was the punishment he was going to receive from Price Escalus. When Prince Escalus exiled Romeo, this was the biggest catastrophe. This is because once Romeo was exiled, he and Juliet could not see one another again. Friar Lawrence would never have had to devise a plan to put Juliet into a coma and Romeo would not have needed to take his own life thinking Juliet was dead. There is a sense of waste of life as there are a lot of ‘what ifs’ during the play; what if Romeo had not gone to the ball? , what if Juliet had stood up to Old Capulet about her wedding to Paris? What if Friar Laurence had not agreed to marry Juliet and Romeo and then Juliet and Paris? etc. Critics such as Charles Dibdin argued that Rosaline had been purposely included in the play to show how reckless the hero was, and that this was the reason for his tragic end. Critics of the time also debated whether Friar Laurence was actually Shakespeare’s direct spokesman in his frequent warnings to the two lovers regarding their hastiness. As the twentieth century came, these arguments were disputed by the likes of Richard Green Moulton, who argued that accident, and not some character flaw, led to the lovers’ deaths.
In conclusion, all the events in Romeo and Juliet lead to the tragic loss of life. When Romeo killed Tybalt everything in his life crumbled. Mercutio should have kept his mouth shut when a serious conversation like the grudge between the two families was being discussed, he was responsible for his own death (he should have kept in mind the hot-blooded, fiery nature of tybalt). Friar Laurence should have provided a better alternative plan to Juliet instead of the poison.