The Role of Fate in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Throughout the play Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare uses the detrimental effects of the never-ending feud between the Montague and Capulet families on the young lovers to portray that one can not overcome fate, despite of one’s efforts. Additionally, Shakespeare suggests that although the love between Romeo and Juliet is passionate, the influences of their family will lead to their inevitable fate of death. In fact, much of the story revolves around the struggles of Romeo and Juliet against the intuitions that explicitly opposes the existence of their love.

The fate of Romeo and Juliet was clear from the beginning; “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes/ A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life” (1.Prologue.5-6). Shakespeare starts the play by informing the audience that fate controls the young lovers. The mechanism of fate works in all of the events surrounding the lovers. For instance, throughout the play, the hatred between the Capulets and Montagues is not explained, but it is merely accepted as a fact. Furthermore, the series of unfortunate events leading up to the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet are no coincidences either. Friar Lawrence’s well thought out plan to help the lovers be together is in shambles when Friar John comes back and claims, “I could not send it-here it is again-/(gives Friar Lawrence a letter)/Nor get a messenger to bring it thee,/ So fearful were they of infection” (5.2.13-16). Even the young lovers are aware of the tight grasp fate has on their lives. For example, when Romeo learns that Juliet is dead, he cries, “Is it e’en so? Then I defy you, stars!” (5.1.24). As a result, he attempts to defy fate by killing himself, which leads to another manifestation of fate that helps bring about the inevitable end of the young lovers: the devastating timing of Romeo’s suicide and Juliet’s awakening. Through their tragedies, Shakespeare demonstrates the extreme power of fate, and how fate can not be altered. In the play, the lovers are aware of the control of fate over their lives, but they do not realize that their destiny is unchangeable. Therefore, the efforts of Romeo and Juliet to go against their fate only contribute to the events leading up to their deaths, which shows that when one attempts to disregard their fate, one only contributes to it.

Another contributing factor that ultimately leads to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet is the antagonistic role their families played. From the beginning, the Montagues and the Capulets are illustrated as intense rivals, which forces the young lovers to hide their passionate love. After the death of Tybalt, Capulet fiercely claims to Juliet, “But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next/To go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church,/ Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither” (3.5.153-155), and Juliet’s loyalty to Romeo drives her to extremes. Ultimately, the pressure from the Capulets leaves Juliet no choice but to go through with Friar Lawrence’s plan, which eventually leads to her death. Even after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, their rivalry deepens before Capulet and Montague learn the truth, for when Capulet witnesses the lifeless body of Juliet, he exclaims, “This dagger hath mista’en-for lo, his house/ Is empty on the back of Montague,/ And it mis-sheathed in my daughter’s bosom” (5.3.203-205). The enmity between the families and the expectation to be loyal to one’s family create a conflict for Romeo and Juliet, and ultimately causing their deaths. Through the play, Shakespeare highlights the consequences of unsupportive parents and the effect they can have on their children. The pressure put on children will force children to make rash decisions, which will lead to undesirable results.

Although the outcome of the play is clear, the main purpose of this play is to highlight the sequence of events that lead up to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, which accentuates the play’s themes. The play Romeo and Juliet features various outside forces such as the inevitability of fate and the role of negligent parents. In the play, despite the young lovers’ efforts to defy their fate, their death was unavoidable. Furthermore, their inattentive parents who failed to understand their perspective contribute to the eventual outcome of Romeo and Juliet as well. By letting the readers acknowledge the ending, Shakespeare puts emphasis on the process instead of the outcome.

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