Astrology played a leading role in people’s lives during Shakespeare’s time. People believed that stars and planets controlled their destiny. They also believed in things such as the wheel of fortune, which was thought to be controlled by a woman, thus the ups and downs of life. In many of his plays Shakespeare’s theme is fate and fortune, this was important in Elizabethan England because many people had faith in ups and downs of their daily lives and examples of such plays are Macbeth, Hamlet, Mid Summer Nights Dream as well as Romeo and Juliet.
From the outset of the play, fate and fortune are seen to play a large role in the lovers’ lives. Romeo, at the beginning is suffering from heroes, “Ay me, sad hours seem long.” “Not having that, which, having, makes them short.” “Out of her favour where I am in love.” Fate dealt him a cruel blow as Rosaline will not love him back and has decided to turn to becoming a nun.Order now
Fortune comes in the guise of Benvolio who suggests they go to the Capulet’s Party where Romeo can choose from many pretty women. “Be ruled by me, forget to think of her.” “By giving liberty in to their eyes examine other beauties.” Ironically it is at this party where he meets Juliet and falls passionately in love.
Prior to the party, Juliet’s mother places the seed of marriage and sexuality in to Juliet’s mind. “Marry, that ‘marry’ is the very theme I came to talk of. Tell me, daughter Juliet, How stands your dispositions to be married?” Juliet’s mother asks her if she would give her self away to Paris. Fortune decrees that the young woman who’s femininity has been awoken ironically meets and falls in love with Romeo not Paris.
Fortune allows requited love between Romeo and Juliet. The Passion, electricity, and intensity of their love is explicitly shown. “My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that touch with a tender kiss.” “Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, which mannerly devotion shows in this. For saints lips and holy palmers too?” The sonnet they recite together highlights their feelings and belief for each other. She in his eyes is perfection personified.
Fate, however does not allow their happiness to flourish. Tybalt’s anger is obvious and he wishes for vague revenge. “Patience perforce with wilful choler meeting make my flesh tremble in their different greeting, I will withdraw but this intrusion shall, now seeming sweet convert to bitt’rest gall.” Both Romeo and Juliet learn that they are from enemy families. “Is she a Capulet? O dear account! My life is my foe’s debt.” “My only love sprung from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, And known too late! Prodigious birth of love it is to me, that I must love a loathed enemy.” The feud will dominate their relationship.
Romeo escapes from his friends at the end of the party as now, Juliet is the fulcrum around which his world revolves. Juliet questions why her love should be Romeo, her hated enemy. “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” It is the name that is the trouble not Romeo himself. “Tis but thy name that is my enemy,” The word not the person is at fault. The balcony is a symbol of the hammer that is trying to stop them, but Romeo’s vaulting up to Juliet shows that nothing will be allowed to get in the way of their love.
The friar scolds Romeo’s constant falling in and out of love but agrees to marry him to Juliet believing the marriage would end the feud between the two families. “Young men’s love then lies not truly in their hearts but in their eyes.” The marriage forges a fortunate alliance making the two families kinsmen. This, however, is what creates the downfall for the lovers.
The marriage between Romeo and Juliet takes place and they believe that their love will blossom but fate refuses to give them this wish. Once they marry they believe they are at the peak of the wheel of fortune looks dominant. Fate closes in and wreaks havoc upon the couple, in the form of Tybalt’s anger.
Tybalt seeks Romeo to torment and torture him for going to the Capulet’s party and for the sake of the Feud. Romeo doesn’t want to fight Tybalt because they are now kinsmen and it would be a fight against Juliet, his love. “Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee, doth much excuse the appertaining rage to such a greeting villain ain I none, therefore farewell I see thou knowest me not, Mercutio is dealt with a mortal wound and dies by Tybalts sword.”
Romeo blames himself for Mercutio’s wound and is resentful of Tybalts insults and fears that his love for Juliet has weakened his courage. Learning that Mercutio is dead he swears to kill Tybalt. Once the murder takes place he runs away from Verona, Lady Capulet hears of her nephew’s death and demands Romeo’s death in return. Benvolio gets to tell the whole story of the two deaths. It is fortune’s hand that decrees that Romeo is not executed after the several turns of fate.
Juliet’s father does not want Juliet to be married immediately to Paris because he thinks she is not ready for a big sacrifice just yet, Ironically, she is already in love with Romeo. After their marriage but before their wedding night Juliet finds out that Romeo is banished and this is another cruel twist of fate. But fortune allows them to consumate their marriage.
Juliet’s father then makes her wedding to Paris imminent, Once again fate interferes; To Juliet when she believes she is experiencing total happiness misfortune comes her way when she loses her nurse because the nurse advises her to commit bigamy. Juliet feels total isolation but fate doesn’t leave her in that situation, Friar Lawrence feels he must support her and the vows she has made to God.
His plan is well conceived. As a herbalist he offers Juliet a vial full of the most bitter and sweetest ingredients that would make her sleep as if she was dead. Fate would not allow there to be careful analysis of the situation. It continues to dominate while Friar Lawrence’s idea of the letter to be sent brings about circumstance he cannot control.
In the final part of the play, fortune disappears altogether and only fate remains. The initial part of Friar Lawrence’s plan comes to frustration; everyone believes Juliet is dead. Fate, however continues to dominate and Romeo is told by a friend that Juliet is dead, from the moment they met the two lovers never envisioned life apart. Once Romeo hears about Juliet’s death he believes his life is worthless. He runs to a drug shop and asks the shop keeper for the most vulgar poison he can give. The owner refuses, Romeo however is so desperate he gives all his gold away to the owner and requests a poison that is so powerful it can kill twenty men in an instant, Once he receives the poison he doesn’t want to kill his self in the open, he wants to lie beside his wife when he dies. Just when she awakens she finds Romeo beside her, she realises that he is dead; crying she tries kissing Romeo to get a bit of the poison passed onto her, it isn’t enough to kill her, fate doesn’t allow a bit of poison that is enough to kill twenty men to kill a single person, she picks up Romeo’s dagger and stabs into her self thinking that if they cannot live together here they can up there.
Throughout the play, fate and fortune have played a role that provided the storyline with undulating highs and lows before fate took dominance allowing a small peak at the end when the two families acknowledged alliance. It took bloodshed to bridge a gulf of enmity when it could have only taken a few words of understanding to get them together.