In this assignment I will discuss who was to blame for Romeo and Juliet’s death. To get a clear idea of each aspect, such as fate, chance, notorious feuds, adolescent passion and other character’s influences, I will explore and investigate the language, social issues and historical values of each argument.
The famous William Shakespeare between 1594 and 1595 wrote Romeo and Juliet. Set in 16th century Verona, a city in northern Italy, where a brutal feud between the Capulets and the Montagues were blazing. Romeo, a Montague; Juliet, a Capulet fell in love… Secrecy, passion then tragedy followed, but who or what was to blame?
The majority of people back in Shakespeare’s day believed in fate and that our lives were controlled by something outside ourselves. They believe we were controlled by fate or fortune. Some people, even nowadays believe in fate and fortune and whatever happens is meant to happen. The Elizabethans thought that every tiny little event or action pushed everything else along in a chain of events. People think they have a choice in what they do, but they don’t. So when Romeo and Juliet meet at the ball, it is meant to be, and thy are meant to fall in love.
Romeo and Juliet are referred to as ‘star crossed lovers’ which means that their destiny is written in the stars, like a horoscope nowadays. It means that they are meant to be together. Friar Lawrence warns that ‘violent delights have violent ends,’ which means that the violent feud between the Montagues and the Capulets will bring an end to Romeo and Juliet’s lives. Romeo is aware of fate and seems to be a strong believer of it. He often refers to the stars or fortune to describe his feelings. He says his future is ‘hanging in the stars,’ this means that his future has already been decided and is hidden in the stars. He doesn’t know what’s in store for him in the future. Romeo also refers himself as ‘fortune’s fool’,’ which means he is unlucky and isn’t in good fortune. The overall play makes us feel that there’s a sense of inevitability about it. In a way, we feel helpless and we feel we want to change certain events so that the ending could have been happier, but the play is about fate and fortune in order to adapt to the superstitious Elizabethan audience.
Instead of fate and fortune, maybe chance had a part to play in Romeo and Juliet’s death. Maybe the whole play was ‘bad luck’ or just a series of unexplained accidents, with the accidental meeting of Peter carrying the Capulet’s invitation list which resulted in Romeo going to his enemies ball and meeting his one true love, Juliet. Fate or chance? Or what about the non-delivery of Friar Lawrence’s letter informing Romeo of Juliet’s plan but of course the letter never arrived which resulted in both their deaths. Fate or chance? Or was Mercutio’s death just an unhappy chance? Elizabethan audiences were very superstitious and only believed in fate, fortune, chance and religion, which is not the case in the 21st century. In our day and age people tend to believe in science and proven facts rather than fate and fortune although religion still plays a huge part in people’s lives.
Puppy love and adolescent passion could these have been the cause of Romeo and Juliet’s sad end? In order to marry Romeo, Juliet had to disobey her parents because her parents wanted her to marry Paris and Romeo was a Montague so the marriage was highly forbidden. Maybe it was Romeo’s fault that he acted too hastily asking Juliet to marry him so suddenly or when he rushed back to Verona when he heard of Juliet’s supposed death when he should have thought about the situation more clearly. Romeo also acted violently without thinking when he killed Tybalt and later Paris, trying to avenge Mercutio’s death.
Juliet was not allowed to marry Romeo because her father would never agree and would be insulted at the refusal to marry Paris. At this point in history, Verona was a patriarchal city and fathers had virtual control over their daughters. They may give their daughters to whomever they see fit to and would feel deeply insulted if their daughters chose otherwise. Juliet experienced her father’s wrath when he said, “go with Paris to Saint Peters church or I will drag thee on a hurdle hither.” This quote shows how fathers in 16th century Verona treated their daughters. Girls had to respect their father’s wishes and do as they were told.
Romeo and Juliet had to keep their love secret or risk their families finding out. Romeo did not want to kill Tybalt because he was going marry Juliet and become part of their family so Romeo knew it was like killing his own family.
Lord and Lady Capulet and Lord and Lady Montague kept the famous feud going but could have easily stopped the whole thing as they were the heads of the family so had most authority.
The feud between the Montagues and the Capulets shows us about the social and historical values of the 16th century, we can also see that lots of things have changed since then, such as we don’t go round fighting other families and killing each other without being imprisoned.
The feud forced Romeo and Juliet to keep their love secret and this caused a lot of avoidable problems, for example, when Tybalt wanted to fight Romeo but Romeo couldn’t because he didn’t want to hurt Juliet. Tybalt thought that Romeo was just a Montague so he should be slain.
Both families exercised hatred and prejudice against each other and this is demonstrated through Shakespeare’s language. Shakespeare tries to portray Tybalt as an aggressive person who is full of hate, for example Tybalt says, “what drawn talk of peace? I hate the word, as I hate hell, all Montagues and thee…” this quote shows the audience that Tybalt is heartless and arrogant.
Sampson, a servant to the Capulet family says, “a dog of the house of Montague moves me,” this shows that even the servants have no respect for the Montagues. Mercutio’s attitude to the quarrels made the situation worse. Mercutio calls Tybalt a ‘rat-catcher’ before he is killed by him, which blatantly aggravated the situation. Mercutio also mocks Tybalt by saying “good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives,” this shows that Mercutio just thought it was a game.
Tybalt, more than anyone kept the hatred alive; he was always looking for trouble.
The Prince should have acted earlier to stop the feud. It was unjust of him to banish Romeo from Verona when the fight was Tybalt’s fault.
At the start of Romeo and Juliet’s romance, the nurse was very encouraging of them by passing and carrying messages between he two lovers. As soon as Romeo was banished from Verona for killing Tybalt, the nurse hastily changes her outlook on the situation and Juliet feels quite betrayed. The nurse tells Juliet to forget Romeo and marry Paris by saying, “I think it best you married with the County,” and praising Paris saying, “o, he’s a lovely gentleman” but slanting Romeo by saying, “Romeo’s a dishclout to him.”
Friar Lawrence marries Romeo and Juliet in the hope that it would heal the wounds of the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets but this decision was naï¿½ve and wrong. Friar Lawrence tries to warn Romeo of his suddenness but Romeo didn’t listen. Shakespeare writes some of Friar Lawrence’s lines so that they rhyme and sometimes they are proverbs to make him sound older and wiser towards Romeo so that he will do what he says is the right thing to do. Although Friar Lawrence is a holy man who was trying to give righteous advice to Romeo, he provides Juliet with a potion to help fake her death, which caused a lot of confusion and pain to Romeo. His intentions were good but his actions were wrong.
I personally think that the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets was to blame for Romeo and Juliet’s death due to the fact, they fell in love at first sight and then when they found out they were meant to hate each other, everything started to go wrong due to the secrecy. One bad action led to another, a bit like fate, when one event pushes another along. It was a bit of everyone’s fault but because the feud was the main reason for the secrecy and deceit, I blame it over all the influences.
I think that the Elizabethan audience would have believed that it was all down to fate because Romeo and Juliet’s destiny was written in the stars and they were put on this earth to end the feud between the two families, and they did.