Were Romeo and Juliet victims of predestination and fate, or were their tragic ends brought about through conscious choices? Include a discussion of language, literary conventions and dramatic devices to support your position
“For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo”, (Act 1, Scene 1). This quote clearly shows the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet’s demise. In this essay, I will explore the reasons why Romeo and Juliet were “star-cross’d” victims of fate, instead of blaming their conscious choices for their heartbreaking deaths. Although there were some wrong choices made, the majority of their fate was preordained.
Shakespeare makes it very apparent to the audience that Romeo and Juliet are controlled by Fate. Before the play begins, Shakespeare summarizes the plot of the play in the prologue.
“A pair of star-crossed take their life.” (Shakespeare, Act 1 Prologue L.6)
Shakespeare refers to Romeo and Juliet as “star-crossed,” Furthermore, the prologue indicates a subsequent instance where their lives are driven by fate. Fate was believed at the time of Shakespeare because of the fascination of astrology. The planets thus were communicating agents from eternity to mankind, and the stars were said to dictate how everything under the moon changes. The stars were the medium between God and man, yet sometimes an Elizabethan audience may live in terror of them. This terror was mostly superstitious, as many believed the stars could actually cause bad things to happen, especially natural disasters.
“The fearful passage of their death-marked love.” (Act 1 Prologue L.9).
The romance between Romeo and Juliet is “death-marked”, meaning that it is intended to conclude their demise.
Fate is the dominant force in “Romeo and Juliet,” more than any other character in the play. Romeo’s initial inciting with Juliet is based on Fate.
“God gi’ go-den. I pray, sir, can you read?” (Act 1 Sc.2 L.58)
The illiterate servant who asks Romeo to read the Capulet invitation list provides him the opportunity to be present at the Capulet party, if this event had not taken place, Juliet would most probably have married Paris.
The whole balcony scene where Romeo’s love for Juliet is created as a result of fate.
“It is my lady! O, it is my love!” (Act 2 Sc.2 L.10)
Romeo avoided his friends and staggered into the Capulet’s orchard as Juliet came out on the balcony, a surprising occurrence of fate. Fate appears to work against Romeo. At the masque, Romeo encounters Tybalt, a conflict that eventually concludes in death for Tybalt and Mercutio, as well as banishment for Romeo.
“This, by his voice, should be a Montague.” (Act 1 Sc.5 L.56)
Tybalt discovers Romeo’s presence by over hearing a barely audible musing. It is predestination that provokes Romeo to encounter Juliet, and fate that irrevocably separates them.
Juliet is subject to fate very similarly to Romeo. Juliet’s association with Romeo happens as a consequence of fate as well. Had Juliet initially identified Romeo as a Montague, she would not have associated with him, but she was unaware of this since she later asks her Nurse, “What is yond Gentleman?” (Act 2 Sc. 5 L.130). This proves that Juliet is infatuated with Romeo and falls immediately in love with him, only later finding out he is a Montague. Juliet had already fallen in love with Romeo when she states, “My only love sprung from my only hate.” Just like with Romeo, it is incidences of fate, such as this meeting, that guides her into the relationship.
Mercutio is also affected powerfully by predestination; he dies because of it. Mercutio dies in a battle against Tybalt, but fate is his real murderer. Mercutio is brought into this circumstance by Fate. The conflict between Romeo and Tybalt caused Mercutio to attempt to provoke Tybalt to fight him instead. Romeo doesn’t want to fight Tybalt, rather he says, “good Capulet, which name I tender” (Act 3 Sc.1 L.72). Mercutio finds this shameful, “O calm dishonourable, vile submission!” (Act 3 Sc.1 L.74) Romeo tries to stop the fight, any by doing so, causes Mercutio to be left open for a bother. Tybalt takes benefit of the circumstances and stabs Mercutio. Mercutio then dies, but because he was controlled by Romeo, not because Tybalt was the better fighter. Mercutio is evidently affected strongly by fate; it results his death.
In addition to prevailing in the lives of many main characters, predestination exerts a considerable influence on the plot a vastly authoritative pressure on the result of the play. Even though every character in the play worked against fate to attain their goals, in the end, fate manages to give Romeo and Juliet its “tragedy” difference rather successfully. Towards the end of the play, it looks as if Romeo and Juliet have a low chance of living happily ever after. Juliet is to wed Paris and Romeo is banished from Verona. Friar Lawrence’s arrangement is fully thought out and, if executed correctly, seems to be able to allow independence to Romeo and Juliet. Nevertheless, predestination strikes back, and the complete plan becomes a chaos.
Firstly, the letter never gets to Romeo. The cause for this is that Friar Lawrence’s messenger was subjected to quarantine. This was not the fault of Friar Lawrence, the messenger, or Romeo; it was Fate. Because of this, Romeo and Juliet’s likelihood of happiness became very minute. Romeo goes to Juliet’s tomb and kills himself. Incredibly, had he waited just a few moments, he would have witnessed Juliet’s awakening; they would have escaped and lived happily ever after. But, due to a bizarre incidence of fate, Juliet awakens sees Romeo. This surprising ending alone is enough to propose that the entire plot has a hinged on Fate. Fate’s affect on the overall conclusion is disastrous. These two incidents alone alter the outcome entirely; let alone the numerous occurrences in the play.
A pertinent question is: “Is Shakespeare showing us spiritual fate, or is it purely a sequence of outlandishly unintentional events?” In order to respond to this question, one must develop of an understanding the use of Fate earlier in plays. Early plays by Greek dramatists like Sophocles were encumbered with numerous references to Fate. In “Oedipus Rex”, for instance Oedipus is told he is destined to kill his father and married to his mother, which he does it.
Due to religion, Shakespeare had to make Friar Lawrence a bad person to make sure that it would be accepted by the Protestant religion.
“come young waverer, come go with me,
In one respect I’ll thy assistant be:
For this alliance may so happy prove” (Act 2, Scene 3, Line 89-91)
This quote shows that Friar Lawrence was made to be devil-like. Shakespeare had to do this so that the Queen approved of the play and allowed it to be shown in the theatre.
A final account that includes features of both of the other explanations is also valid. Many viewers of the play think that Shakespeare was not referring to predestination in his work, and was not referring to luck either. An ordinary justification is that Shakespeare did have a religious belief that events that take place happen as a result of a superior energy. On the other hand, Shakespeare alleged these events were controlled, but not that they were prearranged. Somewhat the rationalization is that events take place ultimately as a consequence of our behaviour. Or simply, Shakespeare believed that the result of Romeo and Juliet happened as an effect of their sin. This view is also a suitable explanation of Shakespeare’s examples of fate in Romeo and Juliet.
Nevertheless, one may believe Fate to be logically determined, directing the lives of Romeo and Juliet.
In conclusion, predestination is the main influence in the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. The several aspects in the play that signify the presence of predestination include, the unlikely coincidence of Romeo not receiving the letter from Friar Lawrence, and Romeo and Juliet just missing the fact that they were both alive by just a few seconds. Clearly, Fate did play a crucial role in the play “Romeo and Juliet.”